The REAL Requirements to Work Here

Jan 12, 2004

Human resources people are big on job descriptions. I was never that fond of them because it seems that they can always be used against you somehow. Here are some examples: “I meet the requirements for a Junior/Senior Planner 12, so why don’t you give me the promotion I deserve?” “I did everything I am supposed to do as a Senior Associate Engineering Project Manager and you didn’t give me a good bonus.” “You are prejudiced against me. You didn’t hire me for the Survey Rodman Extraordinaire position, yet I meet all the requirements right here in the job description.” “Do you not like me or something? Sue got the Marketing Manager position, yet I have been here longer and have a master’s degree.” The fact is that there are always unwritten requirements for any job. And when it comes to positions of responsibility (and opportunity) in an A/E/P or environmental or allied consulting firm, these unwritten requirements are the real basis of who gets ahead and who doesn’t, who gets the money and who doesn’t, who gets promoted and who doesn’t, who gets ownership and who doesn’t, and who stays and who doesn’t. Here are some of these unwritten criteria that I use every day. My guess is that they are very similar to those that many of our design and environmental firm principal readers use as well: Call me back. One thing that really rubs me the wrong way is when you call someone in the firm and they don’t call you back. Maybe they think the problem is solved or something, but it is really bad form. And if these people are treating their peers or their boss this way, don’t you think they could also be doing it with clients? Respond to my e-mails. I really hate it when I ask someone to handle something via e-mail and get no response. People want to know the problem has been taken care of or the opportunity responded to, because if not, it reflects on them personally. And I don’t like bad reflections! Some senior folks in design firms use the excuse that “they don’t use e-mail” for why they don’t respond. “BS to that,” I say! You better start using it. That’s the way the business world communicates these days. Don’t be a jerk. This means don’t be a jerk to clients, don’t be a jerk to the people who are working for or with you, and don’t be a jerk to the support people. By “jerk,” I am talking about someone who is unduly stubborn or inflexible, someone who is unreasonable, or someone who treats the other guy badly. There’s no room for that. Be reasonable. That means don’t be greedy when it comes to proposing a new incentive plan to the Board of Directors. “Reasonable” also means don’t ask for resources that you know we don’t have, nor try to cling to staff that you know we can’t keep busy. Be happy. Hey— no one is happy all the time. But normal people are not constantly in a state of despair, either. When you ask someone how they are doing and the response is always something such as, “You don’t want to know,” or, “So-so,” it gets tiresome. When people act powerless and constantly unhappy about something, they suck your energy. We cannot afford any energy suckers here! If I don’t agree with you, try to change my mind. Don’t just get mad and throw in the towel. And don’t just give up right away, either, if you feel strongly about it. Neither of these is an acceptable response to disagreement. How about some discussion of the facts and rationale? How about presenting some new information or new line of logic that may not have been considered? Intelligent people will not always agree, but they can talk about things and work out a solution if they work at it. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Everyone makes mistakes. Stupid people keep making the same ones. Set a good example. You will never be a leader in any field when you show that you aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to get a job done. You have to keep your commitments or lose your credibility. If I see this tendency to set a lousy example early on in someone’s work, it’s hard to ignore. Don’t do anything dishonest or unethical. I had someone work for me once who bragged about how to cheat stores on coupons. The same guy charged a pizza delivered to his home to a client job. He doesn’t work here today. Avoid stupid spelling or grammatical errors. I won’t deny that I have my share of verbal gaffes, but some people are amazing. I used to work with a guy who thought “floor mat” and “format” were the same word. It’s hard to get past stuff like this when you imagine what the clients will be thinking. So what are your REAL requirements for someone who’s on the fast track in your firm? Send them on and we’ll share them with the rest of our readers. Originally published 1/12/2004.

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