Education

Three habits of highly ineffective employees


OK, this one may hurt.

Think you have what it takes to dig a career hole for yourself and then stay there? If not, here are three tips that are sure to get you the kind of attention nobody really wants.

Miss deadlines: If each person in a company operated in an independent vacuum, a missed deadline might not be such a big deal. But, as you well know, almost every action of every employee has some kind of effect, either direct or indirect, on the performance of another employee. Let's say Person A--that would be you--has four days to complete the first part of a project; Person B has four days to complete the second part; and Person C has been given three days before the ultimate out-the-door deadline.

Since you're not that hung up on specifics like deadlines, you take an extra day to get your portion of the project done. Person B has now missed an opening window of time for getting his portion launched so he, in turn, borrows another day from the master schedule. Now poor old Person C finds himself at the end of the project, and his deadline is one day away. As in DEADLINE. Not Ailing Gray Area. Person C probably has to work late and miss his daughter's soccer game where, as it turns out, she scores the winning goal. And it's all your fault.

Complain too much: OK, look, most people like to complain. They do it more often out of frustration if they feel like it's not feasible for them to take any real action -- but that's not letting you off the hook. Like it or not, your job is to make things happen for the company you work for. If you can find fault with everything that entails (everything legal, that is), your input will lose its value. Constant complainers have no credibility.

Of course, you complain because you think you know better than those who make the decisions. Maybe you do and maybe you don't. Either way, you don't want to get a reputation as the person who will point out all the bad aspects of every suggestion and have to be dragged kicking and screaming into every new endeavor. It's exhausting for everyone you work with. Ultimately, no one will think of you as a discerning employee as much as they will think of you as a pain in the butt.

Be the company doormat: This is the Complainer's polar opposite, but it's just as toxic. Are you the guy who helps everyone? The one everyone knows they can dump work on because you're so nice and capable? And if everyone likes you, they respect you, right? Wrong. Your manager probably interprets this helping tendency as an inability on your part to set boundaries. And, believe me, no one is going to foist any make-a-name projects on you--only the penny ante stuff they don't want to do.

The ability to set boundaries is something you need to have if you want to move up in the company. And if you take nothing else away from this blog, know this: Those co-workers lining up to pawn work off on you will not set your boundaries for you.

Although your intentions are good, your desire to help everyone may result in your workload being too much to handle, which could make you a deadline-misser (see my first point), and you don't want that. Another result is that, with things piled on as they are, you will do no one project really well.

In brief, finish on time, develop a streak of optimism, and learn to say no.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

25 comments
ivoyhip
ivoyhip

Here are some of feedback for this post: 1) I have my professional experience as the person C (refer to the paragraph of "Miss Deadlines"). I miss the deadline because the other parties handy in their work late. Guess who will got blame for missing the deadline for the final deliverable? It is the Person who is accountable for the failure. Person A and person B are under the radar. 2)Let's say I were a company doormat. Guess who will get the credit for the task well done? The answer is that the person who asks me for help and I will share the honour. However, on the other side of the equation, guess who will got pinpoint for the poor job? The answer is "Me" and only "Me".

yecha
yecha

very good!=)

ApplSecurityGeek
ApplSecurityGeek

I know perfectly well how to say no, thanks; I'd just as soon keep my job for another week, and saying no to any request, no matter how cockamamie, is verboten down here among the land of the lowly. If am lucky, I can refer the request to someone else, but actually say no to a request?? In my dreams. Does this make me less effective? Probably, but apparently management would rather talk about us being more efficient and effective than support us in such an effort.

Vallah
Vallah

I totally agree with this post. But actually I used to work for a large oil company and my boss was the biggest doormat I have ever seen. She would do the work of three people (sometimes four), stay long after five and even come in on weekends. She had two promotions in the time that I worked there. Like I said, I agree with the post, but I guess in some corporate environments they appreciate doormats.

Trs16b
Trs16b

Hmm, so the IT manager should not help clients in order to make sure his deadlines are met? Fast way out of a job.

OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

Anyone who reads this article and actually derives hitherto unknown knowledge has either just left full-time education or has spent 10, or 20, or God help us 30 years cocooned within their own Walter-Mitty-style world, in which case they are reading about themselves. I do recognise the species, I just wish it was extinct!

highlander718
highlander718

OK Toni, you actualy had quite a few good articles recently, but here is another one of those way to obvious tips that I really think nobody needs to be reminded of. And the explanation of how a missed deadline affects others ... that's really kindergarten level with the person A and B and C.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I missed a service level agreement last week because I was responding to a higher-priority call from another client. I called the first client and let them know what was going on; they had no problem. The questions came from management: "What happened with this SLA?" "I was in Augusta on this call. Higher priority according to their SLA. The POC at the call in Columbia was OK with the missed SLA." "You need to manage your calls better." Now I'm an ineffective employee? Bugger that!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I complain all the time mainly about management setting up unachievable deadlines! I call them wishlines, I wish I could achieve them as well. Besides the time machine would be highly lucrative. Why not stick to highly effective management, like providing an environment where your employees can be effective. As Isaac said to Aesop don't throw bricks when you live in a greenhouse. Don't take it personal I just missed another deadline after the fifth version of the spec was presented to the tester two days after I coded to the third, four defects. Defects! That Tony's a bit crap you know, keep having to ask him to redo things. So you want me to keep quiet about your failures, hmmm, this will make me a 'good' employee. You want soda with that, I do , might help me swallow it. It ain't us who need help.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Florida's a nice place.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

is checking the date of data to see if the topic is still relevant.

tmalonemcse
tmalonemcse

Yeah, basic stuff, especially on the deadlines, but good reminders nonetheless. Complainers and doormats are everwhere to some extent, some worse than others. From one old compter guy who suffers from CRS and apreciates the tutorial, I'll give it a worthwhile click. Thanks, Toni.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

But never assume others know what you know. I would need two more hands if I were going to count on my fingers the people I've encountered who did not know these things. And those who claim to know are often blind to the fact that they are guilty of them.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

Surely you've learned by now that there are gray areas. I'm not talking about legitimate reasons for a missed deadline such as the one you mention. I'm talking about an attitude, not a result of having to put out another fire.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

My brother works in retail. His organization sets sales goals that must be reached to receive bonuses. If it looks like an individual store is going to make their goals then the rules are changed. He said that the only people to make the goals are people he doesn't know. When he talked to people from that area they said no one there made their goal either. I think there must be a course in Executive School on how to set employee goals. They are obviously crafted to appear reachable but as the employee approaches the finish line either the ground rules are changed or the goal is moved. Sorry about the rant! Yes I worked in retail a long time ago. It was the same then.

tmalonemcse
tmalonemcse

Balthor is not a bot. I think he is a TR slave. He only comes out to make the first post. Somebody find him and set him free!

ApplSecurityGeek
ApplSecurityGeek

Perhaps I missed the point of your comment. Was your reply to me supposed to be some kind of snide put-down because I commented on a blog post that was not new? If not, it certainly sounded that way. If so, what exactly about the topic of being an ineffective employee is no longer relevant for discussion? Enlighten me; obviously I failed to see any time-sensitive aspect of this topic. Where I do my blogging, typically a discussion on a blog can be closed at any time that the author so chooses. Since she obviously has not yet closed the discussion, and it *was* linked to recent posts, what exactly in your superior wisdom do you deem to be now irrelevant about it? Somehow I doubt that the problem of ineffective employees has been resolved universally. Your reply is evidence enough to dispute such a claim.

highlander718
highlander718

although apparently I am not the only one here who finds this particular article, to state the way to obvious. all the best,

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I'm used to working with the gray and don't usually worry about things I can't control. But your article came pretty much on the heels of the whole thing and I was still slightly warm about it. My apologies for the over-reaction.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Didn't did it? Admit it you are one of my bosses in disguise aren't you? The hard figures say deadlines achieved and missed and person held accountable. His boss held him accountable, so the kick gets passed down the chain of pants doesn't it? So come on yourself, remember who your audience is!

tmalonemcse
tmalonemcse

He never responds. I have a secret theory who he is. When creating a new post, it's always nice to start the dialog. If you can't think of anything else to say after writing a long post, log on as Balthor and add some stupid saying as the first comment to get the dialog going. It's just a theory at this point.

cupcake
cupcake

Just curious about your handle... what does that refer to?

eric_harris_76
eric_harris_76

Today's "Dilbert" [1] is not an exact match for the situation you described, but I could see how if you persisted in trying to inject reality into the discussion, it might have gone the way Dilbert's PHB took that one. "What could I have done differently or better in response to events?" "It's your job to prevent two clients with SLAs from having problems at the same time." Given what I remember about Scott Adams' lead time on Dilbert strips, maybe he was inspired by your previous post. -Eric [1] http://www.dilbert.com/2008-06-01/

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've been yanking his chain since he first opened his cyberflap. I've never seen him respond yet, so I've stopped trying to reason with him and just use him as a 'straight man' for one-liners. I actually have two documented cases where he posted something but wasn't the first poster on the topic. Usually if he can't be first he doesn't bother.

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