Career success

Being A Better Employee, The Ultimate Guide

The most important suggestion in this book:

When you go to work tomorrow, try to look at 'your place' as a fearful first-day employee would.

- From ‘The Tom Peters Seminar


A man who knows the court is master of his gestures, of his age and of his faces; he is profound, unpenetrable; he dissimulates bad offices, smiles at his enemies, controls his irritation, disguises his passion, belies his heart, speaks and acts against his own feelings.

– Jean De La Bruyere



The six most important words are “I admit I made a mistake.

The five most important words are “You did a good job.

The four most important words are “ What is your opinion?

The three most important words are “If you please.

The two most important words are “ Thank you.

The least important word is “I.


#1 problem of office layout, i.e. the open plan office

About 70 percent of U.S. offices have no or low partitions, according to the International Facility Management Association. But the open plan offices have not brought in the benefits. A 2013 study found that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance.

Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy.


The open plan office proponents didn't much cared that employees have different communication styles (e.g. synchronous vs asynchronous) or levels of noise tolerance, and just crammed everyone, like herd of bison on the plain fields.


Some companies, such as Google have tried to modify the open office plan by separating clusters by function / noise level.


(Source: Washington Post)


1. How to get along with co-workers

The most important lesson to learn: Share the credit with others because a rising tide floats all boats.

What about freeloaders? (Those scum of the earth that don’t do anything for the group.) In school you can let them know how you truly feel. You can’t in the real world because bozos have a way of rising to the top of many organizations, and bozos seek revenge. The best solution is to bite your tongue, tolerate them, and try to never have them on the team again, but there’s little upside in criticizing them.

- Guy Kawasaki


2. Most common negative emotions at work

- frustration/irritation (stop, think something positive about the situation)

- worry/nervousness

- anger/nervousness

- dislike

- disappointment/unhappiness


3. Most common kinds of negative behaviors of co-workers


- Arrogance (Too much speechifying, tactlessness, foul 'putting-down' kind of language): Avoid them, you can never win with them

- Extreme 'One-Upmanship' ('I am better than you') and posturing ('I am busy'): Just be better than these people

- Short fuse/easily irritable: Avoid as much as possible and do your job

- Fakeness (not meaning what they say): Think thrice and verify thrice before you believe any stuff they say

- Procrastination ('I will do it later'): These people finish their work at last moment, so quality suffers.

- Discriminate/wasteful spending: Bring the boss's attention to it

- Sabotage (out of spite or sheer competitiveness): Make a record how much they are hurting the company's business.

- Jealousy: Praise this kind often and generously, sometimes, for the fun if it

- Cynicism (party poopers, negative talk all the time): Avoid

- Stress and bad attitude (often these two go side by side): They are on a slippery slope. Help them help themselves.


4. Most common kinds of good behaviors of co-workers

- Being Cheerful and kind: Starting with enthusiastic “Hello! in the morning. Surprise goodies for office friends.

- Good at small talk: Finding common ground with co-workers (shared interests). Being genuinely interested in others.

- Saying 'What do you think?' often : Being open to other people' ideas all the time

- Avoiding gossip: Not responding to a gossip, or changing the subject.

- Being calm during conflicts and stressful situations

- Generous with compliments: And stingy with criticism.

- Being prompt: Returning calls and emails as soon as possible.

- Being punctual: Respecting other people's time.

- Giving and sharing credit promptly; Never being selfish and alienating others who did the job.

- Working as hard as the subordinates: 'Lead by example', as they say.

- Working hard and thinking positive: The best attitude to have in life.


5. Being yourself at work: Having had enough of being a drone in a cubicle, try out 'daily personality pilots'

Try bringing your personality to the table bit by bit. See what's possible.


...if it feels risky to go “all in on being yourself at work, think about a small experiment you could try to test the waters. For instance, if you’re naturally funny but tamp down your humor at work because “it’s not done at your company, try cracking a few (carefully chosen) jokes one day. See what sort of response you receive. Did others seem to notice? Did you receive any feedback, positive or negative? Turn to a trusted colleague to ask her opinion.

If the response was positive or neutral, you can keep moving forward with your tests until you feel like you get to be yourself. If the response is negative, however, Clark notes that your small tests won’t hurt you in the long run anyway because you can always go back to the way you were before. If it seems there’s no room for you to be yourself at work, and that’s important to you, your job may not be a good fit.


The best advice about how to conduct yourself at work is to know yourself, and get new information—from outside your own experience—about what is possible in the world.

- Dorie Clark, 'Reinventing You and Stand Out'


6. How to figure out anything on your own

Armed with Google, PDFs of manuals, and self-reliance, force yourself to learn how to figure out just about anything on your own.

