1. Don't be quick to speak.
Once words leave your lips, you can't take them back. This may require practice on your part, but try taking an extra long pause before you speak. You may find that people pay a little closer attention to what you say because they can tell you're putting a lot of thought into your comment. Another trap that's easy to fall into is becoming captive to something you want to say. We've all been there. We have an important point and we just can't wait to say it. When you fall into this mindset, you stop listening, and people can tell. Not only is it rude to cut people off while they're speaking, but you do yourself the disservice of not hearing everything the other person is saying. You may miss important information while you're stuck in your own head waiting to say what you want to say. This is hard advice to follow, but it's well worth the effort. Learning to be calm and listen more will eventually earn you more time to speak your mind with others.
“We've all been there. We have an important point and we just can't wait to say it.”
2. Don't be quick to criticize.
It's easy to assume that people don't know what they're doing. It's also disrespectful. Often times, you may discover that a person did something a certain way for reasons you could not have known. Give people credit for being smart and doing it the right way, first. If your ideas and solutions are truly a better way to do things, you'll have your chance to suggest them. Taking the attitude of “help me understand” is a proven approach to management tactics and there's no reason why you can't adopt that point of view even if you're not a manager. Plus, being critical all the time puts you in a bad mood. Who wants that? Not your boss, and not your coworkers who are quality teammates.
3. Don't be quick to leave for the day.
Part of being a valuable team player is making sure that everything is taken care of before you leave. Don't be afraid to ask a coworker if they need help on anything before you go (and make sure you are willing to help if they say yes). You'll make allies around the office with this attitude and managers are bound to notice too. Even if your entire office quickly packs up their stuff every day at 5:25 to get home, taking a few extra moments to look around and make sure everything is in order will leave a positive impression. Staying an extra 10 minutes to get a job done right can say volumes about your value as an employee.
4. Don't be quick to defend yourself.
No one likes to be corrected or criticized, but that's part of life. We all know someone who is particularly poor at taking correction. Don't be that person. Try to remember that no one expects you to be perfect. They do, however, expect you to learn to improve. This is an important time to remember point number one and two in this article. You're going to make mistakes in your career. How you respond to the correction will play a big role in determining your chances of advancing in the company. Defensive employees rarely get promoted.
Here's an extra tip: Thank people for their constructive criticism. This will help you exit the conversation with a better feeling and avoid awkwardness later on.
“Thank people for their constructive criticism.”
5. Don't be quick to volunteer.
Staying busy is always a good thing when it comes to your career. If you truly feel you don't have enough to do, then by all means, volunteer for something at work that you feel passionate about. It's an opportunity to make a difference. However, it's easy to get in over your head with volunteering. Especially if you're trying to impress your boss. The problem is, that can backfire. If you volunteer to do something over and above your normal job duties and the quality of your normal work suffers as a result, you're only making yourself look worse. So make sure you really have the time and emotional energy to do the volunteer work before you raise your hand.
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