How You Use the First Hour of the Day May Determine if You Have a Job Tomorrow
How You Use the First Hour of the Day May Determine if You Have a Job Tomorrow & The Best Way to Handle an Arrogant, Egomaniacal Boss
Episode 35 - What Are You Doing With the First Hour of the Day?
A large percentage of people begin their workday in a state of groggy apathy. They muddle through the morning with a cup of coffee in one hand and their cell phone in the other, browsing social media sites, texting friends, and checking email.
And why not?
No one — not even the boss — expects everyone to hit the floor running. Supervisors know we all need some time to clear out the cobwebs and activate our business mindset before we tackle the next project — or take that first phone call from a surly and demanding customer.
Sounds reasonable. Right?
If you answered that question with a strong yes, your job could already be in jeopardy.
Hey, welcome back. This is Roger Reid with another episode of Success point 360.
The idea of arriving at work completely detached from your professional responsibilities, and unprepared to deliver your best at what you do, is taking a huge risk with your career.
All employers, whether we’re talking about a fortune 500 corporation or a small entrepreneurial start-up, have specific expectations
And while these may vary by industry or job function, the majority of managers and supervisors want to see their subordinates walk through the door ready to produce, to add value, and to make a personal contribution.
The idea that the first hour of the workday can be used as a “readjustment” period to get mind and body ready to deal with the day’s activities is a symptom of entitlement. And just because the boss hasn’t spoken to you about it – about the amount of time you’re wasting — doesn’t mean she hasn’t noticed.
Unfortunately, the damage is cumulative.
And the more she sees the apathetic behavior repeated, the more it influences her opinion about your professional maturity and future value to the company.
And Yes, I hear the argument: “I need that hour,” you’re telling me, “for the caffeine to kick in, to catch up on office gossip, and to get a general overview of what needs to be done.”
But realistically, that first hour of the day is no different than any other work period – it belongs to your employer. And regardless of how you rationalize it, using it for personal pursuits is a statement of special privilege.
Listen carefully: Treating your job responsibilities with a casual, laid-back approach is a learned behavior.
I’m sure you didn’t start your job that way. You showed up on the first day of work ready to show your boss she made the right decision in hiring you. You did your best to impress her with your positive attitude and willingness to learn.
But over time, you settled in and became comfortable with the normal workflow. You realized you could get away with taking that first hour for self-care and to transition into a working mindset.
In other words, you began to take your job — and the financial advantages it provides — for granted.
Maybe because of your seniority or your past reputation as a star producer, you were granted some degree of discretion about how you use your time at work. But today’s job market has been turned upside down. The pandemic has forced managers and supervisors to look for ways to maximize productivity. They need self-starters who are ready to take on more responsibility. And when it’s necessary, to go above and beyond their job classification to make sure the company remains profitable and financially viable in the current economic decline.
The key is to be visibly productive. To start using a few, easy to implement methods that C-suite executives, successful entrepreneurs, and even creatives use to activate a “professional mindset,” to make sure they’re at the top of their game, especially when others are counting on them.
And if this is beginning to sound like clichéd rhetoric from a motivational poster, I want to emphasize that these specific activities — along with a few minor adjustments to your attitude — can help you create the impression of a focused professional—someone who is ready to lead by example.
Here’s the first one:
- Start your day an hour earlier. If you’re not a morning person and really need that first hour to bring your metabolism up to full speed, then simply arrive at work early. If you don’t have access to the office or your workspace before the actual start of the workday, spend the time at a coffee shop, a public park, or for that matter, in your car. Use the time to update your to-do list, review your short and long-term goals, or listen to a podcast.
If you have a side-gig, use some of that hour to create new content, answer correspondence from customers, and update your marketing and advertising—just make sure that no one from your day job is aware of what you’re doing, especially if you’re in the office or on company property.
- Spend a few minutes organizing your workspace. Put away everything you don’t need for your first task. Getting rid of the clutter and retrieving the files, notes, and support materials you need to begin the day, puts your mind in a working mode, making it easier to transition to productive activity.
- Strategize how you plan to spend your day. You can start by identifying the three most important tasks you need to complete and schedule the time you’ll need to accomplish each one. Then arrange them in order of priority. As you complete each task, reward yourself with a snack, a cup of coffee, or a walk to the break room.
