At times, we’ve become overly reliant on technology to communicate or problem solve around the workplace. Take Michael Scott, the infamous boss from “The Office.” One memorable episode has him literally driving into a lake because the GPS tells him to “make a right turn.” Unwavering, Michael drives his car into the water because “the machine knows where it’s going.”
How often have we let technology drive us “into a lake” in our own offices? You don’t always have to rely on technology when there are some tried-and-true methods that will help you stand out in the workplace. Let’s examine some old-fashioned tips for the new office that will help you make a lasting impression.
Make eye contact
We have become trained to keep our eyes constantly on our screens to give off the impression that we are very important and very busy. What you’ve failed to see is what was right in front of you: a real live person who was looking for your input and advice. This does not mean offering an occasional eye flutter in the person’s general direction, but a conscious effort to turn away from your screen, look in the person’s eyes and receive the message being sent your way. You will become more attuned to the body language and vocal intonations of your coworkers and clients, which often convey even more than the words they are speaking.
Take people out to lunch
Eating at your desk, much like not making eye contact, gives off the very important and very busy vibe. However, you’re missing prime opportunities to make connections with clients, coworkers and bosses that extend beyond your cubicle. This is not the time to indulge in your “Mad Men”-era fantasy and have a Don Draper-worthy two martini lunch. Instead, follow successful author Keith Ferrazzi’s advice to “never eat alone,” reach out to clients and coworkers, and ultimately master the art of networking, one sandwich at a time.
You’re a gold medalist at the fist bump and even like to throw in the occasional explosion at the end for dramatic effect. But to make yourself stand out with your bosses and clients, go for the classic handshake. A firm handshake conveys both strength and honesty. Not sure you have a good one? Practice on a friend, and ask for their advice as to whether you’re a cold fish or a UFC fighter. Combine the handshake with solid eye contact for a combo that is way more explosive than the old fist bump routine. The final impression you’ll leave with a coworker, boss or client is that you’re courteous, capable and confident.
Answer the phone
How many times have you seen your cell ring, but let it head right to voicemail because you feel uncomfortable talking on the phone? Unless you have a secret fear that it’s the Grim Reaper on line one, pick up the phone and answer it. When a call heads to voicemail, clients and coworkers feel like they’re being intentionally ignored — because they are. Just because something makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean that you should avoid it.
Thank you notes
Your grandmother would be very proud to know that you’re continuing the thank you note tradition she began with you after your fifth birthday. A handwritten thank you note shows that you genuinely wanted to put forth some extra effort to recognize the recipient. Clients and bosses remember these personal touches when they’re looking for someone to spearhead their newest project, and this will make you stand out over a coworker who thought the fist bump was the way to go.
While technology is a useful and vital tool in every office, so are social graces that are timeless in nature. By utilizing some old-fashioned manners, you’re sure to stand out, and get ahead, in the modern workplace.