Career Management
Kept Waiting
By Nan S. Russell
Nov 28, 2008 - 8:10:10 PM

"I don't like to be kept waiting," he responded when asked by the travel-study professor why he delayed the entire group for a third straight day. "Next time," the professor warned, "we won't hold the bus."

The following day the bus left as scheduled, returning to the hotel late into the evening from a full day of learning and exploring. It also returned to an outraged man who was left behind when, once again, he was late for the designated departure time. "That cured him for the remainder of the trip," our travel-study professor shared with my husband and me over breakfast on the last day of our China vacation.

Fortunately, that traveler was not part of our excursion. But as our academic guide shared anecdotes about egocentric travelers he'd led, they sounded all too familiar. "There are always grumblers or whiners," he said, "but the know-it-alls and self-appointed-masters-of-the-universe are the most disruptive to a group."

They're most disruptive at work, too. We all know them. These are the people who show up in our workplaces looking for special treatment, thinking the rules don't apply to them, their time is more important than everyone else's, or they're exempt from normal standards, policies, and deadlines. It's difficult to work around these self-absorbed individuals, but it's often demoralizing to work for them.

I will never forget how devalued I felt as a young manager being "called" to the corporate offices of my nationally recognized company only to wait for meetings that never happened or that began three or four hours past the designated time. This wasn't due to unexpected business occurrences that shifted priorities; it was the normal operating pattern. I decided I didn't want a career where demonstrated actions placed low value on the "real" people who worked there.

But unlike that self-centered traveler who believed his time was more important than his thirty traveling companions' time, people who are winning at working value other people's time because they value other people.

People who are winning at working aren't looking for special treatment, they're providing it to customers and co-workers and bosses, delivering more than expected. They follow the rules, improve the standards, and meet or exceed the deadlines. They don't see themselves as unique and special; they see everyone that way.

People who are winning at working embrace each others' differences, encourage each others' dreams, and contribute to the whole. These are the people who approach their work, and their life, looking for what they can give to it, not what they can get from it. These are the people who others want to work with and for.

People who are winning at working aren't playing the I-win-you-lose game, translated in this example as I-don't-want-to-wait-so-you-can. You see, for people who are winning at working, their perspective goes beyond themselves. These are the people whose consistent, everyday actions contribute to a better workplace and a better world.

(c) 2008 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved. Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at

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