Teach People How You Work From the Start

by | Productivity


A couple of my clients have recently started new positions and are developing their habits with a new company culture. Both clients thought they should work like everyone else is working, and then later slowly ease back into the good habits that they had formed before they left their old job.

I completely disagree.

We teach people how to treat us. We show people how we respond to email. If I immediately react to your email in my inbox, then you expect me to respond immediately. If I don't, you question if I received it and then you call or follow-up with me. If I respond promptly, but without urgency (because email is never urgent), then there isn't a question. I've taught you that I will respond, just not immediately. I process email twice daily. I've yet to have someone say I did not get back to them fast enough.

Instant Message can be a timesuck and a serious abuse of your work time. I haven't worked with a client that is required to have IM on, but because everyone else does, they feel they need to. If you must, only have it on when you are doing less brain-intensive tasks. Turn it off the first hour of the day, when you should be focusing on your Top Task. Turn it off the last hour of the day, when you should be winding down and don't want to get caught with that ‘quick question' that usually isn't quick and is just keeping you from getting out the door.

Be firm about your meeting and work times. If you need to work from 8-4 because that's when your nanny is there, don't accept a meeting at 7:30. Once the door is open, it's hard to close it. It's not unreasonable to say you don't want to start work until 8 am or end at 8 pm.

Teach people right away how you want to be treated. When I hired my Assistant, I laid the ground rules right away. I don't do project management in my inbox, respond to emails with ‘Thanks' or ‘Ok' as acknowledgements, and am available via IM at particular times. It's worked like a charm and we didn't have to relearn any behaviors.

What's one thing you can do to teach people to treat you differently?

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“Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.”

jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects


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