MEL 203: Manufacturing with Non-metallic Materials Basic Guidelines for Effective Teamwork and Work Etiquette
(Note: These guidelines are especially relevant to your summer internships and B. Tech Projects, which are your only exposures to real-world situations before you start job interviews) Anshu Dhar Jayal Assistant Professor, SMMEE, IIT Ropar 20 Mar, 2012 Engineers in particular, and corporate professionals in general, almost always work in teams, which today are often global. A large portion of a professional’s time is spent in interacting with team members and managers. Such personal interactions can often have a more dominating influence on career growth than technical skills. Thus, good soft skills (knowing how to deal with people respectfully in a professional work environment) are absolutely critical for good career growth. This document provides a set of guidelines further below for good work etiquette. Although most of these points involve basic common sense, many IIT students are unaware of these. Please practice and start incorporating these guidelines into your work style immediately since it takes time to absorb these skills. For example, all the guidelines that relate to office meetings also relate to classes and labs that you attend as a student, and to meetings that you have with your B. Tech Project Guide(s). Hence, you can start incorporating these into your work style right away during your interactions with course instructors, lab staff, teaching assistants and student colleagues. Similarly, the reports that you submit for various course and lab projects are a practice for the reports that you will later submit to managers and clients in the professional workplace, while the viva voce sessions you have to undergo for different courses during your student experience are a practice for future job interviews and meetings with clients in the professional workplace. Remember, time passes quickly when your schedule is crammed with lots of courses; before you realize it you will have to face interview panels for job placement and then later start performing in a competitive work environment. Do not delay developing your soft skills. 1. Arrive on time – i.e., 5 minutes before. If you are too late (say, more than 5 minutes late for a 30 minute meeting) then it is usually better to not bother to enter the meeting and disrupt the discussion. DO NOT waste everyone’s time with excuses. 2. Dress correctly; be presentable and alert. Your body language must also convey this same positive energy and attitude (see the corresponding “Guidelines for Effective Presentation”). In the case of Mechanical Engineers, you are expected to be hands-on people who should be ever-ready to go into the company’s workshop/factory floor/test lab to sort out various design/quality control/production-related problems. Hence, during office/class/lab hours you must ALWAYS be in the correct clothing required for entering the machine shop – i.e., no slippers or shorts or loose hair/jewelry, etc. 3. Speak politely and only when required. 4. Keep cell phones off/silent. DO NOT answer phone calls or text messages during meetings. 5. Come prepared for the meeting. DO NOT waste peoples’ time by showing up without having read the background material (home work is something that you have to do for the rest of your life – get used to it!), or without having done the work that you were supposed to do for the meeting. If other people are taking the effort to come prepared you MUST NOT insult them by showing up as though you are doing the world a favor by coming to the meeting.
You MUST continue working even when nobody is supervising every little detail of your activities. A classic example of insulting someone by telling them how to do their job is when some students argue with faculty members and demand more points after an exam. Again. Sometimes the team/management may decide to drop your idea and implement some other idea in the project being executed – do not take this personally and do not stubbornly keep bringing back your own idea even after everyone else has moved on.e. the teams that have too many players with a self-important/superstar attitude invariably fail at the slightest hurdle.. Similarly. etc. you might start arguing with an expert during an interview because you think that you know better than him/her! 14. and course feedback is an integral part of academic culture).e. If you observe sport teams. 12. and definitely DO NOT simply disappear without telling anyone and refuse to show up – no problem has ever been solved by running away from it. 9. DO NOT react to questions as though they are a personal attack against you – discussion is a necessary part of all problem solving. Often managers/supervisors/guides are extremely busy because they are overloaded with multiple responsibilities and they may not be able to meet you for several weeks at a time. you must take ownership of your project and take the initiative to set appropriate targets and deadlines for yourself.).e. and the team/project leader in particular. DO NOT interrupt people in the middle of a sentence. if you observe sport teams in critical situations. 11. 13. DO NOT waste everyone’s time with childish excuses (pretending to have fallen sick. DO NOT argue needlessly – it creates bad feelings amongst team members. 8. IIT graduates are supposed to be exceptional and if you are always waiting for someone to tell you what to do then there is nothing outstanding/extraordinary about that. Let them finish what they are saying before responding. DO NOT insult a team member or manager/supervisor by telling him/her how to do his/her job – it is perfectly OK to give suggestions and recommendations for future changes (in fact these are always welcome. 