Strategies for Succeeding in the Workplace

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Success in the WorkplaceI’ve heard it said time and time again that behavior can’t be taught as easily as skills. While that may be true, there are strategies that can help change behavior so that your coworkers and boss don’t want to vote you off the island… er… out of the company.

Let’s talk about some key strategies that will help you to be successful in the workplace.

Say what you mean and do what you say.

This Dr. Seuss strategy seems simple enough, but it can be very hard to do in the workplace. Taking time to think about what you want to say is very important. People who “run their mouths” without thinking about what they’re really trying to say often find themselves at odds with their coworkers, and they are usually unsuccessful in achieving the results they want. Even worse, they end up misrepresenting themselves, which may affect them negatively in future activities within the company.

If you are discussing an issue with a coworker or your boss, please take time to consider what you want to say before you say it. Carefully collect your thoughts, and then say what you really mean the first time.

Going along with saying what you mean is doing what you say you are going to do. Follow-through is lacking far too often in the working world. You want to be known as someone who can keep their commitments. If you’re nervous about this because you don’t want to promise something you can’t deliver on, consider this mantra: Under promise and over deliver. It can be extremely successful if executed properly.

Know your boundaries, give reasonable timelines and expectations, and avoid selling yourself short; however, don’t promise something you can’t deliver. When you deliver on your commitments and always delight your customers, coworkers, and boss you’ll be very successful.

Respect boundaries.

When you work with people 40+ hours per week, personal and professional lines are bound to become a little blurry. Friendships/relationships often form between coworkers—which is great—but sometimes they can affect professional performance. Of particular concern are workplace romances. They are very, VERY rarely a good idea—especially when they are between superiors and subordinates. Power dynamic issues can become major problems in the workplace. Setting clear boundaries and respecting the boundaries of those around will make for a more successful workplace.

If someone does something that crosses a boundary, speak with them immediately and privately. Chances are, they weren’t aware of the boundary (hence the crossing) and really did not intend any harm. You don’t have to be a jerk, but make it clear that it was not appreciated and suggest a future behavior that would be more suitable. You can even include the individual as a part of the solution by asking if there was anything in particular that you did to give mixed signals. If there was something you did to encourage the behavior, this discussion can help you set clearer boundaries.

Be a good coworker.

I’m not going to go too in-depth on this one because I wrote a whole blog post about being a good coworker. Check it out here. I know, I know. Not everyone is going to get along with everyone. However, there are ways to minimize the chances of rubbing everyone the wrong way.

Watch your language.

I’m not referring to you, Miss Potty Mouth (though using cleaner language at work is a good idea). I’m talking about avoiding minimizing or qualifying language. Have I thoroughly confused you? Let me clarify.

When sharing your ideas, try to avoid words like “I’m not sure if this might work” or “kind of/kinda” or “just.” Women, in particular, tend to use these minimizing or qualifying phrases, which can undermine credibility. You may have the best idea in the world, but it can go unnoticed due to your perceived lack of confidence and authority.

Many recent business studies have suggested eliminating the word “just” from your work vocabulary, along with “weak words” (I think, I believe, and I feel) and instead using stronger alternatives such as “I’m confident, I’m convinced, I expect.” This concept goes back to the “saying what you mean” suggestion.

For example, “I just called because” sounds unsure, like you’re interrupting someone. Instead, say “I called because.” It’s incredible that the elimination of a simple word like that can add so much to your credibility.

If at first you don’t succeed, re-evaluate your process.

Too often in business, people are all too happy to pass the blame off to someone else to save face. Sadly, chances are that your failure is exactly that—your failure. No one else contributed to that failure. We’re all adults, and we should be capable of owning what we’ve done. Don’t blame your coworker for something you said or did.

If you do have a failure with a project or process, instead of turning the blame, try to look at your own process first. Chances are, you can correct the problem in your own process and it will never fail again. Fix your own issues before you try to fix someone else’s problems.


We hope these practical tips will help you to be more successful in the workplace. Do you have any additional suggestions for being successful in the workplace? Share them in the comments below.


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