By John Mark Ivey
My mother never enjoyed watching soap operas. She got all the cat fights, backstabbing, and juicy gossip she could stand from the office building she worked in for three decades.
I'm sure she found those plastic actors on soap operas boring compared to the real-world, up-close-and-personal melodrama she had to endure at work. As much as she got a kick out of watching the chaos at times, one thing I know for sure: She was always sure to stay above it, out of it, and not in it. That's how she kept a good job for three decades.
It saddened her to see her coworkers, especially the ones she liked, essentially self-destruct. That's right. Many of her former coworkers were relieved of their duties due to their own undoing, if not directly, then certainly indirectly. When a boss has to reduce the payroll, don't think for a second the problem employees aren't at the top of the list.
Though the antics of her coworkers could be entertaining, she recognized early in her career that she liked her job and decided to do everything in her power to keep it. Here's how she did it:
1. Don't Get Personal
Rule number one of being professional is staying out of other people's personal lives. If it's not affecting their work, then it's none of your business. Same goes for your own personal crises. Leave them at home. Try it, it works.
2. Walk the Straight and Narrow
The best way to be your best friend at work instead of your own worst enemy is to follow the rules. Be on time. Don't park in the visitor parking spaces - even in bad weather. Don't leave early - even when the boss is on vacation. Don't make copies of your tax return on the company copier. You get the picture.
3. You've Got To Get Along
Like in a soap opera, personalities are ultimately going to clash in a work environment. If you want to survive in your office, try to make the best out of any situation that causes you any conflict with another employee. After all, today's associate may be tomorrow's manager. My mom was a proponent of the "kill them with kindness" mantra. I don't even think she realized she was using the Machiavellian tactic of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Nevertheless, it worked for her.
4. Don't Gossip
Rumor has it that you don't think you're gossiping - you're just being informative. You're wrong. Spreading any unfounded information within your business could be grounds for firing. This has been the undoing of many a good employee. Always watch what you have to say and to whom you say it. Most likely, it will come back to haunt you.
5. Be That "Go-To" Employee
Every workplace has those duties that no one wants. Many times my mom took on those unwanted duties at her office. More times than not, it didn't pay off for her, but when it did, the dividends were huge. One of those times was when she became the first female in her building to get her own office. After all, when you volunteer to be the first in your entire company to learn data processing on your company's very first computer, you can't just leave it out in an open cubicle. And guess what? She weathered the accompanying gossip like the true professional she was.