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“Don’t expect front row seats if you are giving nosebleed effort.”
- Eric Thomas, American motivational speaker, author and minister
Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to have a job handed to you, the reality is that looking for and maintaining employment is work. Once you’ve dazzled tentative employers or clients with your exceptional skills and experience and landed a role, you still have to work to maintain the relationship with your employer, colleagues, clients and customers. Your ability to do the job will be paramount, and so too will be your ability to follow through and get along with others. That said, don’t overlook the picture you paint with your professional persona. People lose out on work and promotions every day because either they or the work they do are sloppy.
How do you know if you are a job slob and what can you do about it? Read on to see if any of the following situations ring true for you.
Most people know what you ate for lunch since it’s on your clothes. Either that or most people know what’s under your clothes since you have more skin than clothing showing.
I know you are human and need to eat, but maybe think about bringing food to work that is less messy. Also consider eating your breakfast at home so that you arrive at work ready to work. Most of us are guilty of eating at our desk more than we like to admit and it’s okay if you are a bit of a butterfingers during mealtime; all the more reason to have a napkin or change of clothes handy. Impromptu meetings and chance encounters happen. It’s better to be ready than regretting your messy lunch choice.
Also, if you have to ask yourself or someone else if what you are wearing is unprofessional, chances are it is. Many people lament about how often the dress code gets brought up at work. If you are noticing the frequency of theses discussions, people may be subtly trying to tell you something; you may even be in the lineup for a formal conversation on workplace attire.
Your workspace looks like an episode of hoarders. Your co-workers sent Marie Kondo a picture of your workspace and she replied with, “Good luck!”
News flash! Most people assume that messy equals lazy and disorganized. Even though you profess that your messy system works for you and that you know where everything is in your office. People will naturally assume you are a job slob and question whether you are on top of your work. It’s more difficult to be productive in a messier workplace, regardless if you know where everything is. So, think twice before printing every email. Better yet, incorporate the OHIO principle (Only Handle It Once) and put things in their places the first time.
Also keep in mind that as workspaces and people become more mobile and open, if you are unanchored and have to share a workstation with others, your uncleanliness could be adversely impacting those around you, which will in turn impact your reputation at work.
Instead of using full sentences and proper grammar, your communication relies on acronyms, slang or some other dialect that resembles Klingon. For example, instead of saying “professional” you just say “profesh” since two extra syllables hardly seem worth the effort.
We spend most of our day engaged in some type of communication. Approximately 45% of the time is spent listening, 30% speaking, 16% reading, and 9% writing. What’s interesting is this breakdown appears to be inverse to what we are taught in school with increased emphasis on the latter. While the breakdown may be slightly different based on your specific job duties, communication is very important. Using unprofessional and unclear language increases the chances of misunderstandings, and misunderstandings can lead to mistakes and lost opportunities.
Sadly, communication skills are commonly undervalued and even overlooked. Communication skills are often referred to as a soft skill. Pillows are soft and fluffy; communication skills are not! Communication skills are not just critical and strategic skills, but career building skills too.
When people comment on your appearance, you swiftly respond with, “It doesn’t matter what I wear, or what I look like, I should only be judged on my work.” It’s apparent through both your work and appearance that you take no pride in the work you do or who you are based on the series of wrinkly ass t-shirts and stretched out necklines you parade around in. You’ve earned the nickname Sloppy Joe and it has nothing to do with your favourite food.
I’ve seen many competent and capable folk lose out on opportunities because of how they show up in the workplace. Be mindful that even if you exclusively work at home and people never lay their eyes on you, how you dress can still impact how you feel. I’m not suggesting putting on a suit while you work at home, but dressing like slob can make you feel like one too. You don’t need to break the bank buying high end clothes, just take care of what you have and look clean, presentable, and professional for your workplace.
