Self-help books get a bad rap — and Esquire editor Ross McCammon understands that. That’s why for Works Well With Others, his new book that hit shelves earlier this month, McCammon set out to make “a self-help book for people who don’t like self-help books.” Both relentlessly funny and soberingly insightful, Works Well With Others easily accomplishes that goal. Read on for some of McCammon’s best examples of workplace-related wit and wisdom.
First impressions aren’t as important as you think.
“Nothing can be found out about a person less than a month into a job,” McCammon writes in the book’s introduction. “Nothing. Because you’re not seeing the real person. You’re seeing an agent for that person whose job it is to confusedly stare at the fancy electronic restroom faucets until someone comes along who knows how they work.” Essentially, professional offices echo the advice your mom gave you before the first day of seventh grade: People are far too absorbed with themselves to care about how you look. “Our new coworkers are anxious too,” McCammon adds. “They don’t know you don’t talk too much in a meeting. They don’t know you’re not a cancerous presence. They don’t know you don’t want their jobs. They don’t know you’re not gonna be crowding the fridge with your twelve-day juice cleanse.”
Don’t worry about admitting you don’t know something.
A chapter title from Works Well With Others: “What to Say When Someone Asks for Your Take on the Oeuvre of Werner Herzog at Dinner with Your Brand-New Colleagues and You Don’t Know Who Werner Herzog Is.” McCammon spends most of the book advising how to be professionally-minded after hours and how to be socially-minded during the workday, so while he says that “to condemn bulls–t at work would be to condemn the very foundations of enterprise,” he takes care to note that “bulls–t doesn’t work at dinner.” Employers, he argues, respect the candor and honesty associated with admitting you don’t know something — and being genuinely interested in finding out more.
In moderation, booze can be your friend.
“One drink will improve the work you do after lunch,” McCammon states. “Two drinks will damage it. Three drinks will ensure that it won’t get done.” His argument is a little more nuanced than that: While you obviously shouldn’t drink before performing high-stakes surgery or guiding a rover on Mars, moderate amounts of alcohol can reduce the inhibitions that sometimes prevent group breakthroughs. But don’t conflate this permission for an office drink or two with the OK to get wasted with your colleagues. “The work party is not a party,” McCammon says when advising about after-hours etiquette. “It’s an offsite meeting with free alcohol.”
Be. On. Time.
A central point of McCammon’s is that there’s simply no excuse to be late. “You are NASA,” he says. “Your schedule is filled with rocket launches. For god’s sake, get those sons of bitches off the ground on time.” In a more general sense, McCammon comments that being late is the result of a series of poor decisions you’re entirely liable for. Sure, the train may have been delayed or you might’ve hit traffic — but preparing for these occurrences is part of being a professional. And, he suggests, though some people can outweigh habitual tardiness with sheer talent, they’re the exceptions.
Stay social — it’s your civic duty.
“An elevator is a prison of opportunity,” McCammon writes. Our daily lives present us with dozens of moments for talk both large and small that can advance our relationships and careers. “The first thing to acknowledge in a small-talk situation is that we live in a society,” he adds. “As someone who lives in a society you have entered into a mutual agreement to speak when it would be awkward not to. That agreement has afforded us great things — such as knowing whether or not you’ll need an umbrella when you get outside and also… you know… civilization.” So get to know your coworkers!