What is it with us, anyway? We constantly want other people's attention. Hey, over here! Look at me! See what I can do? It started when we were kids, of course. We wanted our parents' attention, our siblings' attention, our friends' attention and our neighbors' attention; and we did some crazy things to get it. However, even as we mature (are we ever really grown-up?) we still constantly seek attention. It's a battle every day to see whether each of us can get more attention than the next person. It adds to our self-esteem if others notice us or what we do. We become more important (in our own minds!). Even, or maybe especially, at work, the name of the game is to get management's attention. If management notices us, maybe we'll feel important. Right?

Well, there are many things that we can do to get ourselves noticed by the management of our organizations. Ten examples follow. However, there are good ways to get attention, and there are bad ways to get attention. Good ways and bad ways may be equally effective attention-getters, but they differ in the perception that management is left with, as well as their career-enhancing characteristics.

Think about the impression you might make when you reach out to grab others' attention one of these ways:

  • You fudge on your expense report. You think no one will notice and you'll end up with extra cash, but no! It doesn't work that way. You get caught and your manager does not look pleased.
  • You scream obscenities in front of a crowd of coworkers. You think it's funny or you think others should just accept your "way" of showing your uniqueness, but your coworkers and management feel otherwise.
  • You dress outrageously. You think it's great to see the horrified look on your manager's face (after all, he or she at least noticed you!) as you show off your knee socks with bells and your lederhosen. But your manager may squirm a bit when the president of the company brings the board of directors around for a tour of the office.
  • You think you are forwarding a raunchy e-mail to a group of your close friends, but you accidentally send it to a work group that includes your boss, your boss' boss, and your boss' boss' boss.
  • You waste time on a key initiative, spending months studying something when you could get it done in a week. (You may get by with this one for a while, but management eventually notices.)

You're right – you definitely get attention! But the perception management is left with is that you are anything from unprofessional to ineffective. I am sometimes amazed that people who manifest these behaviors are able to maintain their jobs. Yet I believe that these behaviors, while guaranteed to get attention, are at the very least career-limiting.
On the other hand, consider the impression you might make when you try to get management attention one of these ways:

  • Provide new insight. Think of an issue that your workgroup has been struggling with and consider looking at it a different way. Could the reason Web sales are down be attributable to site-navigation problems rather than a product's lack of features?
  • Use existing tools a new way. Your team has been using a business intelligence tool for months to track key performance indicators. However, people tend to use the tool the same way, time after time, getting into a rut and thinking that the tool can only provide the information one way. Consider using the tool in a new way. People may say, "I never knew the tool could do that!" This is definitely a way to enhance your perception around the office.
  • Find a way to make something work. It seems sometimes that the "corporate immune system" kicks in and people very easily find reasons why something won't work. Those reasons just roll off the tongue after a while! It's easier to find reasons why something won't work than to find reasons why it will. In fact, management gets so accustomed to hearing the negative that the positive is guaranteed to raise some eyebrows.
  • Solve a problem. There's nothing that provides more self-satisfaction and gets more attention from others than solving a problem, especially one that really bugs everyone. "Who got that formula to work? Great job!"
  • Automate something manual. Use that tool to do a part of your process that no one has thought about before. It may make your job and your coworkers' jobs easier.

Think outside the box and add value to your workgroup and your organization, and people will have a good impression of you. Your career may be enhanced as well. It is human nature to be ingenious and engage in "Hey, remember me?" activities to get management to notice you. By being proactive, positive and work-enhancing, you may just be glad when they do.

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