Q: Others never stop to think that I’m only one person, but I have to be here for every department. They expect me to drop whatever I’m doing to do whatever they want done. —Sally H., administrative assistant
A: First, invest some time and energy in educating the wider group about everything you do on a regular basis. This can happen during daily or weekly team check-ins. Try something simple: “Just wanted to let everyone know my priorities for today are X, Y, Z, but let me know if you need anything and I’ll do my best to squeeze it in.”
Second, when it comes to individual requests, most people just want to know when you’ll get to it, so set expectations by giving a deadline. Try: “I’m finishing X and Y before lunch, so most likely I’ll come back by 3 p.m. to get started on this. Does that work?” The more specific you are with your time and other tasks, the more credibility you will have.
Q: Maintaining my cool when delivering disappointing news. I deal with co-workers all over the plant, so there are many different personalities, making it challenging to keep it as professional as possible no matter how they react. —Christine S., calibration technician
A: Delivering bad news is never easy, but most people make the mistake of focusing on the actual moment of bad news (which is too late). The truth is that the words you use in that moment rarely make a big difference. Instead, I recommend focusing on all the interactions you have before that moment. Do you spend time getting to know your co-workers? Do you drink coffee or get lunch with them on occasion? Investing time upstream, before anything goes wrong, can make the moment of delivering bad news feel less personal for everyone involved. Even greeting someone on a daily basis and using their name (“Hi, Jim!”) can go a long way toward building a rapport that will pay off later in a high-intensity moment.
Q: The breakroom. Keeping items stocked when nobody tells me they are low. The messes people leave. Getting people to switch from plastic to the mugs the company purchased for everyone. The list goes on. —Candace A., data integrity coordinator
A: When it comes to stocking, relying on other people to give you updates isn’t worth the effort. The easiest thing to do is build a daily “eyeball check” into your routine. The key is to do it at a time you never miss. I recommend first thing in the morning when you have your coffee in hand, before you get caught up in the thousand other things you need to do every day.
Regarding kitchen messes and environmental concerns: As someone who does a lot of things for a lot of people, it’s important that you avoid becoming the annoying parent who is always reminding everyone to “clean up after yourselves” or “stop using plastic.” (You need to save your voice for more important things.) Instead, find someone else at work whom you can ask to make an announcement or send an email. Try emphasizing the positive (teamwork, shared space) rather than making a threat. But if that fails, a few well-placed pictures, via email or printed out in the breakroom, can serve as timely reminders.
Follow Justin Kerr on Instagram @mrcorpo or visit mrcorpo.com.