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Archive for June, 2008

As my mini-series on “Losers to Avoid at Work” comes to a close, we’ll look at the most insidious loser of all – The Passionate Fool.

Unlike the other loser’s profiled, who go to great lengths to avoid real work, the passionate fool is obsessed with their job. Unfortunately, his “common sense compass” is hopelessly flawed.

The Passionate Fool is always trying to do things right (by the book), however he is tragically “tone deaf” to winds that blow within the office environment.

Prime, The Office Computing Company

One of my favorite passionate fools was back at Prime Computer.  He was quite obsessed with convincing the world that we were a leading “Office Computing Platform.” This was a tall order, but a commendable endeavor.

Somewhere along the way, he found a prestigious market study that listed Prime as major vendor in the office computing market. He created an expensive marketing program that included print advertising in the Harvard Business Review. The ad touted Prime’s office computing attributes and offered a “free copy of the report,” to anyone who filled out a little card and mailed it in.

There was only one problem with the program – the report listed the 6 major players and Prime came in dead last.

When I discovered this I asked him “what were you thinking?”

He said, “Up until now no one has ever considered Prime as a vendor in this market. This report proves that we are in the market, it gives us credibility.”

The fact that anyone who read the report would conclude that Prime was the least desirable option never occurred to him. What’s worse, anyone who filled out the little card and had a copy of the report sent to them (from Prime) must have thought we were nuts to promote our lowly ranking!

The Roots of the Foolishness

It’s unclear where the passionate fool goes wrong; perhaps he is over his head and tries to imitate others (who are successful) in an effort to do what’s right. He knows that a good effort impresses people at work, but somehow misses the part about doing things right.

Like “The Glider,” it is not necessary to avoid passionate fools like other losers at work; you just have to tread carefully when you’re near one.

 

Dealing with Passionate Fools

 

First and foremost, be careful not to become a passionate fool yourself! It’s easier to fall into the passionate fool’s pit than you think. If you find yourself getting obsessed with a goal and losing sight of where it fits into the big picture, you’re on thin ice.

 

Secondly, be careful not to follow a passionate fool into their self constructed abyss. There are so many people at work who lack passion about their jobs; it’s easy to be attracted to working with someone who really cares about their work product. When you find yourself starting to follow someone with these tendencies, take a time out. Start shopping the ideas around to others and listen to what they say. Don’t get caught “drinking the Kool Aid” of the passionate fool.

 

Finally, if you find yourself with a passionate fool working for you, clear your calendar! You will need to monitor everything they do very carefully, and invest a lot of time helping them to understand “the right things to do.”

 

If you can redirect their passion, it will be worth the investment.

 

Dave

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A close cousin to the “#3 Loser to Avoid at Work” (The Clock Puncher) is “The Glider.”

The Glider and the Clock Puncher differ in two major respects:

  • First, the Glider does not follow the regimented work hours of the Clock Puncher; in fact, the Glider may even be the first one to arrive and last to leave.
  • Second, unlike the Clock Puncher who does a fair amount of real work during their eight hour, zero minute work day, the Glider does virtually nothing at all!

When faced with an assignment, the Glider appears to toil for hours, days, even weeks “trying” to get it right. Everyone around him will hear about “his big project,” but progress creeps forward at a snails pace.

This slow motion routine gives the Glider time to find someone else to complete the project, or better yet, time for the project to simply “go away due to new priorities.”

In general, the Glider avoids taking on individual assignments and due to his track record, his boss quickly learns to do the same. The natural habitat of the Glider’s career is the work group, task force, or, better yet, the advisory committee. Here he can sit for hours, drink gallons of coffee, eat free food, and if he can bring his laptop, he can plan fantasy sports while “looking busy” in an important meeting.

How to Deal With the Glider?

Unlike the Clock Puncher, occasional association with Gliders may not necessarily destroy your reputation. Simply keep in mind that you’ll have to do all of the real work if you find yourself sharing a task with a Glider. Most people will recognize your plight and give you all of the credit for anything both of you accomplish.

The biggest mistake you can make when dealing with Gliders is to trust them. They’ll tell you something “isn’t that important,” that may turn out to be critical. They also live in a world where a “good excuse” for missing a deadline is “as good as an accomplishment.”

The most dangerous relationship you can have with a Glider is to work for one. Since Gliders never advance too far in management, they’re unlikely to ever hire more than a few subordinated before “being discovered.”

