The Worst Workplace Label: Unresponsive

Posted by Richard Moran.

Lots of words come to mind when describing bad traits that show up as labels at work. Sloppy, lazy, sleepy and clueless are a few that you might want to avoid. If any of these show up in your review, it’s time to hit the reset button. But there is one descriptor that is even worse.

That word is UNRESPONSIVE.

An unresponsive co-worker sends out tacit messages to others that I am too busy to respond or that you are not important enough for me to respond. Either way, neither is a response that will endear you to your co-workers. But you don’t have to act that way. The guidelines on what is appropriate for being responsive are always changing but a few rules seem to always apply.

My first boss told me in no uncertain terms: THESE ARE THE RESPONSE RULES, and they should never be broken if you want to be successful. • Every phone call should be returned within ¬twenty-four hours. Even those from people you don’t know.

• Every memo should have a response by the next business day. Even if the response is, “I am in receipt of your memo, stay tuned.”

• Each piece of correspondence received should be acknowledged and a response prepared and returned within three business days.

These rules no longer apply. Today, it is rare to make a phone call or to receive one. No one even knows what a memo is anymore, and no one receives written letters unless the letter is from the IRS. The rules have changed and are now, well, a little ambiguous. There are some general guidelines that are never written down in an employee manual but seem to generally apply:

• An e mail needs to be returned the same day. Probably.

• A text should be returned within an hour. Probably.

• And a phone call? Depends on who it is. If it’s the boss, return it the same day. If it’s the person calling about a solar panel offer, maybe never.

Some would say that these guideline response times are too slow. This group would say an e mail should be returned within the hour and a text within a minute. This same group would be forgiving on returned phone call times because this is the group that never makes phone calls or would die before posting an automatic out of office response.

Others would say e mails, texts, and calls are the source of all distractions and inefficiencies. This group would choose not to be measured by response time.

The workplace is moving so fast today that “the quicker the response, the better” is always a good rule. Acceptable and exact response times today are a moving target with lots of variables that dictate the right answer. If you are too busy for appropriate responses, a quick, “I got it. Stay tuned” might suffice.

Go ahead. Look up the synonyms for the word unresponsive. These words include: insensitive, passive, cold, and unfeeling. Some of the descriptors are worse. One thing I do know: to be labeled as unresponsive in today’s workplace means you are showing a lack of respect for colleagues.

Learning the Hustle

Posted by Richard Moran.

There is food porn where you spy on the gastronomical delights of others. There is real estate porn where you dream about having a bigger/cooler/newer/ anything but the one I have house. There is travel porn where you watch other people enjoy vacations where there are no crowds or hassles. And, of course, there is still regular old porn, which needs no explanation. (I am on the record that when it comes to the combination of work and pornography, pornography is not your friend.) Now there is hustle porn.

Near as I can tell, hustle porn is watching others work every hour of every day on Instagram or hearing a message from the workaholics on LinkedIn that unless you are obsessed with a huge goal you are a loser. Or, if you want to be rich and famous, pay attention to work habits that will turn you into an ambition driven crazy person. Like other types of porn, hustle porn can make you feel guilty for what you are not doing or achieving.

Hustle porn is a byproduct of the tech world where people grind through insanely long working hours in the hopes of becoming the next young billionaire while making the world a better place at the same time. Is it a toxic concept or a lifestyle that suits your aspirations? It depends.

One thing you can be sure of is that watching others work hard doesn’t mean you will be successful. In fact, watching others work hard might make you less successful because you are wasting your time watching them. Copying the habits of Elon Musk or Steve Jobs will guarantee only that you are tired all the time. Working the most hours is probably not the contest you want to win either.

At least a positive and subliminal message one can derive from hustle porn is that it’s ok if life is a mess. It’s ok if things aren’t working and you should expect struggles as part of your journey. Learn from them and move on.

Hustle porn aside, what matters now and always has is results. If hours lead to results, the hours are worth it. What matters now and always has is purpose. If hours help you and the organization meet the mission, the hours are worth it. If the hustle is the part of your work from which you derive satisfaction, do it.

Hustle porn is a new social media label for motivation and one must decide to accept or reject the idea working crazy hours and struggling toward a lofty goal. If hustle porn helps you to define your own idea of success and work hard to achieve your goals, maybe it’s a good thing.

Notes to the New Person

Posted by Richard Moran.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone left you real operating instructions when you start a new job? In that spirit, here is a note that can be left on the chair of 99% of the people starting a new job or assignment.

Hello new person and welcome to my former chair and workspace. Leaders often leave notes for their successor so why not us? We are leaders of this domain! I always liked working in this spot and doing the best I could.  I hope you do too. Since you are new and we probably won’t meet, I thought I would leave you some advice and suggestions to be successful from this very spot. In no particular order…

  • Noise cancelling headphones are your best friend. It doesn’t get that loud here but the headphones will drown out all the annoying habits of your neighbors like the guy who trims his fingernails or the woman who smacks her lips on the red licorice.
  • Treat your time in this spot like someone is paying for you to be here. Someone is. Try to make the place a little better every day. As the new person, you will notice things that everyone else is now used to. Play the “new person” card.
  • Responsiveness is a skill that is highly valued here (and in most places). Respond to any email or text even if all you say is “Got it, stay tuned.” Be thoughtful in subsequent responses.
  • Don’t be late for meetings. Don’t call meetings unless you have something to talk about. Have an agenda for your meetings. Not every meeting needs a Power Point presentation or spreadsheets. Sometimes you can just talk.
  • People only sort of care what you used to do or where you went to school. Everyone is more interested in what you are going to do now and in the future. Don’t be the person who makes it routine to talk about, “When I was at ________.” No one is that interested.
  • Use lunch to get to know your coworkers and be aggressive about it. If no one asks you to lunch, ask others. Eating reheated leftover fish burritos in your workspace will not help with your integration.
  • Implementation is a skill that gets noticed here. Try to be known as the “new person” who gets things done. 
  • The chair you are inheriting is impossible to adjust. If it doesn’t fit I suggest you call someone from engineering or swap chairs with someone to get the chair more your size. 
  • Make friends. Nice people are all around you although it may not seem like it on your first day when you can’t find the lavatory and your temporary ID doesn’t work. The relationships you build at work can last a lifetime and build the network that will always support you.
  • Volunteer for projects. You will gain more experience and get you out of this chair that refuses to be adjusted.

OK, that’s enough advice for your first day. You might want to keep this list handy. Don’t be compared to what I did in the job, do your own thing. Good luck, I know you will do great things.