Better Mondays - Chapter Three
What's Your Employee "Type?"
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Chapter Three - What’s Your Employee “Type?”
What type of employee are you . . . Loyalist or User?
I’ve known plenty of folks who described their relationship with their employer as “still developing,” or “we’re both waiting to see how it works out.”
Many had no formal career plan, or if they did, it was something along the lines of, “Do my job, keep my head down, and finish out my thirty years with a huge 401K.” Throughout their career, their job responsibilities seldom changed, and after being snubbed several times for promotion, they’d settled in for the long haul, never thinking their future was always at risk from buy-outs, re-organization, or company-wide layoffs.
Today’s smart corporate employee knows their relationship with the company is ultimately temporary. Sure, we talk about long-term commitment, longevity, and the value of loyalty. However, to have any real meaning, those ideas have to work in both directions. Realistic employees have learned to evaluate a company’s promise of tomorrow with a lot of skepticism.
Today is what counts. Tomorrow is what you must prepare for.
To have a productive relationship with your employer—both from the standpoint of the company meeting your expectations and you being able to move your career in the direction you want it to go—I recommend determining which category, or “type” of employee that best fits your mindset and future goals. Then you can evaluate new work opportunities originating from both inside and outside your current employer to determine the best fit for your personal circumstances and situation.
For our purposes, let’s define the work relationship into two categories: The “Loyalist,” and the “User.”
A Loyalist is committed to developing and accomplishing their career goals with their current employer. They are completely “on-board” with the company’s programs, policies, and direction. They have no plans to seek alternative employment from another source and can see themselves retiring from the company in thirty years as a top-level executive.
The Loyalist guy or gal brings the same level of commitment to their work (and their employer) as if they owned the company. When it comes to company business and activities, they’re “all in,” dedicating the majority of their time and attention to their employer’s advantage. I’ve heard some Loyalists describe it as being able to do exactly what they’ve always wanted to do and having found the perfect vehicle by which to do it.
Here are the typical characteristics of a Loyalist:
1. They use their investment money to buy stock in the company because financial ownership makes it real.
2. They have identified and targeted the next job or promotion level for their career path and are actively developing the skills and acquiring the experience to achieve it. They regularly ask their supervisor for the opportunity to assume new responsibilities, knowing it’s the key to moving up within the organization.
3. They help others to complete their tasks and assignments. I’m not talking about doing the actual work but offering suggestions and direction when help is needed. They assist co-workers and subordinates without expecting to receive immediate acknowledgment or credit. They know it’s only a matter of time before the positive effect of their efforts will be noticed by management.
4. They’re familiar with the concept of team building and the process of directing and utilizing the talents and abilities of multiple individuals rather than focusing on one superstar.
5. They know the profit margins and market share of the products and services sold by their company. In short, they recognize the source of the money. They also have a handle on the cost of manufacture, sales, delivery, returns, warranty replacement, and spoilage, if the product has a limited shelf life. They can talk intelligently about new and potential markets using the parameters of demographics, competition, emerging technology, and other metrics specific to their industry. If they have sales or marketing responsibility, they can cite their customer’s annual sales, market share, possible future competitive threats, and can suggest at least three ways to increase their business. (If you think this kind of information is impossible to get, you’re not ready for the corner office.)
6. They are familiar with promotional and advertising budgets, the return on those expenditures, and how their company’s budget compares to the competition.
7. They know “who’s who” in the company. They’re familiar with the names and responsibilities of middle and upper management, how long they've been employed at their current position, their previous employers, career path, job assignments, and educational background. They also know their birthdays and anniversary dates.
8. They offer praise and feedback to co-workers and subordinates, both privately and in front of supervision and management. They NEVER criticize another co-worker in front of others. And when the boss privately asks them what they think of another employee, they use tact and diplomacy, indicating the future can always hold improvement.
9. They attend all company events and functions, whether business-related or social. They realize their absence from any company event will be conspicuous—not something they want management to notice. They know that corporate social functions are often used as a testing ground, to see who rises to the top, handles themselves well, and demonstrates leadership ability.
10.They ask for more training, then volunteer to teach the same class or seminar to other employees. If appropriate, they offer to present the material to customers, modifying the content or curriculum to make it more suitable or applicable for the specific audience. In effect, “training” becomes their middle name. They may decide to publish a monthly newsletter with industry updates or send out a weekly or even a daily email with tips and ideas for increasing sales, or reducing wasteful, time-consuming activities.
Sound overwhelming? It isn’t. Not when it’s planned, managed, and scheduled. Remember, you have your entire career to work on it—because you’re all in.
What about “Users?” How do they fit into the framework of the corporation?
A User has no interest in a long-term relationship with their current employer and is exploiting the company as a springboard to other opportunities. They see their employer as a place to acquire knowledge about the industry and marketplace—then move on, either to another company or to start their own business.
They may also be in a holding pattern, unwilling to commit to their current position because they’re actively looking for other opportunities. Having accepted their current job for financial reasons, or because they believed they would be more employable if they were already employed (usually true), they’re waiting for a better job.
If you fall into the User category, here are a few suggestions to receive the greatest return from the time you spend with your current employer:
1. Know exactly what is expected of you. Understand your job responsibilities and how your performance is measured, then include any subjective considerations your manager is likely to impose, based on how you perceive her values. Your goal is to gain the reputation of a reliable employee who does acceptable work for the position for which you were hired. Having said that, never use your job description as an excuse for failing to meet your manager’s escalating expectations. Job descriptions are notoriously vague and seldom encompass the full range of responsibilities and activities that comprise a job well-done.