Working for a Glider

Unfortunately, if you’re just beginning your career, your odds of being hired by Glider is rather significant and the chances of launching a great career under the management of a Glider is rather bleak.

If you think you’re new boss is actually a Glider, you have to make an action plan to get out as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean doing anything crazy, but it does require a serious plan.

The first step is to figure out what others in the organization expect of your boss. Then go to your boss and offer to start working on some of “his responsibilities.” He’ll probably enthusiastically agree, because it means less work for him, but you’re not done yet.

The Glider boss will take credit for your work. He’ll also talk about it ad nauseam, annoying everyone around him,  and thus devalue your work product.

The best way to counteract this is to spend a lot of one-on-one time with your boss’s constituents learning their expectations for the project and “testing” your ideas for getting it done. They’re figure out that you’re doing all the work.

Ultimately, you only have two escape paths for getting out from under a Glider. You can either replace him (following his termination), or you can impress one of his coworkers of your hidden talents and get “tapped” for a new assignment or even a promotion.

Regardless of the path you take, your career will depend on your ability to delicately network with everyone in your boss’s work circle and avoid being labeled as a “politician.”

Neither of these escape paths is easy or pleasant, but if you just sit back and do nothing and you may find yourself labeled a Glider and…

Trust me, you never want to be labeled a Glider!

Dave

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My third loser to watch out for on the job is the “Clock Puncher.”

They operate on the premise “I get paid to be here eight hours a day and that’s all I’m doing.”

It’s often difficult to identify a clock puncher. They may be very conscientious about their job – when they’re on the clock. Just don’t get caught between them and the door at 5:00.

Most clock punchers have some rationale for their flagrant career-limiting behavior.

They may have grown up in a home where “a job was just a job.” Maybe they have a kid to pick up at daycare, or perhaps they just have an active social life that begins at 5:01. They could be on a softball or bowling team.

Whatever their story, it screams one thing loud and clear – my career isn’t that important!

Beyond the damage that can come from close association with a clock puncher, I have always avoided them to preserve my own motivation. I like being  passionate about my job. Clock punchers have zero passion for work, and I find that depressing.

You won’t find too many of these folks in management; they never get promoted.

New Employees Be On the Alert

If you’re just starting a new job, keep an eye out for the clock punchers. They will likely “recruit” you to join them on their break – since no one else will!

Don’t do it; something as innocent as going “on break,” or out to lunch with a clock puncher, can taint your reputation for months.  

Remember, I never recommend trying to build a great reputation by working around the clock, it’s not necessary and it’s bad for your health. But nothing says “I don’t care about advancing my career” like just “punching the clock.”

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In my last post I talked about the #1 Loser to avoid at work – The Trasher. My #2 Loser is kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum – The Kiss Up.

The Kiss Up plays a very simple game: whatever the boss (or anyone in authority) says is gospel – even if it’s actually wrong or he disagrees.  Worse, the Kiss Up is also a tattle tale, who believes that he will somehow improve his own position in the company by “turning in” others for even minor misbehavior.

The Kiss Up is the kind of person who volunteered to be a hall monitor in high school. In fact, he or she spends more time snooping around looking for dirt on others than actually doing real work.

For this reason, the only way to deal with Kiss Ups is to avoid them like the plague!

Since they’re only looking for trouble, they’re notorious for quoting others out of context or outright embellishment. The more time you spend in their presence, the greater your odds are of becoming fodder for their next up-chuck.

Although most good managers see right through Kiss Up’s, they can’t help but listen to them. They may not even believe these chronic tattle tales, but they do remember what they say. And while they seldom take these snitches at their word, if a manager picks up any corroborating evidence elsewhere, the Kiss Up’s defamatory remarks may earn some credence.

Finally, if you become a manager and find a Kiss Up among your subordinates, be very careful. If the rest of your people think you’re listening to him, you may create a major morale problem. Also, keep in ind that that the Kiss Up’s “stock and trade” is telling tales out of school and he may actually start talking about you one day.

The Kiss Up is a very dangerous loser, so steer clear!

NEXT POST – THE CLOCK PUNCHER

 

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I’m not a big fan of derogatory labels for groups of people, so I use the term “loser” with some reservation. But, in this case, I use it in its literal sense.

I’m referring to people at work who habitually “lose” out in career advancement due to their pathological bad behavior.

