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Go From Mediocre to Excellent at Work with These Attitude Adjustments

Go From Mediocre to Excellent at Work with These Attitude Adjustments

Resumes are usually sprinkled with the words excellent and superior; however, work performance evaluations can often be a checkerboard of the words satisfactory or mediocre. You could be starting on your first job, on your way to being vice president, signing up for an overseas assignment, or on the hiring side interviewing candidates. These situations all involve a skills-and-adaptability evaluation. How do you narrow the resume versus work performance gap? Try these seven steps and level up from mediocre to excellent.

1. Show up consistently and on time.

This seems basic, yet an online survey conducted by CareerBuilder showed 32% of workers have called in sick when they were not actually ill. Another 16% were late for work at least one time per week and 27% arrived late for work at least once a month. Make sure you are willing to commit your time when you apply for a job. Showing up consistently and on time gets noticed, thanks to the stark contrast from mediocre colleagues who don’t.

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2. Know the Work Culture and Adapt.

Organizational culture is a set of rules for working together and includes organization values, visions, and working language. It is made up of shared beliefs, attitudes, and underlying assumptions. Are you working in a tech company, a corporate office, a law firm, in the arts, or at a hospital? Is everyone on first-name basis or are titles and surnames expected to be used? Are you an expatriate working overseas? Do your homework and be observant about protocols and dress codes, especially if you meet with clients. Don’t settle for mediocre attire or casual behavior.

3. Understand that the work place is for work and behave accordingly.

Looking forward to your Friday night out with friends? Fine, but don’t make that an excuse to delay or interrupt your work with excited phone conversations or messages. Keen to confirm hotel reservations for a weekend holiday? Call during your lunch break. There’s work-life balance and then there’s obsessing with fun while at work. Be persistent with work focus. When you make an effort to be fully present, you avoid making mistakes and gain credibility. As a side benefit, you won’t get job-related phone calls after work and can be fully present having fun.

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4. Be a team player and learn to compromise.

When asked to give my opinion about a potential new team member who was a former colleague, I was quick to give a rundown of skills. Then came the follow-up question, “Yes, but do you think she will fit in with the team?” I had to pause before replying to that one.

Interpersonal skills outrank other skills. You could be a celebrated chef, but if your team is performing poorly in fear of your next pot-throwing tantrum, guess who gets shown the door. Yes, it’s the person who causes problems regularly and who may also happen to be overpaid. A team player is willing to compromise. He or she understands about sharing ideas and credit, about taking turns with talking and listening, and with being on and off duty. In team selection, a person who gets along well with others is chosen over the highly skilled but difficult individual, who drops to below mediocre in terms of desirability. Be a person who can work well in different teams.

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5. Communicate effectively; repeat and check.

Verbal communication ability is at the top of the list of 10 skills employers look for. This comes from a University of Kent summary of surveys by Microsoft, the BBC, and other organizations. The consequences from misunderstandings at work range from loss of revenue and damaged credibility, to fatal results in hospital or military settings. The most common source of miscommunication comes from what social psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson calls the “I’m Sure It Was Obvious” effect. We believe we are expressing ourselves clearly and obviously to others, but this is often not the case. Stop being mediocre; never assume. Say instructions clearly, ask the other person to repeat, and check that the task is being done as instructed. If you are on the receiving end of instructions, always ask questions, update on progress, and advise about job completion.

6. Do more than expected and don’t settle for mediocre.

Whether you are asked to compile a list of names, emails, and phone numbers, prepare a handover report, or organize a convention, go the extra mile. Instead of just submitting contact details, add websites too. Categorize them by industry, color code them, and present them alphabetically. Include recommendations in your handover report and tie them up with departmental goals. Suggest a theme for the convention and offer a list of relevant suppliers. Doing more than expected benefits the company. You also gain knowledge, develop new skills, and won’t ever be considered mediocre.

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7. Think with Innovation, Creativity, and Flexibility.

The Flux Report (2014) is a survey of 250 line managers and 100 HR decision makers for organizations with over 500 employees in the U.K. and Ireland. It lists these three attributes among employee skills that need to be developed to drive company growth. The report also states employees are expected to have multiple simultaneous careers by 2018, with more than half on temporary contracts or working as contractors or freelancers.

