The Great American Workaround: 8 Ways to Tackle Obstacles at

by Vault Careers | January 21, 2011

  • My Vault

Russell Bishop wants you to take responsibility for your job.

In an economic climate where employees are doing the work of two and three people, that may not come as a welcome message. But Bishop, an editor and columnist for The Huffington Post and author of Workarounds That Work: How to Conquer Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work, insists in the book that taking control will result in less stress, more support, and a hefty deposit in your "contribution bank" on the job—which, he promises, will make you look "like someone who matters to the company."

The extra effort will also pay big dividends toward your ability to make things happen at work—no matter how scared of change your boss is, or how full your inbox of busy work is.

We sat down with Bishop to get his thoughts on workarounds, which he describes as a temporary, imperfect means to movement. But his suggestions for your approach to setbacks may cause lasting ripples of results -- at work and beyond.

1. Do What You Can First

"Lots of people in this world see something that’s not working the way they want it and, they don’t even ask the first question," Bishop claims—the question being what you can do to improve the situation.

Workarounds that work cover

Though it does require some effort at the output, trying out a solution independently pays major dividends. First, taking the wheel will help you feel more relaxed and in control—which will put you in a much better mental state to respond to firedrills.

And second, if you ultimately do need support from your boss or team to make a change, you're more likely to get your way. "If you're going to invest, why not invest in your own contribution capital?" says Bishop. "You're going to look like a very different animal than the "wait to be told what to do" person."

2. Do What Matters

If you feel that you're already too overburdened to fix bigger problems, it might make sense to take care of the more impactful actions first.

"If you’re overwhelmed, take a look at all the things on your plate and ask, what value shows up if I do it?" suggests Bishop. "There may be things that just don’t have any value and it’s pretty obvious, and I can take them off the plate by myself."

It's also a low-risk way to influence change around the office. Says Bishop, "I can go, “Hey boss—I’m trying to get more of the low-value work off my plate so I can focus on the high-value stuff... but what about this stuff? I’m not sure. It doesn’t look like it has the value, and it would probably be good to get rid of it.” Once again, I look like a problem solver."

3. An Object in Motion Stays in Motion

Don't discount the small tasks, advises Bishop—use them strategically to ease into the big stuff.

"I have a list called "mind like mush," he says . "When my energy starts to lag and my brain is foggy, I just go to "mind like mush" and start ticking off some of those dumb little things," he says--which can include anything from cleaning out your inbox, returning a call, or even organizing your desk. "If you do two or three or four of those things you go, Oh--this is good! I'm getting things done! And now you've got more energy."

For more on workarounds, read the full interview with Russell Bishop

Cathryn Vandewater, Vault.com

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

Close button

Get tips on interviewing, networking, resumes, and more directly to your inbox.

No Thanks

Get Our Career Newsletter

Interview, resume and job search tips emailed directly to you.