Saturday, May 3, 2008

A friend of mine got himself fired

A good friend of mine called me to say that he got himself canned. I am sympathetic to his situation, but I think he should have known it was coming.

The reason for the termination was excessive unexcused absences. They count being 'late' as an unexcused absence. They also count consecutive days off as one absence. So, being ten minutes late and going on a spontaneous trip to Tijuana are counted the same.

If my employer were to treat minor tardiness with taking a few days off the same, I'd take a few days off whenever I couldn't get in on time.

They also treat sick days as unexcused absences. I think that's a horrible policy decision. That's encouraging people to come into work when they should be getting healthy. I'm sure that the flu travels through those halls unabated.

I'd prefer to not work for a company that has such policies. It seems unnecessarily draconian and petty. It doesn't matter to me what time people get in if they get their work done. If people are ill, they shouldn't be encouraged to bring their illness to work, they won't be productive and they may make others ill as well. It's bad for morale to have unhappy, ill people in the office.

With that said I still put the responsibility of the termination squarely on the shoulders of my friend. He is anything but punctual, he's not very good at playing the office politics game, and he is naive enough to think that the key to succeeding at a job is to do what's asked of you. Wrong.

Right or wrong, showing up to work later than your coworkers is going to diminish some of their opinions of you. The solution to this is simple, show up earlier than most people. Unless you have children, there's no reason why you can't get to work early. If your work is important to you, then get there early.

Another thing you can do to improve people's opinion of you is to provide excellent service. If you can do something for someone now, do it. Follow up with them to make sure that everything is ok and ask if there's anything that could meet their needs better.

A while back I assumed some responsibilities of a guy who got laid off. One thing he would do from time to time is run queries for a business user. I was told that I could expect to hear from him by a certain date. I set a todo on Remember The Milk for that date and sent him an email introducing myself and asking if he had a request for me. I also asked if there was a preferred format that he'd like to have the results in. As it turned out he was getting text files that he would move into Excel spreadsheets. I let him know that I would have the results back in few hours. When he did receive his results he was delighted at how easily his request was serviced. 

Everyone up the org chart from me heard about this. All I did was make a priority of helping a business user. I practiced basic service skills and let him know that his request was important to us. That type of service is very easy to provide and makes a great impression.

Penultimately, you've got to play the game. Develop a good relationship with your manager. If there is friction in the relationship, work it out or work on getting out. Some managers are jerks and incompetents. Try to not work for them. Something that all managers like is an employee that makes them look good. Another thing they like is knowing what's up with their employees. One way to do this is to talk to them regularly. If that is not available try other techniques.

One technique that a friend of mine taught me is to provide an unsolicited status report at the end of each week to your manager. Provide a quick summary of what's been going on, what's been resolved and what has yet to be resolved. I find that Remember The Milk works very well at tracking what's going on. If you're diligent about putting reminders in and closing them out when you complete them you'll have a quick summary of what's happened over the course of a week.

Lastly, if you are in a job that you don't enjoy and your future does not look anything but bright, leave on your own terms. If you're unhappy, you're probably not doing your best, why settle for doing anything less. There are plenty of places to work out there, find one that is enjoyable. Life is too short to spend your days doing something you don't like.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Thoughtful and practical post!