Entry level employees and new workers stepping into an unfamiliar culture are often plagued by a nagging question: When it comes to hard work, how much is enough? If you finish the tasks assigned to you by midday, should you take it easy and relax until quitting time? Or should you throw yourself into a new task and make the most of your hours on the clock? Speaking of the clock, should you grab your things and leave at 5:00 PM or should you stay glued to your desk until your car is the last one in the parking lot?These questions can have a serious impact on your own sense of fulfillment, your relationship with your employer, and your relationships with your teammates…but unfortunately, they don’t often come with easy answers. Bosses are unlikely to draw a clear line on this point; sometimes they prefer employees who stay till midnight but they can’t legally request or demand this level of commitment. And just as often, managers privately roll their eyes at new employees who try to seem committed and end up alienating their coworkers by coming off as competitive and sycophantic. So how can you find some answers on your own? Here are a few signs that can help.
1. Are you leaving before everyone else?
If your job description says this position starts at nine and ends at five, you’re legally allowed to leave at five. But if your coworkers are just getting started at that time, leaving at five every day can cause friction. Keep an eye on what your peers are doing; maybe they come in later in the morning than you do. Be loyal to yourself and your own schedule first (if you don’t have the flexibility to come in at ten and leave at six, then you don’t. End of story.) But if you can adapt easily, then do so; you’ll be more available to your team when they need you most.
2. Are you carrying your share of the load?
Sometimes teamwork at work looks a lot like teamwork at home: if you think you’re doing your share of the chores, you probably aren’t. But if you think you’re doing way more than your share, you’re probably right on track. Be honest with yourself. If you truly believe you went far above and beyond your basic responsibilities on the last project (and the one before that), you’re probably fine. If you have any nagging doubts, then the answer lies in the question.
3. Do you feel like you just can’t get on top of your inbox?
You’re only one person, and you’re a human being. You can only do one task at a time, and there are only so many minutes in the day. If you stay in steady motion from the first minute of the day to the last and you still feel like you’re constantly behind, then your workload isn’t reasonable. But if you’re spending a few hours a day on the internet, then your crazy, overloaded inbox is still technically well within your control.
4. Do you ask more from your employees than you’re willing to give yourself?
One of the universal signs of a great manager is simple: He comes in earlier and leaves later than his team. If you’re doing the opposite, think twice. Earn respect from your team by showing respect for them (and their time) first.For more on how to make an impression in your new workplace by working as hard as everyone else—without being taken advantage of—explore the resources at MyPerfectResume.
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