- The fourth suggestion is based on reducing the time you spend on email and social media. If you must check email during that first hour, scan the contents of your inbox and open only the items that are a high priority. This includes correspondence from customers, co-workers, supervisors, and other work-related sources. And I strongly suggest that you avoid opening personal email at work. It looks unprofessional to anyone walking by, and yes, appearances still count.
And it should go without saying that you should never be seen surfing Facebook, Twitter, or other time-wasting social media platforms.
The last suggestion may be the most important of the five. Don’t allow low-priority tasks to reduce your professional mindset. A lot of day-to-day actions will not always be about bringing in the new mega-account or solving a major problem that results in immediate praise and recognition. There’s going to be a lot of time spent on routine functions. This can be anything from helping to inventory the copy paper and resolving billing errors, to placating a habitually demanding customer by feeding him a Grand Slam at Denny’s.
During these “maintenance” days, when you’re consumed with seemingly low priority tasks, there’s always the risk of reduced focus, of coasting through the process. You don’t deliver at 100 percent because there’s no need. You can get the job done with your brain working at a slow idle. In fact, you can take care of everything going on around you while listening to your favorite music in one ear and peruse a few vacation options on your laptop — or so you think.
“Coasting” through the workday is similar to an actor who walks on stage and looks out across an auditorium that’s only ten percent occupied. Why should he bother to give the same level of performance he gave last week when the house was packed?
Because it’s who he is.
He doesn’t compromise his talent and skill just because there are fewer people to appreciate it. There may be fewer people who showed up for the show, but they still expect to see his very best performance. If the actor slacks off or allows the lower level of energy to affect his delivery, he knows it will be obvious. Just like he also knows that while the audience may be small, if they’re impressed, they’ll tell others.
Yes, I know on those slow days, it’s an inviting temptation to relax, to sit back and ride it out, knowing you can easily handle whatever the day throws at you
Because you’ve got the experience, and you know the ropes. In fact, you’ve done it so many times, you could direct an assistant to do it while you work on your side-gig, check Facebook, or watch a video on YouTube.
If this situation sounds familiar, then consider this a wake-up call. You may believe your continued handling of the day-to-day business is sufficient to justify your value and continued employment, but your boss may be wondering how to motivate you, or even worse, she may be wondering if it’s too late to reignite the fire.
I’ll leave you with this:
Adopting a professional attitude and mindset is part of being recognized as someone of value, someone who makes an on-going contribution to the success of the company. And in the eyes of management, demonstrating those qualities consistently is the hallmark of someone who is responsible, dedicated, and promotable — the very attributes you want to convey to those who can do the most for your career.
I’ll be back with a question from a listener right after this person pitch to promote my new book, Better Mondays.
The original title of my new book was “Corpscrew: The New Rules For The Corporate Maverick.”
But the publisher thought it was too non-traditional, too unconventional, and at times, downright irreverent. And so, the title was changed to: “Better Mondays: The new rules for creating financial success and personal freedom while working for the man!”
Did it make a difference? I don’t know yet. I suppose time will tell.
The reason I’m telling you this is because I don’t want you to confuse “Better Mondays” with anything else that’s out there. Because yes, it is irreverent, and at times, it’s also raw and revealing. Because to convey the truth about working for the corporation, and, to give you the insight you need to use your employer to your advantage, I had to talk about the personal agendas, the politics, and the under the table influencing that’s always a part of the corporate culture.
And that’s been my biggest challenge – trying to describe what the book is really about and who will benefit the most from the content. So I want to give you a peek at what’s inside, so you’ll have a better idea if the book holds real value for you.
For example, in chapter nine, When I tell you that the HR department is not your friend, and why you should consider anyone from HR as an adversary, I’ll back it up with the truth, because The HR department’s number one responsibility is to protect the company from liability, and on any given day, you could be the source of that liability.
Are you tired of the politics at work? Then you don’t understand the system. It’s not really politics, it’s a power pyramid. And you need to know how to use it to your advantage.
And there’s something else that matters – and that’s money. “Better Mondays” will provide you a process to make sure your boss knows how valuable you are to the company, especially when it’s time for an annual review – because those kinds of assessments aren’t always based on productivity.
And speaking of the boss, you’ll learn how to keep her on your side, to receive her support in the form of raises and promotions, because you’ll learn what makes her tick, what her hot buttons are, and what motivates and impresses her.
