"Alright, you get to keep your job....for today."
Step One: Don't be an idiot
It is a proven scientific fact that business owners and managers hate idiots. However, this time you're going to have to try to avoid both extremes of the spectrum. It turns out, being intelligent is just as detrimental to appearing to be a good worker as having no idea what you're doing. Trust me, you will hear a thousand times about how "innovation" and "moving forward" are some of your workplace's values and focuses; what your manager actually wants you to hear is "if you are innovative and forward thinking and I can't take the credit for it, I'll fire you before you can make me look bad." In our modern bureaucratic pyramid business model, almost everyone you work for is going to be working for someone else, and no one wants to have their boss to
know that one of their little wage-slave underlings is more intelligent than them. I think it has something to do with hormones and alpha-males or something like that. And with more women in the workplace now, the alpha-male getting out done by a female is a disgrace that calls for nothing short of hara-kiri in most modern societies.
Most companies will even supply the incense.
It's a delicate balance that you have to be aware of at all times. Trust me, it's still easier than doing whatever it is you're supposed to do at your job. So to sum this step up, don't be too much of an idiot, because no one believes an idiot is a hard worker, but be enough of an idiot that you don't attract the attention of the alpha-males
Pictured: The alpha-male and you.Step Two: Develop a Manager Sense
The most important part of looking like a hard worker is not getting caught being a lazy workerq. Now this could easily be solved by working hard the entire time you're supposed to be working, but if you wanted to go that far you wouldn't be reading this blog. A much easier and more efficient way to handle this problem is to always know where your manager is, so that you never get caught. I'm not implying that you actually somehow create a sixth sense where you can detect managers coming around the corner or anything like that, mainly because humans already have way more than six senses. No, you're going to have to be a bit trickier to pull this one off.
The How To Look Like a Super Hero Guide will be a separate entry.
The easier ways to figure out where your manager is are usually things like, knowing their schedule, setting up mirrors to see around corners (use safety or something as an excuse), or having a look-out schedule with your other workers. What your system is exactly isn't important, what is important is that you know where your manager is, and you don't get caught.
Step Three: The habits of a hard worker
Keeping a close eye on your manager will make sure they never catch you when you aren't working hard, but at some point you will not be able to avoid them any longer, and under their scrutinizing gaze you still have to look like you're at least a half way decent worker. The most efficient way of looking like you're working hard is to pick up on the habits actual hard workers have and imitate those (preferably the easy ones). But to help you start off before you have a chance to observe hard workers, I have some simple suggestions for you. No matter where you work, cleanliness will be a very important part of your job. Whether you work in sales and they want things to be presentable, or you work in food service and they want you to "try not to spread the plague" or some nonsense like that, your superiors are going to want you to keep a clean, hygienic, and non-poisonous work area. The easiest way to look like you're helping with this goal is to find a couple of the dirtiest or most important parts of the work place and stay near them, then when your manager sense is tingling, start wiping down or in some way cleaning this dirty area.
You can go ahead and let her clean that herself...
Your supervisors will appreciate your cleanliness AND your ability to prioritize the areas that need cleaning more (you can go ahead and dedicate your employee of the month award to me). Another option is the super prepared notary look. The idea behind this is carrying a pad of paper and a pencil with you wherever you go. Whenever the manager/supervisor is around start writing something on your notebook so that it looks like you care deeply about your job. Whether you pretend to be writing suggestions for safety (managers LOVE safety), taking inventory, or being "innovative" (but not too innovative, see step one) doesn't really matter, the important part is, they think you care! (Warning: writing too much may cause you to actually care about your job, avoid this at all costs).
Step Four: Working hard in unemployment
Inevitably all good things must come to an end. Whether you quit, someone finally catches on to you, or your inattentiveness caused your place of work to burn to the ground, you will eventually find yourself out of the job that you have been pretending to work so hard at this entire time. The important thing to remember during your time of jobless-ness is to keep up that image of a hard worker. The easiest way to get yourself hired into a new job is to show them how hard of a worker you were and will continue to be. Find some references that will tell employers how dedicated and focused you are (we all have some friends willing to lie for us), keep up your habits of looking like you're working whenever someone important is around, and most importantly, remember to always follow STEP ONE.