Navigating The Nuances Of A White Collar Job
A comprehensive set of factors mould your corporate personality at a white collar job
Everyone aspires to work a job that has dignity and self-respect attached to it. However, those prestigious and esteemed roles come with their own set of rules and responsibilities. Most of them are unspoken corporate etiquette that you’re just supposed to observe among your more experienced colleagues and gradually imbibe in yourself as you work with them every day.
In a blue collar job, the challenges may be in the job itself, the drudgery of doing the same thing over and over again, day after day, year after year. But once you progress to a white collar job, a whole new set of factors come into play.
Your performance is not just measured by the tangible, measurable work that you do sitting at your desk, but also by the ways in which you conduct yourself at the office, subtly, indirectly, and directly as well. The things that you aren’t paid for, but must have to contend with on a daily basis to keep your position at the company.
This is not to say you won’t be dealing with job related challenges any more. You’ll still have to deal with work related scenarios. But now, you’ll have to deal with all the other nuances of corporate life surrounding that work as well.
It’s these small things along with the actual work you do that come together to decide your promotion, your network of trustworthy colleagues, your increments, the amount of appreciation you receive, and how you cement your position as a dependable person among the top leadership of the company.
Here they are:
You have to submit to authority
As with any blue collar job, working a white collar job also entails submitting to authority and maintaining cordial relationships with your manager and the rest of the managerial staff. Things are no more black and white at a white collar job, especially with desk jobs.
You’ll have to toe the line wherever necessary, and not do it wherever not.
You’ll have to submit to authority, but not in a matter-of-fact way. It becomes a pretty grey area now. There will be times when you’ll have to cut your subordinates some slack to the ire of your superiors or manager. And there will come times when you’ll have to do the exact opposite.
There are horrible bosses at every workplace, and in the unfortunate event that you’re dealt with a sour grape, setting boundaries is critical to maintaining your sanity at work and preventing them from stepping on your toes every single minute:
“Working with someone who seems to have no boundaries means that you have to go ahead and set them.
“One of the challenges of unlikable people is that they come with equally unlikable behavior — and it’s important to learn how to distance yourself from that behavior. As Robert Frost said, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’””
‘The Muse’ has 9 other steps you can take in dealing with horrible bosses at the workplace, which you can read here.
Similarly, as a manager, you’ll have to walk the fine line between keeping your superiors as well as subordinates happy, straddling that thin fine line like an expert trapeze artist without losing your balance.
Cross-functional team collaboration
A lot of white collar roles are about working with cross-functional teams to achieve company objectives or complete certain components of a project. You’ll have to regularly sync up with your own teammates, as well as collaborate with professionals from other teams to work on project milestones so that it can be delivered to the client on time.
This collaboration has to take place without much friction between team members or department heads, that could potentially debase their own position at the organization or even threaten the integrity of the team. Unprofessional and careless behaviour could jeopardize your team's reputation at the organization, thereby threatening the company's relationship with the client that has been so painstakingly maintained over the years.
As per teambonding.com, a great way to achieve this is by making teamwork a part of your workplace culture itself:
“To truly improve collaboration, leaders must provide an environment where employees are not afraid to share their ideas. Leaders must create a culture where the exchange of ideas is encouraged and rewarded. Teamwork and collaboration must be a central theme of the mission statement to improve collaboration”
You have to be mindful of every word you say
A lot of corporate work entails not only competing with external organizations, but with internal teams as well. This is to boost employee morale and encourage a competitive spirit amongst them to spur on more innovation. So whether it’s collaborating with other teams or working with your own teammates, you’ll have to be extra careful at what you say. You have to be intentional with every word you say and don’t want any confidential information slipping out.
By constantly keeping employees at the edge of their seats, the drive to perform better and stay with the organization is high. It is a well known fact that engaged employees are more likely to stick on with a company, rather than employees who just come in to grind passively, and clock in and clock out on time.
Giving positive feedback instead of reprimanding someone (negative feedback) is one way of holding your tongue and being considerate of others at work:
“The next time you’re about to open your mouth with critical feedback think about how it will help the situation. See if there is a way to offer positive feedback to reinforce good behavior.”
“Analyzing your anger” and “Holding your advice” are two other ways to make sure the wrong words don’t spill out of your mouth and ruin your reputation among your peers and subordinates.
This is why it is imperative that you carefully watch your every word and every move at the office. One big faux pas’ employees make is to blurt out the truth or what they think of the company, team, or certain people at team outings or parties. They let themselves loose, forgetting that they’re out with the very same people they work with, and start speaking their mind. Only when they get back to the office do they realize their folly, after which the damage has already been done.
Which brings me to my next point.
Participation in team events
It is a well known fact that team building activities foster healthy professional relationships among employees, and helps them collaborate better with each other at work.
And what better way to boost your team's morale, than by taking them out for team building activities?
As an employee, it is extremely vital for your long term prospects at the organization that you take part in such activities as much as possible, even if you’re an introvert. In India, big multinational companies usually take their employees out to resorts on the periphery of the city close to nature, which host a range of day-long outdoor as well as indoor activities for their teams to unwind and let off some steam together. After all, the team that bonds together will work much more efficiently together.
Since the dynamics of a white collar job are different from that of a blue collar job, such activities are needed from time to time to bring people together and foster a sense of belonging.
You’ll have to take part in these activities organized by the company regularly to show that you’re not just a desk nerd with big glasses, but someone who can flex their muscles with a competitive spirit as well.
This line from an answer posted to ritvn.com sheds some light on why team activities are essential for employee well-being:
“Company festivities are times for us to chit chat on other topics. Activities can help open communication among employees from other teams or between employees and management. There are some people that we would not connect with until we are in the same team of a competition”
Whether it is working extra hours to ensure that a certain issue is fixed, or holding your tongue for the greater good and being introspective, there are a lot of aspects of white collar jobs that aren’t mentioned in a job posting.
Let us know in the comments what are some unspoken and thankless tasks you’ve taken up in the sidelines at work to ensure that everything is running smoothly and successfully on the main stage.