Paying it Forward in the Workplace

3 Easy Ways to Invest in Your Coworkers

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Ever wanted to provide leadership and support to your coworkers but find yourself unsure where to start?  Wary of the time commitment required to be a mentor?  Not certain you are ‘high up enough’ to make a difference?  

Here are three easy ways to get you started.

The Amplifier

The amplifier uses their voice to ensure good ideas get noticed. It is easy to have our voices minimized when we are new, considered junior or less informed. When you recognize a good suggestion being put forth, and it gets promptly ignored, don’t let it die a quick death. As an amplifier, you provide an opportunity for everyone to hear the idea again (repetition); you can restate the idea in more business-friendly terms to ensure the value is well understood (clarify); and you remind everyone that the great idea came from someone else (promote). Great leaders know they are not expected to think of everything themselves. They cultivate the best suggestions from those around them for consideration.

By repeating, clarifying and promoting someone else’s great idea you ensure that consideration is given to all the best options for your organization, not merely those expressed by the loudest or most familiar voices in the room. Recognition for the suggestion goes to the rightful contributor, the organization did not miss considering a viable option, and you just got to practice being a great leader.

The Office Navigator

An office navigator knows all the ins and outs of getting things done. They know to never schedule a meeting with the director on Wednesday afternoons because she has the national results call at 4PM and will be preoccupied. They walk to the printer on the far side of the building for high level reports because they know the printer closest to them leaves splotches on every other page. They also are aware that the boss has an odd aversion to the colour orange being used in any graphs or charts. It may have taken weeks or years to learn this, and frankly this valuable knowledge may have been acquired the hard way. Time to make someone else’s life easier. 

Join new employees for break or invite them to lunch. Take that opportunity to share the valuable insights that might apply to their role. You can reduce the anxiety associated with learning a new workplace’s quirks all over again, and the frustration from seemingly making mistakes at every turn. The faster a new employee reaches their full potential, the better the organization is as a whole. Why wouldn’t you want to contribute to that? You also have a great reason to get to know more people in your organization which you may not have met otherwise.

The Switchboard Operator

We may not have the need for traditional switchboard operators in today’s workplace, but the goal of creating connections remains invaluable. As the switchboard operator in your organization, you’ve got keen eyes and ears. You get to play matchmaker without experiencing the messiness of actually playing matchmaker.

While out having coffee with your colleague Sam, you learn that she really enjoyed handling the logistics for her brother’s wedding. This type of work plays no part in her day-to-day role in the lab, but you just found a candidate for the Event Planning committee! Or perhaps you see the new intern is struggling to adjust to the demands of the corporate world, so you connect him with last year’s intern who was hired a few months ago. Now he can talk and relate to someone who knows exactly what that adjustment period feels like.

These are all simple additions to activities you already are part of, with a sprinkling of focused and positive intent. But, as with every lifestyle adjustment, there is some fine print to consider before implementing change:

1) Check your bias, then use your judgement

2) Set boundaries — you are under no obligation 

3) Draw a line between knowledge transfer and unsolicited advice or gossip

Consider paying-it-forward in the workplace as a tune-up. You get to identify and practice your leadership abilities (regardless of your title) while supporting the growth and development of your colleagues.

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