The smart-ass syndrome, 5 ‘do not’s’

My one strong piece of advice to those entering the work force; don’t be a smart-ass. Here’s what smart-asses do at work:

  • Do not take instructions well. Work is about doing what you’re asked to do-the way the boss or the company wants it done. If you want to do it differently, build it over time, steadily, not at the outset.
  • Act dismissively and all-knowing. I can think of few things that drive a boss to despair more than a new young hire who-verbally and physically-says ‘yeah, yeah, I get it already’, a v verbal wave of the hand, with a knack of appearing disengaged when instructions are set. The smart-ass is often lacking in politesse..
  • Has bad body language. Similar to dismissiveness, but includes lack of eye contact (or worse, rolling one’s eyes) combined with a look of both perplexion or irritation at being disturbed. Some people may not know how they appear when listening. If you furrow your brow a lot, try saying “easy” silently and closing your lips. Really.
  • Use sarcasm. Being bitey, mocking or sarcastic is a sign of insecurity or attention-getting. Don’t do it. I used to imitate my peers and bosses (I’m a pretty good mime, actually). Anyone want to know if it helped my career?
  • Don’t know how to play along. I recall years ago I had a very difficult boss, but we got along-most of the time. There was an offsite meeting at a hotel with the entire office and some of the big brass in town to make a presentation. My boss said to me before the meeting, ‘Make sure you sit in front at my table or close by.’ I was too much of a punk and a contrarian to listen, scant interest in toeing the company line, thought it was silly.I got to the meeting a bit late, sat in the back with the rowdy crowd. He asked me later why the hell I was in the back of the room.

As obvious as this is, writing it many years later, at the time I could not have cared less, honestly and truly. I did my job fairly well, was not planning on sticking around a long time, and was (more or less) well liked.

But take it from a former smart-ass expert, do NOT do what I did. It fails every single time, guaranteed

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