Success in the corporate world is about bringing the right kind of attention to yourself, it’s about getting caught doing the right thing. It’s knowing how to elevate your value, not only in the eyes of your boss, but in the minds of your co-workers as well.
How do you do that? It’s in chapter twelve.
Essentially, “Better Mondays” is about looking out for number one. It’s about coming to the realization that it’s your life first, both on and off the job.
I realize your career situation, and the current relationship you have with the company you work for are unique – maybe you’re suffering from burnout, or feel like you’re stuck in the system and are no longer invested in the work. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can turn your situation around by learning how to influence and manage the relationships that determine career success—because it’s not always about the black and white concepts of productivity or meeting a quota.
My goal in writing “Better Mondays” was to help you create financial success while deriving meaning and satisfaction from your work. And if that makes sense to you, go to Amazon, open up the search tab, and type in “Better Mondays” by Roger Reid.
You can also read the first chapter for free. It’s on my web site at www.successpoint360.
This question comes from Anthony, in Orange County, California: In his email, he writes:
I’m sixty years old and have worked for the same company for twenty-eight years, and by working for two more years, I can retire with a substantial monthly pension. But the division of the company I work for has replaced the manager, and I now have a new boss. He’s arrogant, argumentative, and uses every opportunity to show off his authority. He’s eliminated processes and procedures that have been in place for years because he wants things done his way. He’s made my life and the lives of my co-workers miserable, and I’m at the point of wondering if staying two more years and putting up with his arrogance and ego is worth it.
Some days I’m ready to quit, then I remember how much money I’d be giving up. I need the full thirty years to receive the maximum benefit from the retirement program, but some days I just want to pack up my desk and walk out.
Thanks for the question, Anthony.
When you’re an employee – when you work for someone – a boss is part of the package. It’s a built-in component of the hierarchy.
Unfortunately, not all managers are created equal – nor do they all have the same levels of capability, experience, and intelligence to rise to a position of leadership.
Those who are not prepared for the position may resort to using intimidation and organizational-authority to establish their dominance and identity. This can translate into the silent threat of termination. In other words, “If you don’t please me, I’ll fire your ass!”
Determined to prove they’ve got what it takes to succeed, they make unrealistic demands, set irrational goals, and use overly subjective criteria and measurement in evaluating their subordinates. The workplaces they oversee are often tense and uncomfortable, full of stressed-out,, anxious employees who are just waiting for the chance to jump ship.
How did they manage to be promoted into a position of authority? Maybe they brown-nosed their way into being the favorite minion of a upper-level supervisor, and they were “rewarded” with a title, a small kingdom to rule (to keep the damage to a minimum), and just enough authority to make life a living hell for those who work for them.
Here’s the big question: If you find yourself in this kind of situation, what do you do?
In Anthony’s case, the choices are fairly obvious:
You can put up with it. Tolerate that miserable little troll for another couple of years so you can collect your full retirement benefits. Being two years away from retirement, you can actually put a value on making this sacrifice. You know what the alternative –quitting early – will cost you in dollars and cents.
But what if you feel the same way about your boss as Anthony does, and yet, your retirement is five years away, or ten, or twenty? How much does the price change? More importantly, are you willing to pay it? Are you willing to live the next five, ten, twenty years of your life putting up that kind of grief?
These are not meant to be rhetorical questions.
These are hard questions . . .without clear answers. Each person’s personal and financial situation is different and carries a different degree of importance and bearing on any decision affecting employment and income.
Which is a convoluted way of saying, It’s not always a black and white situation.
We tend to see the possible alternatives as either outright quitting, or submitting to a tyrant who refuses to acknowledge and respect his subordinates as people of value. But the choice doesn’t always have to be all or nothing.
Instead of a decision between submission or rebellion, there may be a middle ground, a kind of negotiated agreement that you can make with yourself, and use it for as long as it’s necessary, until you can make a more permanent change, or the economic factors are more in your favor to either replace your job or start your own business.
For example, if you’re a real contributor to company success, and your skills and talents can be measured in dollars and sense, you are by default, an important asset to the company. But that doesn’t mean your bullet-proof. But you do have leverage. Perhaps because of the situation with your boss, that leverage may not be with the company you currently work for, but it’s certainly recognizable within your industry.
