I read a blog the other day by Penelope Trunk, with her 10 Tips for the New Workplace Etiquette. As usual, her tips at first shocked me, but as I started mulling it over I think it could be a matter of perspective.
Tip #2 is “Don’t ask for time off, just take it….. Make sure your work is in good order and send an email to the relevant people letting them know you’ll be gone. ” Wow! But I realized that if you add a few things, I might go along with this. Tops on my list are “make sure your time off does not correspond to an important meeting, phrase the email as a request and not a command, make sure you are not the rate-limiting step on any important projects, and make sure it’s an occasional event,” but there are probably more.
Similarly for #3, “Keep your headphones on at work.” Sure, if you are doing heads-down work that requires concentration and don’t want to be interrupted (and you’ll probably let the voice mail answer the phone, too). But you want to be approachable sometimes also, or you’ll find yourself being cut out of the loop. Facebook is not the same as face time.
Yes, you are a valuable professional and should be treated as such – but so are your co-workers and your boss. They deserve your respect – after all, they are your boss for a reason. If you want to be able to work only when you want, and exactly how you want, become an independent consultant or freelancer (which, BTW, is what Ms. Trunk is). You don’t want to have to grovel, but at the same time you want to show the proper respect for everyone else in the workplace. There may be things going on of which you are not aware, and being out of the office at a particular time might not be a wise career move.
Everything in life (and work) is a balance. Leadership and assertiveness are good, but go too far and you get a reputation as agressive and “not a team player”. Make sure to think about how your actions appear to others – they don’t know everything about you, just as you don’t know everything about them.