February 26, 2010
The digital brown noser in the office
Every office has one: the person who tries to appear more productive than they are in order to stay in the boss' good graces.
Thanks to e-mail and smartphones, it's easy to pretend you're working around the clock, even after you've left the office for the day. Some of the ways that workers say their team's resident slacker puts up a "See how productive I am?!" façade:
- Purchase the latest smartphone loaded with all the bells and whistles. Proudly display it in meetings at which the boss is present and gas on about how "This thing is my lifeline to this place. I get so much more work done evenings and weekends now."
- At least once a week, be sure to say, "Feel free to message me until midnight -- I'm working late again." Make sure the boss is within earshot.
- No matter when you knock off for the day -- be it 4:30, 5:30, 6 p.m., or later -- be sure to reply to at least three e-mails from your boss after 11 p.m. that evening.
- Better yet, initiate a new e-mail thread to your boss and co-workers at midnight. Mention that you'll be online before sunrise to check replies. Remember to mark your message urgent and pepper it with exclamation points.
"The more layoffs that have gone on around this place, the more this happens," e-mailed one Nine to Thrive reader who says she's grown tired of seeing the office slouch use his smartphone to suck up to management.
In this year of doing more with less, it's not surprising workers would think the key to staying in the boss' good graces is to work around the clock -- or at least give the impression of doing so. But some workplace experts have a newsflash for these employees: working longer hours -- or going to great lengths to look like you're doing so -- isn't what employers care about.
"More hours worked does not equal job security," says management psychologist Karissa Thacker. "Don't get me wrong -- it is not time to slack off. But being on the BlackBerry at 2 a.m. does not equal more productivity."
Instead, Thacker says, employers want to see workers contribute valuable ideas, results, and nuggets of information. If you're in a meeting and the boss asks what customers think of the new widget the company just released, don't sit the intel you've collected, Thacker explains. Don't let your fear of layoffs silence you.
Instead, she says, "Now is the time to bring that conscientiousness to the fore and speak up. Just working more hours is not going to cut it. Working hard without visible and obvious impact is the new 'working dumb.'"
Readers, what you do think? Do you see those who appear to be burning the midnight oil and connected to the office 24/7 reaping more rewards at your company? Or are those contributing the most valuable ideas and contributions getting the biggest pats on the back?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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