Success at Work: Techniques : Taking Initiative

May 19


Stephen Bucaro

Stephen Bucaro

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Success at Work: Techniques : Taking Initiative

By Stephen Bucaro

Do you have to constantly nag at your kids to do things?
Why can't they clean up their mess and get ready for school
without being told? Now think about your boss at work. Does
your boss always have to tell you what to do. Does your
boss have to treat you like a child, or do you take

Employees who need to be told what to do are said to be
"reactive". They do something only after the boss tells
them to, or after the need to do something has been pointed
out to them.

Employees who do what has to be done and solve problems
before they arise are said to be "proactive". Bosses like
employees that are proactive and willing to take initiative.

There are many advantages to taking initiative at work:

- By taking initiative you'll gain skills and learn more
about your company and the market it serves.

- You'll be less bored at work because you won't be stuck
in the same old routine.

But before we learn more of the advantages, let's consider
some of the dangers of taking initiative at work.

- Is the problem within your area of responsibility? By
taking initiative with a problem that is outside your area
of responsibility you could be trespassing on some else's
turf. Before taking on a task outside your normal area of
responsibility you should find out who's responsibility it
is and involve that person.

If a fellow employee is swamped with work and you are
facing a lull in work, ask them if you can help. But don't
assume they will welcome your help. Some workers think
greater job security is achieved by being behind in their
work. They may feel that you are threatening their job

- By taking on an additional task, will your boss think you
don't have enough work to do and you're looking for more?
If this is a possibility, make sure your boss understands
that the lull in your work is only temporary, or that
you're taking on the extra task to avoid boredom and learn
something new. If you're not careful, the extra task could
become part of your job.

- Consider your company's culture in handling failure. Is
it a "cover your ass" organization where people try to
distract attention from their own failures by trying to
focus attention on their coworkers failures? Has the
company reprimanded workers who took initiative and failed
in the past?

A company that punishes failure will stifle initiative and
innovation. Workers won't want to do anything new for fear
failure. If a company wants to increase initiative and
innovation, they have to reward effort and embrace failure.

Despite these dangers, the rewards of taking initiative
are great:

- You'll gain skills and knowledge about your company and
the market it serves, making you a more valuable employee.
When the economy recedes and the company needs to layoff
workers, who do you think they'll keep? The individual who
is more versatile in the different functions of the

- You'll achieve more independence when you demonstrate
that you have the organizations interests in mind and that
they can trust your judgment in solving problems.

- You'll gain skills and market knowledge that will make
you a more valuable commodity in the labor market. Workers
who only do their own little job are not aware of
opportunities outside their company.

There are dangers in taking initiative at work, but in an
organization with a healthy culture, the the rewards of
taking initiative are great.

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