Being able to handle stress is perhaps the most basic of job expectations; it is at the core of not just doing good work but doing work, period.

—Being able to handle stress is perhaps the most basic of job expectations; it is at the core of not just doing good work but doing work, period.

To do a good job, you need to know what is expected of you. While this may seem obvious, in the hurly-burly of a new, fast-moving, high-pressure role, it is something that is often overlooked in order to get the job done.

Find Out What Matters

Job analysis is a useful technique for getting a firm grip on what really is important in your job. By understanding the priorities in your job and identifying what constitutes success, you can focus on these activities and minimize work on other tasks. This gives you the greatest return from the work you do, keeping your workload under control and reducing the stress factors.

Understand Your Organization’s Goals

Your job will exist for a reason, and this will be determined by the strategy of the unit you work for. This is often expressed in a mission statement and, in some way, what you do should help the organization achieve its mission. (If it does not, you have to ask yourself how secure your job is!) Look at which of your objectives contribute towards the mission. These should be the major objectives of your job. If they are not, make a note of this.

Use Winning Ways

High Impact

  • Knowing your job priorities

  • Focusing clearly on your performance measures

  • Contributing creatively to your team’s “mission”

  • Getting good, job-focused training in key areas

  • Taking the lead from high achievers by copying them

Negative Impact

  • Failing to prioritize work

  • Ignoring performance measures

  • Refusing to plan ahead

  • Assuming that appropriate training will come your way if you wait long enough for it

  • Allowing others to look after your career instead of progressing it yourself

Think Smart

If you know what is expected of you in your job you will get a much better feel for how well you are performing it and progressing in your role.

Look at your most recent job description. Identify the key objectives and priorities. Study the forms for performance reviews and incentive schemes to see precisely the behaviours that will be rewarded. If any of these documents are not available, write down what you believe the role, objectives, responsibilities, and performance criteria to be, and work through these with your manager. After all, an important part of doing your job well is being seen to be doing your job well.

Understand the Organizational Culture

Every organization has its own culture – historically developed values, rights and wrongs, and things that it considers to be important. If you are new to the job, talk with established, respected members of staff to understand these values. Ask yourself how your job objectives fit with these values. Do they reinforce the organization’s culture, or clash with it? If looked at through the lens of the organizational culture, would the job you do be valued by your organization?

Know What Your Priorities Are

Knowing what to concentrate on will help you to perform well and minimize stress. It may seem like a very basic requirement that you should know what the priorities of your job are, but many people, when asked, can give only the vaguest of answers. If you don’t have a clear job description, or if you report to more than one person in the department or organization, you may find that competing demands on your time and resources are causing you to experience high levels of stress.

Techniques to Practise

If your job description hasn’t been updated as you’ve progressed through the organization, it can help you to identify and focus on the priorities of your job if you write a job description for yourself.

  • Make a comprehensive list of the activities in which you are currently engaged in the course of your day-to-day activities.

  • Add anything that you think you should be doing and that you have identified as something that will advance you in your long-term objective of advancing your career within the organization.

  • Delete from the list any activity that you believe is squandering your talents and that could be done by someone else in the organization.

  • Discuss your list with your manager and suggest that it could be used as the basis for an up-to-date job description.

Understand Top Achievers

Find out who the top achievers are and why they are successful. Inside or outside the organization, there may be people in a similar role to you who are seen as highly successful. Find out how they work and what they do to generate this success. Learn their skills and approaches.

Understand Your Career Prospects

Sometimes jobs are created to solve a particular problem and little thought is given to career progression. These can be dead-end jobs that can harm you career if you stay in them too long. If little thought has been put into the design of your current job, you could find that career progression from this position may not be a possibility. You need to work to ensure that you are sensibly placed for your next career move, and, if the next move is not obvious, this may be a matter of serious concern. Even if a job seems very attractive, ask the right questions about career progression before accepting it.

Confirm Your Job Priorities

By this stage, you should have a good understanding of what your job entails, and what your key objectives are. You should also have a good assessment of any lack of clarity in objectives, any lack of resource, and any discrepancies or inconsistencies between what you believe your job to be and the realities of the situation. Any of these could potentially undermine you in your role, thereby causing you stress. Talk these through with your manager, and make sure that you resolve them in a satisfactory way.

Case Study: Analyzing Your Job

Clarissa was very upset. Despite working harder than ever, she couldn’t get on with her new manager. Suspecting that something structural was wrong, she conducted a job analysis exercise. Working through her old job description, she saw that the job she was doing now had moved on. While she was a key member of her team, her work did not contribute directly to the measurable goals of the department and didn’t match the vision her new manager had recently explained. They discussed this together, and, with a little negotiation, things were soon going well. Clarissa’s job description was seriously out of date. The company’s direction had changed, while Clarissa’s role, responsibilities, and goals had not.

  • By renegotiating her job with her new manager, Clarissa was able to drop many old duties, and refocus her efforts on activities that were regarded by the organization as more important. This made her workload much more manageable.

  • Her manager understood more about what she was doing, and became more flexible in her expectations of Clarissa.

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