How can I be taken seriously at work?

17th Feb 2019
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The below is an article, written by our Managing Director Eoghan McDermott, which was originally printed on

OVER THE LAST few weeks we’ve had politicians knocking on our doors asking us to vote for them, hoping we remember them on election day. This is essentially an extended job interview or performance review; a series of candidates looking to their ultimate bosses to give them a job.

People at work often worry that they’re not being taken seriously – what they do isn’t being appreciated and that others are getting the limelight that they deserve. The same thing is running through the heads of election candidates.

“Do the voters know what I’ve done? And what I hope to do?”

It’s fair to say that most of us want our politicians to do good work, keep their promises, look out for us, show a bit of initiative and plan for the future. A boss’s expectations don’t differ much from that. It’s important for the politician, and us, to let the boss know what we’ve done. And how you communicate that plays an important role.

To be taken seriously at work you need to figure out what your boss cares about and then deliver on it, and make sure they know you’re doing it.

There is no zero option in work; you’re always being assessed by colleagues, peers and your boss. You may or may not understand what is being rated but every boss makes judgements about the people working for him or her.

These judgements could be based on you showing up on time, or being constantly late. They could be based on the colour of your shoes, whether you smile or present a grave face to the world, how quickly you react to instructions and how much care you take over projects given to you, whether you are outspoken or quiet. It doesn’t matter.

To be taken seriously at work you need to figure out what your boss cares about and then deliver on it, and make sure they know that you’re doing it.

Every day you are conditioning your boss to view you in a certain way. That can be hugely positive, or negative. Like a politician, if we feel that they were a lazy clown for almost five years, the fact they’re telling us that they’re great two weeks before an election won’t make a difference. That impression starts being formed from the get go, but you can also make a good one at points of transition.

For example, if a new boss starts, or a new team, or new role, or during a restructuring, you’ve got fertile ground to start afresh. Work on it.

Think about the places where you can impress

You should also think about the specific places where you can impress – on projects, at meetings, in a presentation, dealing with clients and supporting colleagues.

Politicians have a chance to shine on local initiatives, media, on committees, in debates and in Dáil Éireann.

Clothes matter. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they do. How you dress and present yourself every day can have a huge impact on how you’re perceived. Dress how you want to be viewed. And bear in mind how your boss would like their team to be viewed. A three-piece suit can be just as inappropriate in work as jeans and a t-shirt if it doesn’t fit the ethos of the workplace. Take Mick Wallace or Richard Boyd Barrett.

Their casual dress style in the Dáil drives some people nuts, but their voters are anti- status quo so they dress as they want to be perceived.

Use your job description as a starting point, not a destination.

In every role delivery is crucial. If you have nothing credible to communicate, the style or timing of that communication won’t make a huge difference.

You could be totally likable but if you aren’t doing the job properly, you’re not going to be taken seriously. Imagine yourself almost as a little company. You provide a service. You should deliver it well. You should be good at marketing it. But delivery of the service is the crucial factor.

One way that can help you perform more effectively and stand out in the workplace, is to show a bit of initiative, taking on something nobody else will tackle, and delivering on it. Use your job description as a starting point, not a destination.

If you want to be taken seriously at work, it has to be an ongoing project, not just the three weeks leading up to a review, just like a politician shouldn’t just focus on the three weeks running up to an election.

You know how voters say “we never seem them except at election time”? The equivalent happens in the workplace: bosses hardly notice someone until their annual review happens. Not good. You need to be a positive, and a visibly positive, presence in your work place all of the time.