Many years ago I worked for a guy I’ll call Greg. Working with Greg was awkward. He badmouthed his boss in the office, but in public he spoke favorably about him. To outsiders, he seemed like a good team player, but those of us who worked for him knew otherwise. Then Greg got a promotion that gave him even greater autonomy. His role involved more travel and he had more opportunities to represent his boss and the organization. While he was competent at what he did, he still did not have a positive opinion of his boss.
One day, Greg’s opinions caught up to him. He was dismissed for disloyalty to his boss and to the organization. Despite getting caught, he did not express remorse over how he handled the situation. Instead he blamed his boss.
When Greg said disparaging things about his boss, it was less a statement about his boss and more a statement about himself. While he represented his boss he also represented himself, and what he said about his boss within the office reflected poorly on himself.
When you represent your boss, you also represent yourself. How you conduct yourself representing your employer says a lot about you. Perhaps you complain about your employer to others so that they will join you in complaining about their employers. At best, it drags you down to a lower level. At worst, it poisons your relationship with other people and damages your prospects at getting employed elsewhere.
It is up to you whether you change your attitude and choose to represent yourself and your employer in a way that honors both you and your company. No one can improve your attitude for you. You have to be the one who will decide to change your attitude.
Whether you deal directly with customers or not, you represent your employer to people in your sphere of influence. Here are three areas in which you should monitor your attitude to represent yourself and your organization well.
1. Beliefs about your boss
Be watchful about how you feel about your employer because it says a lot about you. The more you complain about your employer, the more people will think that the issue is with you and not your employer.
No prospective employer wants to hire a Greg who badmouths his current or previous employer. Your future employers will be able to determine what you will think of them based on what you say about your current and previous bosses.
Consider what you think and say about your employer—even when you’re not on the job. You never know who may be listening. If a potential employer hears you complain about your current employer outside of an interview, it’s very possible that you won’t get the opportunity to interview with them.
2. Beliefs about your work
People do their work based on what they believe about their work. More often than not, when I call Customer Service, I end up talking to someone who doesn’t want to talk with me. One time the person who answered the phone gave a long introductory statement, but I couldn’t understand a word of it. He said the greeting so fast that it was unintelligible to me. Later that day, I had to call the same company, and I got the same person on the other end of the phone. Again, he said the greeting so fast that I barely caught a few words of it. Having heard this hurried greeting a second time, I thought to myself, “This business should not have their people say this long introduction at the start of every phone call. It makes the company sound ridiculous.” But then I realized the person answering the phone had a responsibility in this situation as well. He could choose to rush through saying this introduction and sound ridiculous, or he could choose to slow down and say it in a way that represented both himself the company well. It depends on what he believes about his work.
You may say, “But you don’t know what my job is like!” And you’re right; I probably don’t know what your job is like. However, that doesn’t matter. If you think what you have to do at your job is beneath you, it will affect how you do your job. How you do your job now will also affect what kind of employment prospects you have in the future. It behooves you to think highly of the work that you do now. Do it well, so you can improve your future employment prospects.
3. Beliefs about the people you interact with
Whether or not you work directly with clients or customers, you will likely have to deal with colleagues, suppliers, or vendors. If you complain about the people who work with you, you may find that they think the same thing about you. If there is a “someone” that you complain about, then you could be the “someone” that they complain about. Bad feelings can boomerang. You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7).
When you have contact with people, you may have conflict with people. However, you can choose to look differently at the people around you. Because you don’t have to respond to people the way that you see others respond to you (Colossians 3:13).
You will enjoy your time at work more if you choose to look at the people around you in the way that they could be, not necessarily the way they are—because that is the way you would want others to look at you if the situation were reversed (Matthew 7:12).
Don’t be like Greg. Instead, resolve to represent yourself and your employer in a way that will put both of you in the best light. That will enable you to rise above whatever problems you have to deal with at the workplace. And you will see your influence increase.
This article has been adapted from the #1 international bestselling book, Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew.
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