There are plenty of candidates for bad behavior in the typical office environment, so my list is far from exhaustive, but it’s a pretty good roadmap of the characters you should steer clear of if you want to build a great career.

Loser #1 — The Trasher

Although this clown can be found at all levels of business, my experience is that it is more common among younger workers with limited political battle scars.

The Trasher’s pastime is to tear down everyone and everything around him or her. The most common target is the company at large, followed by their boss, coworkers, and even occasionally their subordinates.

The Trasher likes the sound of his own voice. He loves to come up with stories about how stupid others are and how smart he would be if he were in charge.

It’s not clear where the Trasher’s mental defect came from, but perhaps he grew up feeling that no one listened to him, so his stories grew bolder and more sensational over time.

The most dangerous form of Trasher is the one who’s favorite victim on his own boss. Be on the lookout for an innocent coffee break chit chat or lunch conversation that suddenly turns toward “telling tales out of school” about everyone’s boss.  

It is vital to your career success that you do not join this ring of gossip and start talking about your boss. You never know when there may be  a “Kiss Up” in the crowd who can’t wait to start quoting all of the Trashers.

Always assume anything you say about anyone will end up being heard by them.

NEXT POST – The Kiss Up

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I’m in the midst of graduation season. My daughter Natalie’s was huge, but according to my wife, we’ve written a dozen or more “gift checks” to other grads since March. I really hoped that Career Secret Sauce would have been out in time for this year’s graduates, but too many little things came up along the way (hopefully July 1st).

Graduation is such a wonderful experience. Everyone makes the graduates feel so important; their whole life lies ahead and accordingly, there is a lot of pressure on them not to mess up and choose the wrong job.

The first big decision most people make is which college to attend, followed by what major to pursue. The next biggie is where to work. In all three of these decisions, the question of money has a dubious role.

Clearly, you couldn’t attend a college that you or your parents couldn’t afford. You might be able to take out a loan, but you’ll need a good paying job to pay it back. Taking out a big college loan to earn a degree in a field that doesn’t pay well is a more common mistake than most people realize.

As graduates contemplate their first job they consider the money it pays, but most of the time they’re more worried about job satisfaction than the size of the paycheck.

Money and Today’s Society

It is important to find a job you truly love, but it’s also tough to do. I have found that the right strategy is often to take the best offer you can find and then work on making it better once you’ve got your foot in the door. I wrote Career Secret Sauce to share strategies for doing just that.

The importance of making good money is something a lot of kids underestimate.  You can’t blame them, most people keep their salary and other financial details as secret as their sex life! On top of that, the mainstream media loves to denigrate people who make a lot of money.

When most folks think about making a lot of money, they feel guilty. They think of luxury spending like exotic cars, expensive vacations, second homes, boats, jewelry, etc.  Actually there are a lot of people who enjoy these so-called luxury items without making a lot of money, they borrow and lease. This is a bad idea, but not one I’m going to touch on today.

The True Role of a Good Paycheck

People with their heads screwed on correctly still need to make a lot of money for things that most of young people never realize are the true luxuries of life.

1. Stay At Home Spouse – Yes, this is a huge luxury item. Working couples typically depend on the lesser paycheck just to get by. Often this is as much as 40% of the family income. The cost of having one spouse stay home for 18 years to raise the children can be more than a million dollars.

2. Nice Grade Schools – Communities with great safe schools drive up real estate costs.  Great schools and expensive homes drive up real estate taxes. Where do you want your kids to go to school? The incremental cost of owning a decent home in a community with a good school system can be another $1,000/month.

3. College Tuition for Your Kids – Most people who attend college will make too much money for their kids to qualify for financial aid in college. As a parent you have a few choices. You can make it your kid’s problem and let them borrow money or go to a community college and wish them well. You can help them out when the time comes and borrow money or take out a second mortgage that will burden your own retirement. Or you can start saving a five hundred bucks a month for tuition the minute your child is born. This adds up quickly especially if you 3 or 4 children.

4. Your Retirement – Like the child’s college fund, the sooner you start saving the more likely you’ll have enough put away when that day comes.

5. Charity – I have found that the greatest luxury my good career provided has been my ability to give money to people and causes I believe in.

There are plenty more items I can put on this list, but as you can see, this is a plenty. So by all means find a job you like, but don’t forget that there are very few people who really love their jobs. More importantly, invest your youth in building a career that earns good money, so that you can afford the real luxuries of life – taking care of your family – when the time comes.

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