TOP TIPS : Workplace rules that are made to be bent

There are pieces of workplace advice – be on time to work and avoid gossiping about your boss or colleagues, for example – that are never contested. Other rules, however, are more flexible. In fact, you may even benefit from breaking, or at least bending, them. In my business I’ve found these rules are up for question.

1. The more hours you put in, the further you’ll go
It seems logical that if you spend more time working, you’ll enjoy greater career success. But this isn’t always the case. Logging more time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more productive. In fact, spending an excessive amount of time in the office could signal you’re not working efficiently. Are your long hours the result of poor organisation or focusing on low-priority tasks?
Also making habit of extra hours heightens the chance of burnout, leading to stress, low morale and even health problems. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, speak to your boss about delegating some of your duties.

2. Take on new assignments whenever you can
Volunteering for additional projects is great way of building new skills. But biting off more than you can chew can lead to burnout. In addition, volunteering for projects that you are unable or unqualified to handle could set you back. In short, never over promise and under deliver.

3. When you’re offered promotion, take it
During your annual performance review, your boss tells you she or he’d like to promote you. Although more impressive title and better pay sound appealing, first consider the ramifications of moving up the ranks. Do the responsibilities interest you? If you assume management-level role, for example, you may not be able to do as much of the hands-on work you enjoy. Also consider your work/life balance. If the new position requires longer hours or frequent travel, are you willing to adjust your personal life and family?

4. Focus on impressing those above you
Your manager undoubtedly has the greatest impact on your career success. But don’t underestimate how important your relationships with peers can be. When faced with tight deadline on an important project, help from colleague could mean the difference between successfully completing the work or not. And the personal assistant in another department could grant you access to high-level manager when you most need it. So foster relationships at all levels of the organisation.

5. Don’t be the office chatterbox
You certainly don’t want reputation as the office gossip, but spending little time each day connecting with colleagues on personal level is often beneficial. Still, if your little chats are interfering with your productivity or interrupting those around you, cut back on them.

6. Don’t be the life and soul of the party
You don’t want to disgrace yourself or have your staff lose respect for you, but there are benefits from enjoying social environment as well as working relationship with your staff. It helps them to understand you as person, rather than having your relationship very employment-focused.

Megan Alexander is general manager of specialised staffing services company Robert Half New Zealand.

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