Tips for Employees

This was originally written for recent college graduates but the information might well be helpful to anyone beginning a new job. Bear in mind some tips are based on mistakes people have made.

  1. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.
  2. When asked a question, if you don’t have an answer to share immediately, say that you would like to take some time and follow up. Then, follow up.
  3. Reply to emails. Even if it’s just to say received. If you can add that you expect to follow up in full by a certain time/day, communicate that. And do it.
  4. Never, ever use your work computer for anything that isn’t for work. Never. If that means you have to carry two computers everywhere you go, carry two. I know about a guy who is probably going to be fired because he used his work computer to look at some porn on the weekends. But it was on his work computer.
  5. Separate work and personal emails. All of them. And if you don’t believe me, ask Clinton. All personal emails go to your personal email address. Always.
  6. Best never to have more than one alcoholic beverage in a 24-hour period at work. That means, one beer or one glass of wine. If everyone else gets bombed, that’s fine. If you aren’t at work, drink whatever you like in whatever quantities, provided you aren’t with coworkers. But not at a work event/outing or with coworkers.
  7. No illegal drugs with any coworker ever. I don’t care if the lead partner is snorting cocaine and offers it to you.
  8. Your coworkers are your coworkers. They’re not your friends. They may become your friends because of the number of hours you spend with them. But they’re your coworkers. Whenever possible, try to maintain a bit of a distance. That’s tricky but do what you can as much as possible to maintain this. The world is very, very small. To avoid getting caught up in the nonsense of human interaction, try to maintain a friendly working relationship but not an intimate friendship. At some point you may realize that someone really could be a good friend (and I’m not talking about a romantic relationship). That’s okay but wait until the person has really proven he/she is really good friend material.
  9. Your employer wants you to succeed. OK, some crazy bosses don’t, but most do. Listen to them when given instructions.
  10. Never say an unkind word about a coworker. There is absolutely no upside to it.
  11. Be careful who you sleep with. I know of someone who slept with a colleague, billed the hotel room to the company and was fired. Maybe the only reason this person was fired was because the room was billed to the company. But still. Best not to test this out.
  12. When your boss talks to you, ask permission to take notes and, if given permission, take notes. After your boss talks to you, email the boss to confirm you’ve understood what’s required/discussed/the objectives. This isn’t when you’re discussing what you ate for lunch, it’s for when you’re getting instructions for a work assignment.
  13. If you do a good job, you will be promoted and paid more. The best way to do that is focus on the work and avoid gossip and complaining. Some people aren’t going to be happy with their work. That’s just the way it is. Most people are not happy with about 20%.
  14. If someone is helpful, write a handwritten thank you note. Not to sound like your grandmother, but it remains a good tool.
  15. If a client sends you an email with an attachment that is X-rated and you open it unknowingly, tell your boss what occurred. This happened. Someone (a woman) at work saw a male colleague open an attachment. She told someone and then the guy, who didn’t know it was going to be an X-rated attachment, got in big trouble. It nearly cost him his job.
  16. Usually the hardest part of the job is dealing with people, not the work. People have lots going on in their lives and that influences their behavior at work.
  17. If someone says something unpleasant/offensive/off putting, a good response is, “Thank you for sharing that with me.”
  18. Never correct your boss in front of others. Never interrupt your boss in front of others.
  19. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.
  20. For recent college grads: Avoid saying you’re not going back to school. Instead say, “For now, I don’t have plans to return to school.” Because in three or five or ten years, you might think, hmm, it would be helpful to go back to school.
  21. Avoid discussing politics at work.
  22. Many people are nervous when they are in a new situation, especially in the work place. Some drink a lot. Some get high. I worked with a candidate, a lawyer, who couldn’t pass a drug test because he got high several times a day. Really, the work place isn’t much different from middle school/high school. With that in mind, try to recognize that most of the time, people are doing the best they can. Many of them are struggling with lots of challenges.
  23. If you need to take a day(s) off because you’re sick, do it. Because you don’t want to make others sick and you should be able to be reasonably productive working from home.
  24. An ideal employee is what I call a low maintenance person. This means they are keen to work and don’t put the bulk of their energy into complaining or demanding anything. Flexibility can be helpful (i.e. the office doesn’t have a window but the person, who would like a window, still gets their work done).
  25. Make sure that if you use Facebook that your privacy settings are in place. Do not use Facebook to say anything negative about work.
  26. When writing emails for work, avoid slang and swear words. Remember, if you press send, it becomes permanent and can be, eventually on the front page of the NY Post or some other publication. In other words, think before you send.
  27. Avoid perfume, cologne, scented shampoo/conditioner. Take a shower. Use deodorant. Don’t clip your nails or brush your hair in the office.
  28. Perhaps the most important qualities an employee can have include respect, manners, humility and empathy.
  29. Don’t bring a weapon to work.
  30. If you’re not given specific goals by your hiring manager, offer, in writing, what you think are reasonable examples of goals for the week ahead. Start to put those in writing at the beginning of each week with a look back and a look ahead. Take five minutes each week and write them down. Then, if asked, you have something concrete to consult.
  31. If you have extra time, ask for extra work. If you’re not given extra work, do some projects that you think might have value and present them to the boss. Use your time. If you’re over worked and about to miss a deadline, communicate sooner vs. later.
  32. If you have situations outside of work (illness, death in the family, mechanical problems at home, etc.), notify your boss and make sure that you follow up as much as possible to demonstrate your continued commitment even when you have an obligation outside of work.
  33. Initiate regular communication with your boss so that a dialogue remains open. Include information that is relevant and reflects your interest in growing and what you have accomplished and/or are working on so that your boss recognizes your efforts.