Embarrass the lazy with your work ethic

Quite a few years back (maybe decades in fact), a new member joined the team. He turned up first day professionally dressed with nicely pressed shirt and pants and wearing a tie. He was a friendly guy but other than on scheduled breaks, he didn’t join in with social banter. He kept his head down and worked hard.

A few days into his work, I advised him that he could ease up a bit on his work output and there was no need to wear a tie. He politely thanked me for my advice and got back to his work. He continued to wear a tie and work hard every day.

After a while, the new guy started to make me uncomfortable. Definitely, he had done nothing wrong. His work was of a high quality, he arrived punctually for work and didn’t leave until he completed his work for the day. He took the minimum break allowed and only occasionally took coffee breaks. Even then, he would take his coffee back to his desk and drink rather than chat in the lunchroom. What was really making me uncomfortable was that he was making me embarrassed about my own work ethic.

I did arrive early for work but for the first half hour (at least), I would sip on a coffee, catch up on gossip with colleagues and send a few social emails. I would then work for an hour or so then take another break to wander around the office and say hello to people. Oftentimes I would spend a substantial part of the day sending out emails with regard to social activity for the weekend. In all honesty, I probably spent 3-4 hours at most at constructive work.

The new starter was putting me to shame and I felt it. He looked professional and acted it. I turned up primarily for my social agenda and to pick up an undeserved pay cheque.

Not surprisingly, the new starter received a higher opportunity after only a few months at work. Initially, I was annoyed as I had been there longer and blamed politics. After reflection though, and thankfully before I said anything stupid, I realised he deserved it a great deal more than me.

Admittedly, it did take me a few more years to really learn the lesson. I had started a new job and I committed myself to start fresh with the right attitude. I presented myself professionally daily and worked hard. If the end of the day came and I still needed to complete something, I would stay back to finish. I would regularly contribute ideas to make work more productive for the customer, even if it would occasionally result in more work for me. Funny enough, one of my colleagues said exactly what I had said previously, take it easy with the work and a tie isn’t necessary.

Little surprise when only a few months into the job I received an opportunity at a higher level. And guess what, I enjoyed my work a great deal more when I actually felt like I was making a positive contribution.

I have continued to present myself as a professional and work hard through several more jobs. I have frequently received higher opportunities and praise from managers. I also receive many comments from colleagues to pace myself with my work and dress more casually. I wonder if they are as embarrassed as I was a couple of decades earlier.

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