They say that the squeaky wheel gets greased. The message of this old idiom is that he who complains long enough will get what he wants.
In the context of an office environment, however, no one likes a complainer. At the office, complainer usually eats lunch alone. Or worst, he’s the first on the list of people to get the pink slips.
But that doesn’t mean that this old idiom should be ignored. There is some real wisdom in it. Said another way, it shows that the most noticeable person is the one most likely to get the most attention. The key is in how someone is noticeable.
A corporate climber is someone who uses this idiom to her advantage. She communicates with her managers and other stakeholders. She asks questions often and seeks constant feedback.
When in a role, especially a new role or taking up a new project, it’s crucial that you demand (tactfully) of your superiors what is expected of you and maintain an ongoing communication with them with regards to issues you are running into.
Ask for feedback. Ask for counseling and coaching.
The quiet, new person who keeps to himself and whose work a manager has to correct is more likely to be shunned than the new person who constantly asks (smart) questions and stays on her radar.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
For example, once I had two new staff under me. One drove me absolutely fucking insane, question after question and second guessing everything, even my decisions. But as he worked he would keep me apprised of his situation and in the loop. He would seek help and clarification as soon as he encountered an obstacle or an issue. He made sure I reviewed his drafts and working files and that I helped him hone his deliverable to my expectations. In the end, his work was very good. It was always exactly what I wanted.
The other staff was quiet and solitary. I’d assign him a task, with an hourly deadline, and he’d go off on his own. No communication. I thought he had everything taken care of. Come deadline he had some half-assed work ready for me. I was not happy. Not only did he misinterpret my instructions and provided the wrong deliverable, I had to sit with him and spend hours helping him fix his mistakes. It felt like he just wanted someone to hand-hold him through the work. Eventually, I learned to rely on him less and to check up on him more frequently when I assigned him a task or project.
Moral is…make your own personal presence known among your bosses. Show you are active. Even if you are missing things and the numbers don’t add up, asking questions early and often avoids a lot of headache later. Being proactive just shows that even though you need assistance, you are eager to learn and grow. Be the employee you would want if you owned the company.