Success at Work : Techniques : Taking Initiative
Do you have to constantly nag at your kids to do things? Why can't they clean up
their mess and get ready for school without being told? Now think about your
boss at work. Does your boss always have to tell you what to do. Does your boss
have to treat you like a child, or do you take initiative?
Employees who need to be told what to do are said to be "reactive". They do
something only after the boss tells them to, or after the need to do something
has been pointed out to them.
Employees who do what has to be done and solve problems before they arise are
said to be "proactive". Bosses like employees that are proactive and willing to
There are many advantages to taking initiative at work:
initiative you'll gain skills and learn more about your company and the market it serves.
less bored at work because you won't be stuck in the same old routine.
But before we learn more of the advantages, let's consider some of the dangers
of taking initiative at work.
Is the problem
or task within your area of responsibility? By taking initiative in an area that
is outside your area of responsibility you could be trespassing on some else's turf.
Before taking on a task outside your normal area of responsibility you should find
out who's responsibility it is and involve that person.
If a fellow employee is swamped with work and you are facing a lull in work, ask
them if you can help. But don't assume they will welcome your help. Some workers
think greater job security is achieved by being behind in their work. They may
feel that you are threatening their job security.
on an additional task, will your boss think you don't have enough work to do and
you're looking for more? If this is a possibility, make sure your boss understands
that the lull in your work is only temporary, or that you're taking on the extra
task to avoid boredom and learn something new. If you're not careful, the extra
task could become part of your job.
your company's culture in handling failure. Is it a "cover your ass" organization
where people try to distract attention from their own failures by trying to focus
attention on their coworkers failures? Has the company reprimanded workers who took
initiative and failed in the past?
A company that punishes failure will stifle initiative and innovation. Workers
won't want to do anything new for fear failure. If a company wants to increase
initiative and innovation, they have to reward effort and embrace failure.