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Your Co-Workers Are Lazy

Your Co-Workers Are Lazy: How to Differentiate Yourself From an Unmotivated Workforce

I see you secretly scowling at your co-workers,  sitting in your cubicle staring at the miles of work you have to do, while your cubicle neighbors chat with each other constantly, surf their Facebook account endlessly, and make Starbucks runs as often as you take a restroom break. And you think to yourself, this is so unfair.

Well, its true. The American Workforce has hit an all-time low in efficiency and a high in laziness. Among the hundreds of managers and business owners I have come across, this is a theory that has a wide showing of support. I have asked countless employers over the past few months, "What percentage of time at work do you feel your employees are productive?" In simplest terms, in a 40 hour work week, what percentage of time is spent "actually" working? Drum roll please. The number one response I hear is 70%, with the average equated to about 60%.

SIXTY PERCENT! Seriously? How in the world are companies supposed to be profitable and grow when 40% of their employee's time is wasted? What does this mean to you - the young professional or ANY professional and their own career? It means that it is a lot easier than most people think to differentiate yourself from your co-workers!

Differentiating yourself will better position you for a promotion, a raise, or more responsibility on your team. With all your co-workers more focused on killing time to get to 5pm, how do you go about doing this?

First, learn to say YES more. James Ellis, Dean of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, credits his success with saying yes to all the opportunities he was presented when younger. "Every time I did one of these tasks, it was recognized that I was willing to take on more than just what my job description said, and that I would go the extra mile for the company."

Remember that a job description is what you need to do to KEEP your current job, not what you need to do get your next one. Your co-workers who are 60% productive are fulfilling their job description. So next time your boss asks you to take on a task on a Saturday or do something completely different than what is normal for you, think again before saying, "That's not part of my job description."

Second, challenge the norm. In any industry there are norms. Many organizations do things a certain way because it is easier, not because it is the best or most efficient way to do things. Start coming up with ideas of how to do things more quickly, productively, or with greater efficiency. Look for something with large potential impact to you and your colleagues (not a more sanitary paper towel for your bathroom - true story I heard after giving this advice). When you see something that you believe you can change for the best, approach your boss with a potential solution. If your solution is seen to fruition, you potentially could have a positive impact on you, your boss, and your co-workers. If it doesn't work, your boss will at least see that you are a team player looking for solutions that benefit everybody, not just yourself.

Third and finally, make great mistakes. When I played high school baseball, I hated to strike out and became more concerned with this than with hitting the ball hard. I ended up striking out only five times in two years of Varsity baseball (less than anyone else), but I did not hit ONE home run! A teammate of mine must have struck out every other at bat, but he hit four home runs his senior year, and he was a much more memorable player because of it. In your job, do you just aim not to make mistakes, or do you aim to make great things happen? You will inevitably fail when trying to make great things happen, but these are great mistakes. You will learn from them and occasionally even hit a home run!

If you are thinking to yourself that any or all of this seems like too much work, your co-workers will thank you. They will thank you for allowing them to differentiate themselves from co-workers like you who are busy chatting about Entourage, making friend requests, and running to pick up your second Caramel Macchiato for the day.

About the Author

Ryan Kohnen
Entrepreneur, Professional Speaker, and Author

Ryan Kohnen is the author of Young Professional's Guide to Success (Emerald Book Company, 2009) and a speaker on the Next Generation Workforce. At 29 years old, Ryan is not only a speaker and expert on this Next Generation, but he is also a member of it! He started his career founding the web development business Sawt, Inc. at 19 years old and selling it at 23 years old in 2003.  From 2003-2006, Ryan ran COACH Marketing Group, a marketing consulting firm he founded. In 2006, Ryan was hired by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Company where he excelled in sales and marketing roles. In 2009, Ryan left "big corporate" to focus on working with and speaking to young professionals and launching a marketing management and investment firm in the San Antonio area.

His book

The 76 million members of Generation Y are launching into the work world with some nasty habits, including distractibility and a sense of entitlement. Successful 29-year-old entrepreneur Ryan Kohnen calls this Generation A.D.D. and they need a wake-up call. Young Professional's Guide to Success is a book for young professionals looking to go from an average employee to career rockstar. With advice and stories from over 70 CEOs, top executives, and community leaders, the book gives practical advice and tools to start making a significant difference in the workplace. From building relationships with mentors and peers to being the leader of your team (even if you are the youngest person), this book gives young professionals an inside look at how executives rose to the top. Merrill Lynch & Co., American Heart Association, and DuPont are among the organizations that spill the beans for YPs. Readers will also learn from the mistakes and successes of a fellow young professional: Kohnen.

  • Learn what CEOs and top executives did early in their career to set them up for future success
  • Get direct advice from these leaders on what young professionals can do to achieve success
  • Find out what major corporations feel are the most important skills for their young new-hires


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