Now, let’s address the most popular reason people use when they don’t give a crap about what they look like…it usually sounds something like this, “Mark Zuckerberg wears t-shirts and jeans, why can’t I?” Firstly, you are not Mark Zuckerberg, and secondly, Mr. Zuckerberg has a lot of idiosyncratic credits.” To explain this concept, imagine you receive an empty bag when you start your job. Each time you make a positive contribution (e.g., new idea, assist a colleague, show up on time, complete a project on budget), a credit is virtually deposited into your bag. Each time you contravene what is valued by the group, a credit is virtually withdrawn (e.g., show up late, leave early, miss a deadline, dress inappropriately, get wasted at the office party and hit on your coworkers). Each culture is different in terms of what earns you credits and deductions. Part of your job is understanding what behaviours earn credits and deductions. Keep in mind that the more credits you have, the more likely you can deviate from the “collective” norm or make a mistake without facing ostracism and isolation. Even when your bag is full, you still may not have earned the ability to dress like an eternal pubescent teenager. Furthermore, if you don’t like the organization’s culture of what earns and what deducts credits, you may need to look for employment elsewhere.
Instead of referring to the end of your workday as “quitting time,” you refer to it as, “fuck this shit o’clock.”
People notice pride, or lack thereof, a mile away. Don’t think because you still show up that you have folks fooled. In fact, it can be frustrating as hell to work with someone who doesn’t give a crap about the work being done.
If you are only there to collect a paycheck, you are probably engaging in presenteeism (i.e., being present, but not productive). There are many common reasons why you could be feeling this way: distractions outside of the workplace, poor mental health, or maybe you just downright dislike your job. Whatever the reasons, it takes courage to recognize there is a problem and do something about it. Showing up and collecting money that you have not earned is akin to corporate career theft. You are stealing from the company, your co-workers and your own sense of self-worth. Not only are you on your way to becoming a job slob, but you are also on your way to becoming an entitled employee, with such famous phrases as, “I should be getting paid just as much as her, I put in the same number of hours!”
When you are close to finishing a task or project, you apathetically and begrudgingly sigh, “good enough,” and move on to the next task, but not before watching a few YouTube videos.
The pursuit of perfection can indeed be a dangerous dance to a never-ending song, so I’m not suggesting you become needlessly obsessed with perfection. I’m a big proponent of the Pareto principle (80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs). Instead of just working harder, take some time to understand what 20% drives your 80%. Are you working as strategically as you could? It’s common for people to continue to perform tasks out of precedent versus necessity. Have you ever asked why certain things need to be completed in a specific manner? Or are you simply going with the flow? Sometimes when we understand the impact of a task, or lack thereof, it can change how we view the task, assuming we have to keep doing it.
I do recognize that sometimes good enough is good enough, but it’s a subjective evaluation. To know if something is good enough, you need evidence to suggest that it is. Are clients happy with it? Does it lead to sales? Does it make things easier for someone else? Does it accomplish what it’s supposed to in the way it’s meant to, with the intended results? If you are the only one who has weighed in on these questions, do you really know if it’s good enough?
Unfortunately, many employees find out their performance is subpar at their annual performance review, and report feeling blindsided with reactions like, “Why didn’t anyone say anything before?” The reason why it wasn’t brought up before is that many “well intended” leaders don’t want to make you feel bad by delivering this feedback even though doing so is part of their job. These leaders secretly hope you will just get better or quit. Either that, or you were told but you chose to not listen or do anything about it.
Unclear expectations are a common occurrence and complaint on both sides of the table. Taking the initiative to understand what “good enough” looks like is imperative. Ask yourself and your employer: What does success look like? What information will be used to evaluate my performance? What could I do to improve my performance? What is the most important goal I need to focus on? If neither you nor your boss are invested in helping you answer these questions you (and your boss) are simply not putting in the effort you need to. Don’t be a job slob! There is nothing wrong with realizing you don’t want to be at the job; in fact, it’s an important first step towards action, with action being the operative word. And above all, don’t waste your time, and your employer’s, being somewhere you don’t want to be or doing something you don’t want to do.
Have you worked with a job slob? What did they do, or not do that made them a job slob? Leave a comment below for the career with a view crew.