How to save your ass at work

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What’s it like walking into your manager’s office knowing you are going to get asked about the work you are doing and knowing it’s not where it needs to be?

Not good. I know I never liked it. But I learned important lessons that helped save my ass at work. You can too. These tips won’t work every time, but an honest look at your work combined with these techniques will help keep you whole.

Dig up your own mud

When you look at your work, can you determine what needs improving? If you are responsible for a process, can you tell when the process isn’t working? Here’s where the honesty needs to take place: you need to find out the stuff that’s wrong first, before anyone else knows that something is wrong. Only then can you be in a position to understand the problem and not be blindsided by a teammate or manager asking what’s wrong when you not even aware something isn’t working right.

Start fixing what is wrong right now

If you are successful at digging up your own mud, you can immediately start fixing what’s wrong. This has two immediate benefits. First, you can solve the problem before anyone else knows something is amiss and continue to successfully do your work. Second, if you are already fixing something that is wrong, you can inform your manager and/or team that you f0und the problem earlier and have tried these “X” things to fix the problem. This demonstrates proactivity on your part for your work.

Too many of us ignore what is wrong, hoping it will magically go away. The problem never does. In fact, procrastination usually means the problem gets bigger. So fix the problems as you discover them because it keeps the problems smaller and takes less time to fix them.

Prototype early

You’ve seen this happen way too many times: a manager asks you to complete a complicated task, project or report, you’ve gone off and worked for a week on it and proudly shown the result to your manager on the due date — only to be told it is all done wrong. Not the right format, not the right level of detail, or not right for the audience. At this point, you then pull an all-hours-necessary work session and do everything you did in a week over in a day. Too much fun.

Instead, take the task and complete a portion of it with less than 25% of the time expired to the due date. Take the work to your manager and ask if this represents what the manager was looking for in the format, content, audience, and level of detail. The answer will usually result in additional clarity for you — and the manager — on the work that needs doing.  Now you will have enough time left to implement the changes without killing yourself with extra hours in the end.

Everyone needs to think through how they do their work to do the right job. Using these three techniques in your work can help save your ass on the job.

What other ways have you used to help prevent problems in your work from happening?

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