LMA Communication

All of our jobs come with a set of expectations. In many cases, we call those expectations our job description. We sign up for a job that requires that we do certain things, and, as we know, some people do those certain things better than others. We all know people who do only enough to keep a job as opposed to those who always seem to be adding value to their jobs.

According to 2015 data from Gallup, only 32 percent of employees in the U.S. are engaged. In a report dated September 20, 2017, their data, which was largely unchanged from 2014, and previous years, shows that 51 percent of employees are unengaged, and 17 percent are actively disengaged.

So, obviously, a lot of people are not even doing the basics, much less going above and beyond. You have a lot of room for success. However, if these people can keep their jobs (and apparently, many of them do), what are the benefits of your putting extra effort into what you do every day?

Benefits of Doing More

[tweetable alt=””]Because so many workers do the minimum to stay employed, you have an opportunity to stand out in a positive way. Exceeding your job description strategically allows you to distinguish yourself from the rank and file without overtly blowing your own horn or bragging about your abilities. [/tweetable]You can showcase your knowledge, skills, and abilities in areas that your current job may not allow you to display. However, in order to reap the benefits of going above and beyond your job description, you need to have a sound plan and execute it skillfully.    Done right, you may be able to demonstrate your competence in areas that will assist your advancement.

Begin with the Basics

 Before you start to go beyond your job description, make sure that you attend to the elements of the description first. We’ve all known people who love to do the flashy things yet ignore the day-to-day requirements that supply the foundation of one’s responsibilities. Master your responsibilities first, doing them with excellence.

Maintain a high level of engagement. Don’t fall into the trap of negativism that can infect organizations, even though it may be justified in some cases. For example, avoid griping about the fact that it’s Monday and you don’t want to be there. Even though some of your duties may be tedious and mundane, attack them with energy and professionalism, and even if you hate some routine assignment, keep it to yourself. If you want to change something about your job, talk to your manager in a private conversation.

Why do more?

 Of course, exceeding your job requirements takes more work than merely getting by and putting your paycheck in the bank. But, ultimately, you get more of what you want, including personal satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment. You build a strong reputation, and you never know who may be watching your performance. And, you can make a positive difference for groups and individuals within your organization. The new workplace requires initiative, creativity, and a sense of social responsibility. Those who exceed expectations benefit themselves and those around them.

 It All Starts with Initiative

 Standing out at work requires both intent and follow through. Usually, we refer to this behavior as initiative. You act rather than react. You seek out and do the things that you don’t have to do. Doing more than is required of you—putting a little something extra into whatever you do—can put you on people’s radars. Further, take the opportunity to let your boss know your goals and the areas for development that you seek. You don’t want to give the impression that your current job is simply a stepping stone, but let him or her know your long-range aspirations.

Make friends at all levels of the organization, and ensure that people know who you are. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people in business and social situations. When someone comes to your office or department to see your manager, be engaged and helpful. Go out of your way to ensure that the person remembers you as professional, accommodating, and astute. Keep up with what is happening in other areas and know when congratulations are in order so that you can deliver specific and genuine praise.

Strategies to Set you Apart

 A vice president of a major corporation, when asked about the secret of his success, replied, “Learning to anticipate.” Being able to anticipate situations in your own job as well as that of your manager’s can go a long way toward helping you stand out in the crowd.

Further, know what’s important to your manager. What are her goals and ambitions? What can you do to help her become more successful?

Learn to present your ideas cogently and with an idea about implementation. Do your homework so that you can answer questions. Frame your message so that it is in keeping with the strategic initiatives and challenges of the company. Even though supplying everyone in the department with a tablet may increase efficiency, if the company is in a budget crunch, you won’t earn accolades for your suggestion.

Even if your idea is beneficial, you may encounter pushback from some factors. Anticipate resistance and address it preemptively if possible. Create allies by keeping others in the loop.

Be Aware of Pitfalls that Can Occur When You Exceed Your Job Description

 Going beyond your basic job description can carry some risks, and you need to be able to mitigate them. Here are three basic pitfalls:

  • You spark resentment among coworkers.
  • Your manager begins to see your additional performance as part of your job.
  • You become so indispensable to your boss that he or she will be reluctant to promote you.

Although you may not be able to avoid some resentful reaction from certain coworkers, in most cases, if you can demonstrate benefits for everyone when what you do, people will get on board. Communicate the reasons you are pursuing a particular project or improvement, and take the time to develop others. Bring coworkers into some of your initiatives if they seem interested. Make sure that you ask people for help and feedback when appropriate. When your colleagues see that something is in it for them, they will be more prone to support you and even begin to take initiative in their own situations.

Choose your “above and beyond” activities strategically so that you don’t end up simply increasing your regular duties. Concentrate on one-off situations, such as planning a department event or helping coworkers on big projects, in order to avoid doing too many things that can easily become part of your daily routine.

Although many large companies don’t allow a manager to block someone’s advancement in a company, in smaller organizations, those safeguards don’t exist. Continue to let your manager know your aspirations and respond positively to feedback and opportunities for growth. Identify coworkers who might be good replacements for you in the future, and take opportunities to encourage and develop them. If your manager recognizes talent throughout the department, losing you won’t seem so scary.


Beverly Y. Langford is President of LMA Communication, Inc.® a consulting, training, and coaching firm that works with organizations and individuals on strategic communication, message development, effective interpersonal communication skills, team building, and leadership development.