Search This Blog

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What Your Work Habits Tell Others About You

A long time ago I worked for a company where everyone everyday had to change their voice mail message to announce the date.

It was a tiresome task to perform each morning.

It was a powerful choice to make every day.

Every caller got the impression that the worker at the company took the time every day to know the date and stay current.  No voice mail message became excruciatingly boring with the same inflections and same old tired words that callers grow accustomed to and ignore--tune out.

Although that was a powerful lesson for me to learn I do not employ it now.  I am wrong not to do so because that habit communicates a great deal to others about how responsible and aware you are--how present you are to the moment of business.  Not doing it means I am lazy in this way.  Maybe one day I will change, perhaps when I receive enough calls every day to make that task mean more. I receive far more emails than phone calls, and I do pay attention to them, for like the way we handle our phone messages, the way we handle email tells others a great deal about who we are as professionals.

I know someone who answers all of her emails on Friday afternoon. I wake up to her answers on Saturday morning.  (She is not at work on Saturdays so one cannot reasonably expect a quick reply.)  She takes longer to answer my emails than I prefer, but she always answers them on a predictable schedule.  Over time I have gotten used to how she manages her time and the great number of emails she receives, and I respect her work pattern that manages me.  She is doing business her way.  I am fitting myself into her schedule because that's what it means to work with others in the workplace--virtual or otherwise.

Her work habits created mine.  I write her on Tuesdays now so that she has enough time to think about her answers.

Other people I answer daily, if I can, usually in the morning.

However, if the people I answer daily begin to pepper me with lots of emails making demands, I change my behavior and put some time and space between us.  For people who get an immediate response can be the kind of communicator who wants more and more.  They use the recipient of the emails to get answers and information that is their responsibility.  They can come to believe that asking someone else to do their work is how their work should get done.  You learn who those people are pretty quickly and it changes your response patterns.

These response patterns via email and the telephone create impressions on others of our work habits and our reliability.  Scientists would call it behavior modification.  Managers call it time management.  Professionals call it taking care of business.

We all do it differently and according to many different variables, but our choices and behaviors signal to others the kind of worker we are and the patterns of response we create build trust and establish our credibility in the workplace.

We need both trust and credibility in the workplace, and while we would like to have it bestowed upon us through rank and level of education, it more often gets built authentically through simple behaviors like how we manage our phone calls and correspondence.  That should be more of an encouragement than anything else because we all have different backgrounds, education and rank.  It is good to know that we can take more charge of building trust and credibility by simply become more consistent in how we manage communication through phone and emails.


  1. I found this post very useful and very true. One thing I really always put a lot of thought into, is that my behaviors and actions have a positive correlation with others' opinions of my work ethic. I try very hard to make it known that I have a good work ethic and that is important to me.

  2. Amanda Moss - WI7March 19, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    This post is very interesting. It brought to mind an incident that happened yesterday. I normally answer emails within minutes of receiving them. If I don't have the answer, out of courtesy I will respond that I've received the email and will research the request. On Monday afternoon, I received an email and was told by my boss not to respond right away. First thing Tuesday morning, I received the same email along with a follow up. She told me that she was having computer problems on Monday and she was sure that I didn't receive her first email.

    Unknowingly, my habit of promptly responding to emails had signaled to others that I am reliable and always on top of things. In one instance of not promptly responding, this individual didn't even consider the possibility that I simply didn't respond. She assumed that it was her fault.

  3. I relate with this well. Yesterday I was busy with school work for another class literally from 8-7 (right before class) and I left my phone on silent away from me. I had several missed calls with voicemails and texts. I have a few houses for rent so I figured thats what all of the calls were regarding. I ended up not having enough time to check everything before class. No one wants to be on the phone for business at 8:30 or 9 at night, so I waited until the next day. Come to find out, a client of my father's asked me to run out of town to pick up some materials for him and it had to be done that day. I called him back and apologized for the delay. I ended up losing about $200 simply for not keeping up with the messages I was receiving in a timely manner, however, I did get both of my papers turned in!

  4. This is very true. I have found that is can be overwhelming to promptly respond to calls and emails in the workplace. However, I am highly motivated to respond promptly because of the negative consequences I have seen come to past coworkers. Thankfully I was able to learn from their mistakes and realize just how important it is to respond promptly when necessary in the workplace.