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9 Critical Common Sense Success Factors for New Employees

9 Critical Common Sense Success Factors for New Employees
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    New employees are often lavishly courted, persistently pursued, and even occasionally cajoled by hiring organizations, especially if they have rare, unique, or high-demand skills or experience. But once they’re inside the door…watch out!  Often, the corporate indoctrination machine takes over despite the best intentions of an organization and new employees are left to the firehose tour of policies, personal benefits forms, nondisclosure agreements, and the process of orientation. Even in organizations with effective mentoring programs, new employees are often assumed to know the following nine points and are never actually told them.  Time and again, promising employees fall victim to the merciless consequences of not knowing these success factors.  Forewarned is forearmed…

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    1. All organizations have a culture that is an amalgam of laws, regulations, practice, history, mores, and politics – learn it. You cannot be successful by ignoring organizational culture, and sometimes you can’t by following it. It contains many unspoken rules, including what constitutes appropriate dress for the office and how you address problems on an informal level. I mention dress because business casual is not the norm for many offices and dressing down can make you appear unprofessional or lazy to people whose decisions matter. In some offices, business casual is more like “This Old House” and either gender wearing a business suit will stick out like a sore thumb. That being said, it never hurts to dress like the leaders of your organization, but endeavor not to outdress them.
    2. Adhere to the established chain of command. They exist in non-military organizations, too. It can take forever for good ideas to make it up where they do some good. “No” isn’t always a negative comment about your idea. Good managers know their organizational culture, and they know when the timing may be wrong for your idea. It’s good if they tell you that the time isn’t right, but even good managers don’t always tell you everything you need to hear. And, if you skip a management layer without approval, don’t be surprised when the layer with which you speak informs the subordinate layer.
    3. You cannot be friends with your superiors, but you can be friendly. Apuleius said, “Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration.” It is difficult not to become familiar with managers and coworkers in offices where first names are the norm, where people often lunch together or socialize after work, and where the working environment is friendly. Friendliness does not make people unprofessional, it makes the work environment more pleasant; however, expecting to capitalize on friendships in the workplace at the expense of accountability is unprofessional. Your managers will do you a great disservice if they fail to mentor you, including corrective action, and you will do them a great disservice if you expect them to overlook your needs because you or they want to be friends.
    4. Do not play in office politics. You cannot remain outside office politics. While seemingly paradoxical, both statements are true. Politics exists in any office on many different levels. You need to observe and understand what is going on in the office and it helps to learn where skeletons are hidden – moreso because you don’t want to be putting the broom away and have the boss come along and think you’re putting the skeleton away. You will be “in” office politics even if you never gossip, make it a rule never to have lunch with coworkers, never socialize with coworkers after work, and always toe the administration line. Most of those things, by the way, will make your life very lonely, at least in the office. Chat, have lunch with someone if it suits you, but never gossip about or denigrate coworkers or your leaders.
    5. Email is a powerful tool and greatly facilitates communication, but it is lacking in an essential element. Remember that there is no body language conveyed in email. Things often get misconstrued. If at all possible, conduct conversations in person or on the phone and follow up by email for a record. Official communications should not be accompanied with emoticons…Email is fast and convenient, but professionalism requires you to treat official communications with dignity. Email is forever and generally is subject to the legal discovery process. Don’t put anything in email that you wouldn’t put on a postcard or that you wouldn’t want seen by someone you respect. If you need to write an email that criticizes someone or something, write it but don’t send it. Put it away and read it in an hour. Read it again in two. A blistering email sent is a negative impression of you that cannot be recalled, and it may be many people’s first impression of you.
    6. Don’t blow your own horn. Harry S. Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” You’re very lucky if you’re blessed with a boss who gives credit where it is due, even when he or she would look really good if they took credit. However, if you aren’t so lucky, never blow your own horn. Excellence speaks for itself, even if it occasionally takes a while. If you do excellent work and are professional about your response both when you get credit and when you don’t, your reputation will grow.
    7. Don’t lollygag, but be available where managers congregate. Remember that areas where people casually congregate at work are natural places to have conversations. Managers often have ideas crystallize on the spot and frequently issue assignments to the person they’re talking to if they believe them capable. This isn’t always the best way to make assignments, but it happens. If you believe you aren’t getting assignments because you don’t hang out in the conversation area, you need to become much more proactive about how you seek assignments.
    8. Seek out several mentors. Having one mentor is like having one friend. You miss out on the incredible gifts possessed by different people. Every person has something positive to offer, and having several mentors, both inside and outside your organization, is essential to becoming a well-developed person. Not all managers have faced the same trials, and good mentors will be able to recount how they recovered after failures. They will also tell you how you can improve yourself. Remember that personality plays a large part in mentoring, and not all people are compatible. You can learn your most valuable lessons from people who aren’t like you.
    9. Participate in social activities with your office. You don’t have to attend everything, but attending some functions is a good idea and it allows you and your managers to get to know each other in a less formal environment. Go to the holiday parties, occasionally go to happy hour, even if you’d rather go out with friends from your personal life rather than work. If you cannot drink responsibly, do not go to office social functions.

    (Photo credit: Young Businessman on White Background via Shutterstock)

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    Published on July 27, 2021

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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    During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

    But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

    Put the Pro in Professional

    After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

    1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

    The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

    Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

    2. Dress the Part

    While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

    Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

    For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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    Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

    3. Stage Your Workspace

    Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

    Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

    4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

    Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

    Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

    Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

    Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

    5. Arrive on Time

    In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

    Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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    6. Turn on Your Video

    Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

    If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

    Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

    7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

    Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

    Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

    Attend to the Pesky Details

    8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

    With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

    Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

    9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

    Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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    Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

    10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

    As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

    Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

    Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

    Talking Has a Time and a Place

    11. Chat Appropriately

    Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

    At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

    12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

    The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

    Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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    13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

    In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

    Manage Yourself

    14. Minimize Distractions

    While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

    Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

    15. Save Snacking for Later

    Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

    However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

    Final Thoughts

    Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

    Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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