Cheat Sheet

Thriving in the Workplace All-in-One For Dummies

Thriving in today's workplace — despite longer workdays, larger workloads, and less job security — is possible. To survive (and thrive) at work, take stock of the qualities that your employer values and incorporate them into your work habits. Two key skills — working efficiently and resolving conflicts collaboratively — are important because they demonstrate an ability to excel in your job and effectively manage conflict situations.

How to Manage Time by Prioritizing Daily Tasks

Prioritizing daily tasks is key to successful time management. When you prioritize, you make sure you accomplish the most important tasks first. Make time management a habit — your stress level (and your boss's!) will thank you. Follow this process:

  1. Start with a master list.

    Write down every single task, both mundane and critical, that you need to accomplish. Don't rank the items at this point.

    Be sure to include routine duties. Neglecting to schedule the humdrum to-do items can topple your well-intentioned time-block schedule.

  2. Determine the top priority A-level tasks — things that will lead to significant consequences if not done today.

    Focusing on consequences creates an urgency factor so you can better use your time. If you have a scheduled presentation today, that task definitely hits the A-list.

  3. Categorize the rest of the tasks.

    Use these categories:

    1. B-level tasks: Activities that may have a mildly negative consequence if not completed today

    2. C-level tasks: Activities that have no penalty if not completed today

    3. D-level tasks: D is for delegate. These are actions that someone else can take on.

    4. E-level tasks: Tasks that could be eliminated. Don't even bother writing an E next to them — just mark them out completely.

  4. Rank the tasks within each category.

    If your list has six A items, four B items, three C items, and two D items, your six A tasks obviously move to the top of the list, but now you have to prioritize these six items in order: A-1, A-2, A-3, and so forth.

    What about the D items? They're ripe for being delegated to someone else! Consider the 85/10/5 rule: You tend to invest 85 percent of your time doing tasks that anyone else could do, 10 percent of your time to actions that some people could handle, and just 5 percent of your energy goes to work that only you can accomplish. Home in on the critical 5 percent and recognize the remaining tasks that are easiest to delegate.

  5. Repeat this process each day.

    Some of the Bs will move up, but others will stay in the B category. Some of the Cs may leapfrog the Bs and become the highest priority As.

How to Resolve Office Conflicts Assertively

Resolving conflicts at work requires assertiveness — a willingness to deal professionally with conflict situations regardless of your comfort level. When resolving workplace conflict, the emphasis is on working toward a solution with the other person involved. To resolve conflict assertively, take these actions:

  • Determine the positive outcome you want to accomplish: When you address concerns with others, begin by giving a positive, short explanation of what you hope the meeting will accomplish.

  • Go to the source: One-on-one, face-to-face, private interactions are best for resolving disputes and conflicts.

  • Stay in control: When you're in control of your own emotions — versus them being in control of you — you're better able to influence the direction of a conversation toward achieving a positive outcome.

  • Stay focused on issues: Focus on the core issues of the conflict, not on the other person, so that you're able to keep your language and tone constructive.

  • Give the other person the benefit of the doubt: Assume he or she means well so that you deal with the actions and the issues themselves and focus on solutions.

  • Be direct, constructive, and sincere in language and tone: Don't shy away from expressing problems and describing them as you see them, even if they're hard for the other person to hear, but make sure your language and tone present the message in the best way possible: Be to the point, tactful, and focused on the issue.

  • Go for solutions and problem-solve collaboratively: Keep your emphasis on working out a solution with the other person involved.

    The emphasis is to get your concerns and ideas across but also to show an openness to the other person's input as you work toward a solution that benefits both of you.

How to Survive Office Politics by Identifying Key Players

To survive office politics, know who the key players are. After all, office politics is about the relationships and dynamics among your colleagues. At its best, those relationships allow you to get tasks done, to be informed about the latest goings-on in the business, and to form a personal network of supportive business associates. At its worst, office politics degenerates into a competition, where employees try to increase their personal power at the expense of others.

Look for factors that indicate importance

Key players are those politically astute individuals who make things happen in an organization. The following questions can help you identify the key players in your organization:

  • Which employees are sought out for advice in your organization?

  • Which employees are considered by others to be indispensable?

  • Whose offices are close to top management's and whose are miles away?

  • Who eats lunch with the upper management team?

Rethink your company's organization chart

Your company's organization chart may be useful for determining who's who in the formal organization, but to understand the political landscape in your workplace you need the real organization chart. Compare these charts: The first is a typical official organization chart. The second shows who really has political power and who doesn't. Remember: Sometimes, influential people don't hold influential positions.

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