Employees: please stop giving me 110%

February 6, 2017 Chris Pearse

Or 1000% or a million percent or what ever hyperbolic measure you want to impress me with. 100% will do nicely thank you – but not all the time, probably about 30% of the time will do. And I will pay you 100% of your salary, of course.

You see much of what you do is not really a percentage issue – you can’t be 50% caring about our clients. You either care, or you don’t. Rather like being pregnant – you either are or you’re not.

And you don’t have to finish 100% of your work everyday. If you do, perhaps you don’t have enough. Most workplaces are pretty abundant – there’s always something to do, so you’ll never finish everything, even if you give me 150%.

And if you’re running at 100% all the time, or 120% you’ll get tired, you’ll burn out and then you’ll be giving 17% instead. Or 0%.

I get that you want to be noticed and you want to get on, get promoted, climb the ladder etc. Well then, get smart – work out that 100% is all you can give me. 101% doesn’t actually exist – it’s like trying to get another bean out of a can of Heinz once it’s empty. It’s all a bit silly really, and will get you noticed all right, but for the wrong reasons.

But more importantly, if you really want to get noticed, don’t work more, work smarter. And when you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to work less! Win-win.

Here’s how:

  1. Look after yourself before you look after anyone or anything else. Yes, and that includes the work you do for me. You see I want you to be completely relaxed, full of energy, bright, willing, healthy and focused. If you need to take a rest, take it. If you want to chat with colleagues, fine by me. If you need to speak to your mum, go ahead. You see I don’t employ idiots so I know that you’re not going to behave like one, and I don’t have to treat you like one – and you know that too.
  2. Learn to say No. Sooner or later someone will ask you for something that you’re not responsible for, or you don’t have time for. Tell them. If you don’t, they will come back to you, again and again, offering you the opportunity to say No. Take it.
  3. If you get stuck, ask for help. I want to know about problems that aren’t being dealt with. I don’t care if you don’t have a solution – that’s the easy bit. If you had a boss that told you to only bring him solutions not problems, where would all the problems go? Scary.
  4. Stop competing. You’re no better or worse than anyone else – but you are different. You are better suited to some things than others. You’re rubbish at some tasks but, chances are, you don’t really like them anyway. And you’re brilliant at others that you love. If someone else gets promoted over you, maybe your direction isn’t quite right – maybe you haven’t found the right niche just yet. But don’t worry – you will, as long as you stay calm, read the situation and read yourself.
  5. Don’t hide your mistakes. I expect you to make them. Yes, really! If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning (ever tried skiing without falling over?). I want you to make mistakes – just not the same ones over and over. If you try to hide them, you may not learn from them and then repeat them. And I will find out eventually. I suspect you prefer honesty to pretence. Why should I be different? I like smart, honest people – they make my life easier. And thinking you shouldn’t make mistakes is not smart.
  6. Be happy for no reason. Don’t let people or circumstances dictate your emotions. Take responsibility for them, even though those around you don’t. And being happy means you’ll get on with others, listen to them, be interested as well as interesting. You’ll be appreciated for much more than just your role.

So if you can put some of this into practice, you’ll be astounded how much easier work gets compared to putting all that effort into getting more and more done, looking good and out-performing everyone else. They generally don’t like you for it anyway.

And don’t forget, you’re dying words probably won’t be:

I wish I’d given 110%