How To Be More Impressive at Work


Good communication and interpersonal skills are essential to increasing your status at work.

“Men never plan to be failures; they simply fail to plan to be successful.”
– William A. Ward

An eager young sales representative anxiously began his first day at work. After selling himself hard during the interview process, he now felt tremendous pressure to show his new boss he was a real go-getter. As he settled into his new office, he felt rather self-conscious about not looking busy. When his boss walked toward his office, he grabbed the phone receiver, and said, “Yes, sir, I can handle the account. I know it’s a large one. You can count on me. You’re welcome, sir. Good-bye.” He put down the phone and nodded to his boss who was standing in the doorway, sure that he had impressed him tremendously. “Yes, Sir?” he asked. His boss smiled and replied, “I just wanted to let you know your phone is scheduled to be connected this afternoon.”

Trying too hard to be impressive at work can backfire on you. Ambitious people want to be recognized and admired. Having that “fire in your belly” is wonderful, but don’t blow it by not being smart. Here are three time-tested tips to become more impressive at work:

Choose Your Battles
Putting major energy into minor issues is foolish. Choosing to go on “crusades” over small matters will deplete your energy, and lead to a frustration level that paralyzes your effectiveness. Furthermore, others will find you annoying. People invariably want to avoid those with heavy baggage. Co-workers who always have their armor on, prepared for battle, are exhausting! Chronic complainers rarely affect change–but they certainly influence how much people admire and want to be around them.

“Any fool can criticize, complain, condemn, and most fools do,” explained author and public speaker Dale Carnegie. Picking your battles is impressive, and fighting them fairly is essential.

How can you determine which battles are worthy of “going to the mat” over? Marta Driesslein, career coach and president of Cambridge Career Services, Inc., offers the following advice: “I share with my clients that they should strategically choose the battles that are worth the wounds. Most are not. The battles that should be fought should never be about us, or posturing, or retribution for something or someone that wronged us. Unfortunately, most are.”

Driesslein suggests a few battles worthy of taking on:

Justice:If people at work are being harassed, hurt, abused, prejudiced against or slandered, you should take up their cause and be their advocate (but be sure to get the all the facts before you act).

A deserved promotion : If you have a verifiable record of performance and someone gets a promotion you should have had, you need to ask why first before initiating a skirmish. Then, do not proceed in fighting gear, but rather thoughtfully, without emotion, identify the skills and strengths of the person who did get the promotion to see if you have a valid complaint.

Your company’s honor : If there are attempts by your company’s competitors or disgruntled ex-employees to slander your employer, you should stand up for the company and its strengths. (Of course, if you think the criticism is legitimate, you should be working for change or moving on.)

Plug up your communication time leaks
Miscommunication is one of the worst culprits for wasting time, increasing frustration, and decreasing impressiveness. Considering our high-tech access to various communication tools such as cellular phones, faxes, e-mail, pagers, and teleconferencing, you would think communication in the workplace would be enjoying a clean bill of health. More and more often, this is not the case.

How can you ensure your communication does not lead to wasted time? Organization expert Harriet Schechter,author of “Conquering Chaos At Work” (Fireside/Simon & Schuster), suggests the following five C’s as the hallmarks of effective communication–clarity, conciseness, comprehension, completeness, and consideration. Schechter recommends a four step approach to achieve the five C’s:

  1. Ask people which method of communication they prefer–and use it consistently when contacting them, unless it proves ineffective. Be sure to let others know the best ways to reach you, too.
  2. Prepare an agenda or a prioritized checklist that includes each point you need to cover in your communication.
  3. During any simultaneously interactive communication process (e.g., conversation, meeting, training session), make a point of periodically monitoring comprehension. (Don’t assume you are being understood–ask!)
  4. Practice being an effective receiver of communications (that is, being a good listener and reader).

Build a Support System
Ambitious people have a tendency to become focused to a fault. When you forget “the human element” at work, you will sabotage yourself in record time. We all know people who look out for Number One. When they need help, they turn on the charm. When they don’t need help, they ignore others. It doesn’t take long for people to figure this game out. Without a support system at work, it is highly unlikely that you will be impressive–at least not for long. When you are tempted to “toot your horn,” remember that most folks find a constantly blaring horn quite unnerving, and they will take steps to stop the noise!

How do you build support? It’s simple; be kind to others. Kindness is more than a few well-placed favors. It is a helpful attitude, an understanding spirit, and a listening ear when needed. Basically, it is anything that lifts another person.

Co-workers in your support system will increase your impressiveness by raising your sense of self-worth (selfishness always leads to lower self-esteem), putting in a good word for you to others (this is how your reputation is built), and providing encouragement–and constructive feedback–when you need it the most.

You can be impressive
If you desire to be impressive, you can be. But first, examine your motives. Do you want to impact others at work for the greater good of the organization, or do you only want to get on the fast track so you will make more money? You have a better chance at being impressive if your objectives are honorable, and you are willing to be smart about it. Implementing these three tips will have you well on your way to being a winner at work. Now that’s an impressive idea.