Now is the time to invest in yourself. Keep informed about industry trends, update your skill set, and apply these in improving your work. When you’re open to new ways of doing things, you will never be made “redundant” at work.

In any workforce, there are those who are perfectly content with satisfactory work ratings, and that’s totally fine. But if you want a work performance evaluation that matches your glowing resume, these attitude adjustments will get you those superlatives!

Featured photo credit: Dread Pirate Jeff via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 15, 2019

10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them

10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them

This is an article I didn’t want to write. Even if it appears that way on the surface, few things are black and white. Between the two colors is a world of gray. Notwithstanding the bosses who behave criminally, some of the people who carry the “bad boss” label have possibly been, or have the capacity to become, a “good boss.”

This is an article I didn’t want to write because I understand that depending on whom you ask, many of us could be labeled either a good or bad boss.

Perhaps another reason I didn’t want to write this article is because context matters. Context for the organization and context for the individual. What is happening in the organization? What is the culture? Is the “boss” in a position for which the individual is equipped to do the job? Is the person in a terrible place in life? The office culture, the relationship a team member has with a boss or board and the leader’s personal life can all influence how the person shows up and leads and how others perceive the individual.

But since I am writing this article, I will share a few signs that bosses are bad and in need of a timeout.

1. Bad Bosses Don’t Know and Haven’t Healed Their Inner Child

If you plan to lead people – well, if you plan to effectively lead yourself – you must get reacquainted with your inner child. Just because you are in young adulthood, middle age or the golden years doesn’t mean your inner child matches your chronological age. If you experienced trauma as a child, your inner child may be stuck at the point or age of that trauma. While you walk around in a woman’s size 10 shoe, your behavior may showcase an inner child who is much younger.

In a June 7, 2008, Psychology Today article, Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D., observed,[1]

“The fact is that the majority of so-called adults are not truly adults at all. We all get older … But, psychologically speaking, this is not adulthood. True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one’s own inner child. For most adults, this never happens. Instead, their inner child has been denied, neglected, disparaged, abandoned or rejected. We are told by society to ‘grow up,’ putting childish things aside. To become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child—representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness—must be stifled, quarantined or even killed. The inner child comprises and potentiates these positive qualities. But it also holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas, fears and angers.”

Sometimes the key that your inner child needs tending to is conflict with someone else’s inner child.

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Good bosses are aware of the ups and downs of their childhood, have worked or are working to heal their inner child and are aware of their triggers. Good managers use this awareness to manage themselves, and their interactions with others. Bad bosses are oblivious to how their inner child impacts not only their life but the lives of others.

2. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Accept Feedback

Bad bosses are not intentional about creating an environment where their peers and colleagues can share feedback about their leadership. They don’t solicit feedback. Given the power dynamic that managers, CEOs and others in leadership yield, they must go out of their way to solicit feedback, and they must do so repeatedly.

Before being completely honest, most team members will test the waters and share low-stakes information to get a sense for how their boss will respond. If the boss is angry or retaliatory, team members are less likely to risk being candid in the future.

So being unable to accept feedback takes on two forms: failing to proactively and repeatedly ask for feedback and reacting poorly when feedback is shared.

3. Bad Bosses Are Unwilling to Give Timely Feedback

The flip side of accepting feedback is giving feedback. Both require courage. It takes courage to open yourself up and accept feedback on ways that you need to grow. Similarly, it takes courage to share honest feedback about a team member’s or colleague’s performance or behavior.

Since not everyone is open to accepting feedback, whether they’re a manager or not, having an honest conversation about areas a team member or colleague has missed the mark, is not always easy. Still, good bosses will find a way to share feedback, and they’ll do so in a timely fashion.

Withholding feedback and sharing it months after a situation has unfolded or in a snowball fashion is unhelpful to the employees. One of the ways we grow as leaders is through feedback. When people have the courage to tell us the truth, that information allows us to progress.

4. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Acknowledge Their Mistakes

Owning their mistakes is like a disease to bad bosses; they do not want it. Instead of being risk averse, they are accountability averse. The problem is that they can only gloss over their weaknesses or failures for so long; the people around are able to see their flaws and weaknesses, and bad bosses pretending they don’t exist is not helpful. It is infuriating.

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However, bad bosses are masterful at reassigning blame. They are unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for mistakes — small or large. But career expert Amanda Augustine told CNBC “Make It” in May 2017, that “good managers also admit their mistakes.”[2] They don’t pass the blame or pretend they didn’t make a mistake. They own it.

5. Bad Bosses Are Unwilling or Incapable of Being Vulnerable

Vulnerability is an underrated leadership skill. But well-placed and well-thought out vulnerability enables employees to see their leaders’ humanity, and it creates a way for leaders to bond with their teams.

Bad bosses may talk about vulnerability, but they don’t practice it in their own lives, particularly in the workplace.

6. Privately, Bad Bosses Do Not Live Up to the Organization’s Stated Values

Bad bosses may publicly spout the values of the organization they work for, but privately they either don’t believe or don’t embody those values.

If they work for an environmental group, they may not practice sustainability in their private lives. Their words and actions are incongruent.

7. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Inspire Others

When bad bosses are unable or unwilling to take the time to inspire others, they lead through fear or command. Neither are helpful.

A culture dominated by fear will stifle creativity and risk taking that can lead to innovation. An autocratic management style will have a similar effect in that team, members will not feel they have the space to step outside of the box they have been placed in.

A good boss is someone who takes time to share the big picture and time to inspire their teams to want to be a part of it.

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8. Bad Bosses Are Disinterested in How Their Behavior Impacts Others

They are narcissistic and focused on self-preservation. In “19 Traits of a Bad Boss,” Kevin Sheridan said,[3]

“Terrible bosses are endlessly self-centered. Everything is about them and not the people they manage or what is going on in their employees’ personal lives. It is never about the team, but rather all about how good they look. Conversely, great bosses lead with integrity, honesty, care, and authenticity.”

Rather than seeing their team’s talents and seeing people’s full humanity, bad bosses believe their team exists to serve them. Families, personal life and priorities be damned. Bona fide bad bosses believe that their comfort should be prioritized over their team’s needs and desires.

9. Bad Bosses Have Likely Received Negative Feedback

Bad bosses have likely been told that they are poor supervisors. They have likely been told time and time again that their behavior is harmful to the people around them.

Perhaps they do not know how to change or are unwilling to change. But bad bosses certainly have received clues, insights and direct feedback that their management style and behavior are harmful to others.

Even when someone hasn’t explicitly said, “Your behavior is harmful to me and others,” the absence of feedback indicates a problem. It can mean that the leader’s team doesn’t feel safe enough to share feedback, that people do not believe the leader will act on what is shared, or that people have determine the best strategy is to avoid the boss as much as possible.

10. Bad Bosses Are Perfectionists

Bad bosses are driven by an internal urge to be perfect. Perfectionists don’t just want to be perfect; they want everyone around them to be perfect as well. This is a standard that neither they nor their team can live up to.

Since perfection is illusive, they spend their time chasing their shadow and being frustrated that they cannot catch it. They are unable to enjoy the journey and often block others from doing so as well. They let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.” Rather than embracing a growth mindset that desires to learn and improved, they are compulsive and toxic.

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If you are like me and you see yourself in parts of this list, do not despair. A bad boss can change. The key is seeking honest feedback and being willing to work through that feedback and your triggers with a therapist or coach.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of your age and the mistakes you have made, you can change and become a healthier leader whom others respect and appreciate.

Conversely, if you are employed by a bad boss, do everything in your power to take care of yourself. Understand that your boss’s behavior, even if directed at you, is not about you. Your boss’s reactions, if and when you make a mistake, is a reflection on that individual, not you.

To survive the work environment, think about the lesson you are meant to learn. You can do this with a trusted therapist or capable coach. However, if you deem the work environment to be toxic and harmful to your health, seek employment elsewhere.

In the end, this is an article I did not want to write, but I’m happy I did.

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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