Actually Working

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I take my job seriously and don’t mind putting in long hours. The
problem is my co-workers. They come in late and goof around a lot. I
don’t want to be the only one pulling the load. And if there are going
to be pink slips handed out, I want to avoid one. What can I do?
Actually Working

Dear Working:
For the record, anyone who goofs off publicly in this economy is
asking to be fired. There’s a work force of several million unemployed,
and even if you live in the middle of nowhere, I’m betting there’s a
dozen people in a minute’s notice who’d line up to replace any of
them. So your attitude is commendable, theirs is stupid.

If your question really is, how can I make sure my bosses know it’s me
doing the work, it will take persistent attention to many levels of
relationships: yours with your boss, yours with your peers, and the
hardest, trying to monitor their relationship with your boss behind
your back. You know that nobody likes a brown-noser, and to some
degree that’s what you are aspiring to be. It may also become the
nicest thing that any of the goof-offs will start to say about you. As
someone who’s trying to ensure your boss likes you more than the
others, you are creating competition and threatening their livelihood,
no matter how well-deserved a stick for them might seem compared to
the carrot you’re trying to win. So while your attempt is legit, and well
earned, that’s how the others are going to relate to it, and to you.
That’ll happen out of their guilt, out of fear of getting caught goofing
off, of being shown up, and out of normal human competition. So don’t
go in blindfolded.

Start relating to your boss more often. Don’t barge in or interrupt. Use
a mix of email and drop-bys, always starting with If you have a minute
(and give boss a chance to say, Not now). Be sure you have
something useful to say. Not to be a tattletale on the others but
rather, I noticed a problem and I think we can solve it. Or I’m ready to
tackle [Boss’s pet project] if you need some help. Seem helpful and
industrious. Keep Boss apprised of your regular work if asked, but
mostly give the impression that you are conscientious, careful, and                                capable of doing more. If there are to be cuts, you’ll quickly move onto
the “not that one” list. It doesn’t buy you full immunity, but may be
worth enough so you move up or stay on when the others get their
just rewards.