10. all people involved must be copied on the emails you send. If you have not prepared for a meeting (i. without some manager/guide forcing you to do this). however these must be given in a professional manner. DO NOT disappear just because nobody is telling you what to do or setting strict deadlines for you. DO NOT insult your teammates by publicly blaming them for their shortcomings – any warnings/disciplinary action MUST be given in private. you must learn to let go.. You must continue meeting your teammates on your own initiative (i. 15..e. MUST take the effort to keep the other team members involved in what is happening otherwise they will lose interest and start turning destructive. if you have not managed to finish the work that was supposed to be discussed in the meeting) and wish to have it canceled/postponed then make sure you inform everyone in advance. as though you will accomplish everything all by yourself and take all the credit for it. any team in which the players are openly pointing fingers at each other is doomed to fail. Similarly. evaluating those ideas and narrowing them down to a manageable set. do not act as though you are superman. At a subconscious level it is a reflection of extreme arrogance – it is a sign that the student thinks that he/she knows better than the instructor. brainstorming and discussing and coming up with new ideas. If such behavior goes unchecked it invariably leads to negative effects – for example.. Hence. DO NOT depend on your manager/guide to micromanage every
.6. DO NOT insult your teammates by acting as though they are irrelevant or incompetent – i. any email/written communication and information related to the project MUST be shared amongst all team members – i. All team members in general. 7. If you use this as an excuse to go on holiday and do nothing then you will seriously hurt your reputation and career prospects in the organization. Do not wait till the last minute to announce that you are backing out. etc. Again.
DO NOT present information at important meetings without having given your manager/supervisor/project guide sufficient time and opportunity to cross-check your work. 24. etc. Tech project groups waste the entire year not being serious about the project and then try to get everything done during the last few weeks before the deadline. unfortunately. Make sure to stay in touch with the people who have helped and mentored you. In the professional workplace if you show up for a meeting with clients and present results that you have never previously shown to your boss then it could cost you your job in the worst case. writing a letter of reference) make sure to thank them personally – thanking via phone/email is cheap. you must do the same for others in the future. In short. a secondary plan of action in case your main project idea does not work out. “If anything can go wrong. and no longer need them to do what you requested then make sure you respectfully inform them right away – DO NOT make them waste any more time on something that is not needed. the Indian education system is excessively exam-based and students get used to the habit of wasting time during regular study periods and then cramming heavily just before a test. DO NOT leave everything for the last minute – you must leave some room for error. However. it will. 16. 18. It is rude to start ignoring someone once you have used them for your benefit and no longer need them. Then they find that if anything goes even slightly wrong their whole project falls apart – for example. pass on the favors that you have received. When you have to direct/request a colleague/senior to perform some task DO NOT order them around as though you are addressing a personal secretary. In real-life situations you cannot leave everything for the last day and then expect that everything will work perfectly. be respectful towards everyone. Learn to use words such as “please”. 17. or at the very least it will spoil your relations with your supervisor because he/she may feel that you are trying to bypass him/her. or that all others in the organization will put aside their own work in order to make sure that your project gets done at the last minute. When you have requested someone to do a special favor for you (for example. 21. the project manager/guide may be unavailable to meet due to a busy schedule or due to some personal/health/family reasons.
. 19. real life is the exact opposite – there are no last minute miracles and success can only be achieved through continuous/consistent hard work.. You cannot spend your entire life just taking and taking without ever giving anything back. Hence. your request should sound like a request and not like an order. you MUST give others the same consideration and decency that you expect from them – i.e..little detail of your work – as mentioned above.” Many B. it should be done only if the person is physically not reachable. You MUST always have a Plan B – i.e. people in senior positions are often unavailable due to a busy schedule and multiple commitments. as per one of the popular variations of Murphy’s law. the workshop machines and staff may be unavailable because everyone needs them at the same time or because some equipment has broken down and needs to be repaired. treat others as well as you want them to treat you. Just as others helped and mentored you in the past/present. In case you requested someone for help. Remember.e. Remember to close the loop – i.. 22. and keep them informed as your career progresses and you move from one position to another. Continuing from the previous point. some components that need to be purchased may need several weeks for the payment to be processed or for shipment. 20. you MUST give a draft version of any report/presentation to your manager/supervisor/project guide at least 1-2 weeks before any deadline in order to give him/her sufficient time to cross-check your work (also see the corresponding “Guidelines for Effective Report Writing”). the design may not work as planned and there may be almost no time left to try Plan B. 23.