Work is a funny place—you join a pre-existing group and have to team up with strangers to follow a foreign set of rules and achieve someone else’s goals. To make things worse, your livelihood depends on your ability to win. Whether you like it or not, you need the money. You can’t quit, so it’s time to start winning at work.
1. Take on extra stuff.
Every company has work to do. Even if you’re done with your tasks, there is still work to be done. You can be the best at what you do, but you’re still only one cog in a large machine. Instead of rewarding yourself for a job well done and coasting through the rest of the day, ask your boss for more work.
They may not give you anything extra, or they may just give you busy work. The point isn’t to keep busy; it’s to let your boss know you’re available and willing to lend a hand in any way possible. When special projects, promotions, and raises come up, you’ll have a competitive edge over your competition.
2. Find a worthy mentor.
At Bank of America, my mentor was a woman named Rhonda Meyers. Rhonda was (and I’m sure still is) known as the strictest boss around. She’s always the first one in, the last one out, and she worked relentlessly in between. It didn’t matter what catastrophic glitches or calamities came up, Rhonda kept her cool and led her team through it.
Rhonda taught me a lot in the time I worked under her. She always stressed that she runs her team like her own small business. She reminded me that everyone’s replaceable and you’re only as good as what you’re doing right now. Today, three years removed from the bank, Rhonda Meyers is still one of my life’s greatest teachers, and I owe her a lot of gratitude for shaping me into the man I am today.
3. Listen to what your boss really wants.
Your boss will always stress the bottom line. Whether it’s production, quality, or sales, there are certain goals and standards they’re held to, and they preach these to their team. Exceeding these goals is the bare minimum you can do to remain afloat.
You need to figure out what will actually make your manager’s job easier. When you can both exceed your goals and your supervisor’s expectations, you’ll start winning at work.
4. Stay positive.
Everyone vents. Everyone has a bad day, gets stressed about a new change, and is frustrated when something goes wrong. Regardless of how you feel, you need to stay positive. Vent if you have to, but do it in a way that doesn’t rile up the workers for a mutiny. When you’re positive, people will see you as a leader, and management will notice a leader among their peons.
5. Put the company’s needs over your own.
It doesn’t matter how many sick days you’re given—it’s not a dare. Everyone in the building has problems and other things to deal with at home. People don’t just hide in a cave at the end of the workday and cease existing until you come in the next morning.
It’s OK to take time off for emergencies and such, but the company doesn’t revolve around you, and the work has to be done one way or another. Roll up your sleeves and push through—then everyone can go home early or take a long lunch.
6. Finish every task.
I have a lot of reputations among the people I’ve worked both for and with. Many of them aren’t positive, but one thing I’ve always prided myself in is completing every task I’m assigned, by any means necessary. My bosses have always known that when I’m on an assignment and a deadline, it won’t be missed.
When people know you’re dependable, they’ll depend on you. This may be annoying in your personal life, but at work it means you’re winning.
7. Never compromise quality.
Quality directly determines your personal brand. If you half-ass things, people come to expect that result from you. If you put everything you have into ensuring the job is always done right, that’s the reputation you build for yourself.
You have a direct responsibility for how you’re perceived by people at your work. Don’t act like a McDouble and expect to be treated like prime rib. You get what you give in life, so provide quality.