Beware the pitfalls of being too laid-back in your workplace.
Recently, I had a relatively new employee tell me he wasn’t coming in twice within a two-week period, each time with a different excuse and each time less than an hour before he was supposed to be in.The reasons were legitimate, but there was something in the attitude that irked me. There wasn't a call into the office, but rather a handful of texts. There also wasn't much of an apology behind it. It was almost expected that I would -- and should -- accept it.
There was a time when dress-down Fridays were as laid-back as we got, but the rise in startup culture has made creating a relaxed workplace a big priority. But executives who are too permissive about hours worked, how employees dress and how they spend their time in the office run the risk of sacrificing important productivity and efficiency. It also makes it harder to enforce stricter discipline when needed, like around key deadlines or in crisis situations for the company.
Plus, your job may be on the line. Employees with the most laid-back attitude are usually the first to go. But so are C-level executives, who might find their investors unhappy with the way the office is being managed.
No matter where you are in the spectrum, here are some things you can do to change your mindset and save your career:
Stop believing it’s no big deal. When you mess something up or think your boss or board might be less than pleased, do you think to yourself, "Eh, it’s no big deal?” Do you ask your colleague who is hyped up about your failure to meet a deadline on a project you’re working on together, “Hey, what’s the big deal?” It is a big deal. Your work is always a big, honking deal. If you say it isn't, if you even think it isn't, you are sending a message that you don’t give a damn about your job or your company. You might think being that laid-back is the right approach, that never letting others see you stressed is good, but you're wrong. Something that can -- and should -- get you fired is a big deal. Something that can get you passed over for a promotion is a big deal. Something that could lose you a customer or investor is a big deal.
Show up. It’s not OK to play hooky. And it’s also not OK to show up late everyday. Some offices do have open hours, but that doesn't give you the license to stay away. Even if you feel your work doesn't warrant the time spent in the office, there are huge advantages to showing up. If you can’t show up, and on time (even if that means getting to work early everyday to leave room for commuting trouble), then how does that look to others about the importance you place in your work? Plus, there a big advantages for you personally and the company as a whole when you can have face-to-face collaboration with your colleagues. That is where some of the best ideas are brewed.
Stop hiding behind technology. Pick up the phone and talk to someone. When you are going to be late or when you’re not able to make it in for legitimate reasons, don’t text or email your boss unless she specifically asks you to. Call and let her hear your voice tell her you will be missing work. There is something very cowardly about using email or text to deliver bad news, especially to your employer. Would you do that to a customer?
Have some pride. You are your career, whether you write code or manage a multi-million-dollar enterprise. Be proud of that. In this country especially, we can be what we want to be and set our own path. Remember that your casual attitude affects others, as well. Great businesses have great teams. People who are described as hardworking and dedicated actually care about the impact that their work has on their team, their customers and their organization. They know their actions matter. And dedicated people exist in every industry, level and job. You know the people I’m talking about. They are the ones that the laid-back folks hate, and often badmouth. But they are the ones who succeed, the ones who are noticed and considered for promotions, raises and bonuses. They are the ones who are chosen to run companies. They are the ones who nab the hard-to-get customer.
You may still disagree with me in suggesting that our laid-back culture shift has gone too far, but I ask you this: If you have to work, why not work to rise up as far as you can?