So, back to Anthony’s question: Yes, you can let one individual stop you from your goal of a well-funded retirement, let them intimidate you into leaving the company – and the work you do there –because it’s the easy way out.
But as I said before, the decision is not always binary, it’s not always a choice between trying to ride it out – no matter how bad it gets—and quitting, and having to give up some of the financial security you’ve spent years to achieve.
Keep in mind that there’s a typical commonality among those who possess the personality of a bully. They have a huge ego. And that can be used to your advantage. For example, when you see something that deserves a compliment, offer one. No, you’re not kissing the boss’s butt, you’re extending a professional courtesy.
I know, it may seem like you’re deferring to a man with undeserved authority, but that’s a perception: And the reason I use this particular example is because we tend to withhold a lot of the common courtesies from those who we don’t like, or who don’t treat us in the way we want to be treated. But in actual practice, we need to do just the opposite. Compliments and praise will at the very least, confuse your adversary, and it can go a long way in neutralizing him.
The first thing you can do is to remove the emotional component from the situation. The attack on you is not personal. It’s a reflection of the boss’s warped personality, lack of experience, education, or empathy. That’s just the way he is, and based on what you have to gain or lose, you can choose how long to continue to placate this individual.
I think it’s helpful to look at it as a game, a strategy to placate and offset the negative influences this person brings to your life. You don’t care about trying to establish a relationship with this person –either in the short or long term. Because when you’re playing the game – you’re using a strategy, in which you decide how you respond, and if necessary, you do it in a way that exploits this individual’s weaknesses. Don’t let a barking dog keep you from reaching your desired destination. Acknowledge it, then walk around it.
Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that:
- Stay out of the way . . . work offsite if possible. If you’re in sales, spend as much time as possible with customers.
- Turn your assignments and paperwork in on time. This includes the mundane and routine expense reports, project updates, budget reports, and anything else that has an expected deadline. The idea is to never allow yourself to fall behind in the routine paperwork. It makes you conspicuous, and creates the necessity for the boss to ask you why your paperwork is late, and when are you going to get “the problem” corrected. Getting a few weeks behind on your expense reports may seem like a minor infraction, but it draws unwanted attention – to you, and the ones who will notice are usually looking for an excuse to start painting a bulls-eye on your forehead.
- The next suggestion is short, but extremely powerful: Don’t be seen or heard gossiping with others. Period. End of story. It’s an indication you’re not respecting company time, and you need correction action.
- Keep your discussions at work about the work. Focus on the project, the account, the deal, and always remember your professional behavior needs to be seen as a consistent factor, a part of your identity.
Here are some final words for Anthony: After being with your current employer for 28 years, I can imagine you’ve had other challenges, other situations that required your expertise and patience to overcome. And just like you managed those previous challenges, you have the opportunity to bring all your expertise and ability to this one as well.
Don’t let this obstacle derail your goal of a fully funded retirement. Yes, the company could go bankrupt, or lose its pension fund, or have to lower the individual benefits paid to all retirees due to a downturn in the stock market, or some other negative event affecting the investment in which the fund administrators use as investment vehicles. And then again, it may not. Either way, it’s not something over which you have control. What you do have control over, is how you respond to the challenge.
If you leave now, you may have to live with the regret of having given up. Of walking away from the prize when it was so close. You know exactly how much longer you need to persist. You have the end-goal in sight. Stay focused on the end game. At this point in your professional career, that’s what matters.
Hey, that’s it for this episode. If you have a question, please leave me a voicemail on the website, at www.SuccessPoint360.com The voicemail tab is located in the main header. You can also send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s email@example.com.
Thanks for listening, and I‘ll see you next time.
© 2021 Roger Reid. All Rights Reserved.
For more information about the author, his work, or to subscribe to this podcast, visit www.SuccessPoint360.com
Contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Be sure and check out my new book now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. It’s titled Better Mondays: The New Rules for Creating Financial Success and Personal Freedom (While Working For the Man)
I’ve lowered the price for the Kindle version, so if you or someone you know is struggling with a job that doesn’t provide anything more than a paycheck, or you’re ready to use your employer as a launching pad to start your own business, you’ll find the tools you need to take control of your professional success and to change your life for the better.
You can find more information on my website, www.successpoint360.com. I’ve posted the first chapter on the site as a free read, so I encourage you to take a look.