How to Be a Better Employee: Are you a High Maintenance Worker?

Steps you can take to avoid being labeled "high maintenance" on the job.

Let me tell you the story of a woman I know who is exasperated with the management at her company.

To be fair, Jean often has good reason to be annoyed. For example, the company recently appointed a new boss in Jean’s area who knows little about what Jean does, yet feels obliged to actively manage Jean and her people. Second, the company’s poor reputation and below-market pay scales often make it hard for Jean to hire the staff she needs.

That said, Jean invariably makes the not-so-fabulous situation worse by her own behavior. Last month, the company moved Jean to a new office and – as usual – Jean was annoyed. This time, it was because she was put in an office located on one side of the building and her four staffers were put on the other side. Meanwhile, Jean’s peers have their people right around them.

So what does Jean do? She calls her boss, her boss’s boss and the office manager and complains.

“Who’s responsible for this?” she raged. “The other units are together and we’re not, and I want to know why I was singled out for this treatment.”

In a rare, and impolitic, moment of candor, the company’s second highest official told her the truth: the office manager split up her group in retaliation for her long history of being “high maintenance.”

Throughout the company, Jean is perceived as a royal pain in the you- know-where. She does her job – but rarely without a complaint, a cranky comment or crabbiness. While Jean probably doesn’t want to advance at her current employer (and the odds are good they would never consider her for promotion, anyway), her behavior practically insures that she never will be promoted wherever she works. Moreover, the way she relates to co-workers undermines chances of making her current situation – or any situation – better.

For the sake of your well being and a steady paycheck, you don’t want to fall into the high maintenance trap. Here’s how to avoid it:

1) As a sage one said, “The first myth of management is that it exists.” Don’t assume management knows what it’s doing or that its actions are rational. That way, you won’t be upset by the sheer idiocy of so much of what goes on. In fact, you’ll start being amused by it, which will make you a much more pleasant co-worker.

2) Take a note from the management gurus – you really are in business for yourself these days despite being an employee. You must be self-motivated and find rewards and satisfactions in your own activities. If your employer recognizes what you do, great. But don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed.

3) Be nice to everyone. The receptionist, the mailroom guy, the computer help person and the cleaning lady can be as important to your success as your boss. Treat them nicely at all times.

4) Forget that nostrum, “It’s better to be respected than liked.” It’s better to be respected and liked. People would much rather help someone they like – and you never know when you’ll need help.

Article – Copyright 2001 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.

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