The way you are treated and the way you are expected to behave will be markedly different between the world of academia and the world of work. This is not saying one is better than the other, but it is different. Sadly, there is no single culture for work which can be described. There may be little in common between a law firm and a call centre.
However, at the basic level there are some general practices:
- Be there on time. Organisations acknowledge we all have problems occasionally getting to work. That is why formal disciplinary action is only taken after several occurrences of lateness. You do not want to get a reputation for being careless or thoughtless about time keeping. Managers may extrapolate this behaviour to your whole performance; it reflects on your attitude.If you are late and your colleagues are getting there promptly, it is possible they will resent your tardiness. At work, relationships are key, so it is important other people do not think you are taking the mickey out of them. If a bus service is unreliable, it is your responsibility to find an alternative way of getting to work. It isn’t always as simple as saying buy a car, as that may well not be financially viable but there are options. One may even be to change the start time but don’t rely on that one.
Rob Ball, one of the founders of Work Horizons, was HR Director of a large manufacturing operation. A member of his team came to him with a potential disciplinary case for lateness; three operators were frequently late. A straightforward situation in which the first line supervisor would carry out an investigation and probably issue a warning. The three all travelled to work together, and the complication was that the driver of the car was the supervisor who would ordinarily have disciplined the guys!
- Do not leave early or give the impression you are watching the clock and are desperate to get out. There is nothing wrong with going home on time. However, walking out spot on time, if it means halting a conversation, is rude and unprofessional. To avoid this, call l centre staff have been seen refusing to take calls from ten minutes before the end of their shift. Again, this behaviour is noticed and perhaps the people do not care. But if this is a career you want to pursue, do you want the perception to be of someone looking for the easiest route out?
- Relationships are absolutely fundamental to success. Look for ways to make a good impression with everyone, not just the bosses. Find ways to help and support colleagues. If you disagree with people, find ways of doing so nicely, or, if it is not really relevant, don’t tell them at all.
- Managers like people who solve problems, rather than those who merely highlight they exist. The ability to do this will, to a large extent, relate to your experience. We can rarely start a new job and rectify issues.
- Learn, learn and be seen to be learning. You have been recruited for your potential, so make every effort to fulfil that possibility.
- Accept you will make mistakes, we all do. However:
- Avoid mistakes which are obviously avoidable
- Ask questions, don’t make assumptions
- Learn the lessons and do not repeat similar errors
- Always behave in a manner which fits the vision and principles of the organisation
- Become someone who is trusted. This comes in two parts:
- Create a high level of confidence in people that you will meet targets and deadlines. If you are asked to deliver a report by Friday, ensure it is done.
- True trust is built over an extended period, and reflects the depth of connection between people. The management guru, Patrick Lencioni, calls it vulnerability trust. It is the trust which typically makes a marriage work, or if it disappears, makes it fail.
- Learn to communicate. Talking too much is a failure of communication. You need to:
- Transmit information effectively, whether that is face-to-face or using any media
- Listen carefully and make sure others are paying attention
- Ensure understanding. Ask and encourage questions.