Rule 3 of Work: Volunteer Carefully
- Aug 5, 2005
A lot of people think that if they say "yes" to everything they will get noticed, get praised and get promoted. Not true. The clever manager above them will use this "I'll do it" mentality and you will end up overworked, undervalued and abused. Before you put your hand up to volunteer for anything, think very carefully. You have to ask yourself various questions:
- Why is this person asking for volunteers?
- How will this further my plan?
- How will I look to senior management if I volunteer?
- How will I look if I don't volunteer?
- Is this a dirty job that no one else wants?
- Or is this person genuinely, desperately overburdened and really in need of my help?
It might well be a dirty job that no one else wants and by volunteering you might look very good in the eyes of senior management—they think you capable of rising to a challenge, being useful and being prepared to get your sleeves rolled up and stuck in. On the other hand they might think you're a sucker. Or if you volunteer to do the filing they'll see you as a mere filing clerk. Or you might generate a load of goodwill for helping out someone in real need of support. Be careful and choose your moments. There's no point sticking your hand up if it means you're going to be seen as a monkey. Only step that one step forward when you are confident you will look good, gain benefit, or make a difference to someone who needs help.
Also be aware that sometimes you seem to have volunteered without putting your hand up or stepping forward. It just happens that sometimes all your colleagues take a collective step backward leaving you there out in the open seemingly volunteering when you really had no intention of doing so. The first time this happens you will have to ride with it and do the job—but make sure it doesn't happen again, not to a Rules Player, not twice. Keep your ear better attuned next time and feel out the collective approach and make sure you're stepping backward with the rest of them.
"BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR HAND UP TO VOLUNTEER FOR ANYTHING, THINK VERY CAREFULLY."