2. Determine the most advanced job title or position you would be comfortable performing, then be ready to move up. Do your best to convey an attitude of wanting a promotion and the greater responsibility that comes with it. This will go a long way in being seen as a valuable company asset and receiving positive evaluations and raises.
3. Make no enemies and cultivate as many positive business relationships as you can. Always be aware of new networking opportunities. Grow and strengthen your network with regular communication. Let them know you’re available to help or provide professional assistance, even if it’s outside the definition of your job description. Many of these contacts will be customers. Some you may never meet in person, due to distance, restricted outside mobility, or the need to adhere to appropriate professional protocol. Just be sure to treat all of them with equal value, because you don’t know when the billing clerk on the other end of the phone will turn out to be an important influencer’s son or daughter.
(True story: The new guy supervising the loading dock was being bossy as hell, and since it was his first day on the job, I was tempted to suggest he take his belligerent attitude down a notch, especially when he demanded I move my car because he didn’t want “vendors” parking on that side of the building. I decided to let it go. I moved my car and went inside, where I learned that the “new guy” had just married the owner’s daughter and was learning the business from the ground up.)
4. Don’t overlook the influence your co-workers can have on your future success. Always be patient, courteous, and friendly. Talking down to a co-worker or being belligerent can earn you the reputation of an asshole—or worse, an arrogant asshole. Instead, learn the birthdays of your fellow employees and send them a card. Congratulate them on promotions and advancements. Your co-workers know and can influence many people in and outside the company, and one of them could be a vital link to a better position if and when you decide to leave.
5. Be a team player. This is a logical extension of number three. Never miss an opportunity to share credit for your success. Even if it’s nothing more than acknowledging the administrative staff for their help in putting together your presentation, always include anyone and everyone that was involved in the process. Management will love you for it. We all have the desire to be singularly identified for our accomplishments and to receive the accolades that go along with it, but corporate super-stars are quick to burn out, while team players tend to stay in the game much longer. This isn’t counter-intuitive to the ultimate goal of moving on to a different employer or starting your own business; it ensures that the decision to leave is made by you, and only when you’re ready to leave.
6. Volunteer to help your boss. Let your supervisor know you’re always available to pitch in and help with the workload, especially when she’s overloaded with planning, year-end reports, trade shows, promotional events, and other time-intensive activities. Building this kind of rapport with your supervisor will help motivate her to write glowing reviews of your work, recommend you for raises and promotions, and increase the likelihood of cutting you some slack in the event your production lags for a short period.
7. At work, be present and focused on your job. If you’re obviously distracted, or others see you seemingly always busy with personal phone calls, social media, or email, you’re taking a huge risk. From the company’s viewpoint, you’re not only wasting their time and money; you’re abusing it. Conversely, demonstrating concern over deadlines, customer problems and complaints, and taking responsibility to help out in a crisis, will get you remembered and rewarded.
8. Be on time. Never be the one who forces others—especially your boss—to wait. Being late for meetings and appointments is the quickest way to lose respect and acquire the reputation of someone who doesn’t put enough priority on company business. There’s no excuse for being late. If your internal time clock doesn't cooperate, schedule your arrival time for fifteen minutes early. If that’s not enough, keep adding fifteen-minute buffers until you’re consistently the first one to show up. Remember, there’s no middle ground when it comes to punctuality. Making others wait is disrespectful and rude. Conversely, it makes a great impression on management to find a subordinate ready and prepared to start when they arrive.
9. Be positive – always! You’re the guy or gal who’s great to be around, and others appreciate your positive spin. During my stint as co-owner of a large photography company, part of my job was to call on school principals to present our products and services. Time and time again, I saw a sign with the same message placed over the doorway of the school’s administration offices: “Attitude is Everything.” It’s a simple concept, but it’s hard to overestimate its power.
10.Keep your plans to yourself. Not in it for the long haul? Never share your intentions to leave the company, even if your departure date is years in the future. Management must believe you’re indefinitely committed to your job. If they discover your true intentions are not aligned with theirs, they will put you on the shortlist for termination through lay-offs, downsizing, or “managing out.”
Now, let’s compare the recommended suggestions for Loyalists versus Users. Notice the differences between the two lists? (Hint: It’s a trick question.) Based on the standpoint of your everyday activities and behavior, I’m sure you’ve realized there’s more similarity than disparity. And that’s the point. You could combine the lists without any real conflict.
Here’s why that’s important: Based on your behavior, and as far as management and co-workers can tell, there should be no outward or obvious clues that could reveal your personal agenda.
Regardless of whether you fall under the category of User or Loyalist (or somewhere in-between), your relationship with an employer should fit within a much larger picture—a personally-crafted life-plan—driven by your financial objectives, your need for autonomy and independence, and a preferred level of balance between your work and personal life.
This is a drastic difference from the traditional employee mindset in which workers have historically depended upon the company to determine his or her fate. An employee who chooses a My Life First mindset does their best to influence their career path within the company, but they know it is ultimately up to them to determine their professional destiny.
Now for the big question . . .
Which type of employee are you? And more important, which approach makes more sense for your future? Knowing this upfront will make it much easier to make the decisions that inevitably confront every employee: Do I take the promotion? Should I move to the new location? Do I stay with my current employer, or should I accept the job offer from a competitor?
If you’re not sure which category is the best choice for your circumstances, don’t worry. We’re just getting started. Before we’re finished, you’ll have a much better idea of your expectations and whether the company you’re with can reasonably satisfy them.
Coming up next from Better Mondays:
In case you missed the previous chapter …
Thanks for reading,
Roger A. Reid, Ph.D. is a certified NLP trainer with degrees in engineering and business. Roger is the author of Better Mondays and Speak Up, and host of Success Point 360 Podcast, offering tips and strategies for achieving higher levels of career success and personal fulfillment in the real world.
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