- Guy Kawasaki


7. How to Communicate better at work


- Avoid: Simplistic thinking, relying on labels, assumptions and stereotypes – it will only lead you down blind alleys.


- Before anything else, “be specific- make it a mantra. Chant (if it helps) before giving any message.


- Illustrate your points by giving clear examples of actual situations.


- Refer to specific behaviors when giving feedback. Always give examples.


- Give direct, simple and clear messages. Paint a detailed picture of the scenarios you are talking about- plans, goals, timelines, memos etc. Start with the big message itself (e.g. summary in the email subject line)


- Describe how you want things to be handled differently in the future —for example, “Next time, I would like you to tell me your concerns about my performance in private rather than in front of the group.


- Avoid diluting your message with qualifying statements such as “sort of or “kind of.


- Adapt your communication style to that of the present office: If everyone likes to briefed via email, then concise email it is.

Also know the communication preferences of your team members, for example, some may need to be reminded a couple of times. Finally, let them know your communication style and preferences as well- e.g. 'Don't put me in every email between you and the tech team, only include me in the important moments'.


- Improve your body language at work by paying attention to it more (you will know about yourself more too)

For example, you will notice yourself touching any part of your face and this is telling you are being sensitive to the issue at hand. You can also 'fake it till you make it'. Maybe you are big at 100% eye contact, but look anyway, if it helps your cause. Uncross your arms and stand with feet wide part, makes you seem more open.


- Do ask open-ended questions: You can be direct and clear all you want, but you need information from people, so ask in a way that lets them tell you more- 'why do you think plan x will not work here?' This also gives you time to reach at a decision.


- When talking with a boss, start by giving what they need/want- e.g. 'We will be miss the deadline by two days'- and then into the details.


- Project confidence in how you talk about your responsibilities and ongoing tasks /projects.


Finally, tailor your message not only for the audience, but also keep the circumstance in mind. For example, on day when nothing is going to plan, you may think about relaying yet another disappointing news item, for a while.


8. How to be more likeable at work


- Avoid sighing from frustration.


- Don't avert eyes when walking someone's cubicle or desk.


- Don't say diminishing statements ('sure, that could work, but...')


- Avoid negative body language- silent treatment, averting eye contact, crossed arms all the time etc.


- Instead ask people how a project (or other work) turned out. Offering to help.


- Be seen as a positive force at the workplace, a 'solution bringer'.


- Remember people's names and use them often when you speak to them.


- Give 'constructive criticism': Instead of saying 'that could work but.....', say 'Just a thought occurred to me. What about ___? Wouldn't that affect ___?' or something along these lines.

Choose your words wisely, friend.


9. How to be 'awesome' at work (version 2)

In any given work environment, almost everyone is focused on one goal: to make themselves look good.

If you can change things around and focus on making other people look good, you’re well on the way to being awesome.


10. Estimating time for tasks


They say 2 interruptions cost you 1 hour of work.


When estimating a task, take your first estimate, double it, and add 50%.


11. Avoid sexist language at work

Don't say things such as: 'Girl' or 'girls' or 'Office Mom'


12. How having a 'Frenemy' at Work is good for you

+ A “frenemy is someone you like overall, but also happen to be at odds with. These types of rivals might seem like a burden, but they’re actually great to have around at your job.

It might seem like they’re constantly stressing you out, but in reality, they’re probably pushing you to do your job better.


13. If you are feeling undervalued at work

Back to the basics: Note down all the good work you have done for the team/company for 12-18 months. Make the bosses know about it. Raise your hands in meetings etc. If you still feel neglected, time to move on.


14. Body language at work


1. People who sit up straight were more likely to believe the positive comments they wrote about their qualifications for a job. This is from a university study.


2. People who hold a cup of coffee, look more trusting.

A study says it makes you come off as softer.


3. Right handed people do well under pressure, when they squeeze a ball with their left hand.

Study has shown when you do this, the left brain, associated with automatic motor functions, has less focus on it.


4. The lower the voice, the more authority it conveys.

A study has found that the optimal pleasing sound frequency is around 125 Hz. The researchers looked at 792 U.S. chief executives at public companies. After discounting for their experience, education, and other influential factors, they found that a drop of 22 Hz in voice frequency correlated with an increase of $187,000 in compensation.


5. Walk in strong and you may have the room

A study says that we shouldn't wait until we’re in the meeting room to 'warm up.' We need to do that beforehand and come in swinging, so to speak. A study found that that it takes the brain just 200 milliseconds to gather most of the information it needs from a facial expression to determine a person’s emotional state. 


Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life.  Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.