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Are you going above and beyond in your work?

A surprise portrait of our cat, Oliver, sent by Chewy was a lesson of how going above and beyond expectations is a very effective way to build a distinguished reputation.

With crazy workloads and busy schedules, it’s probably hard to imagine going above and beyond your own job responsibilities. Finding time for all the things on your own ‘to-do’ list is hard enough. But if you want to leave a memorable impression, that’s precisely what you need to do. And it doesn’t always have to take a lot of time, but it will require some effort.

The other day a package arrived on the doorstep. I wasn’t expecting anything so this already had a level of suspense and excitement as I tried to think about what might be inside.

The sender was a company where I get our cat food, called Chewy. But this wasn’t the heavy, large box that carries canned cat food. It was a small, lightweight, envelope with a colorful, fun sticker on the back that read “Oh boy! Dinner!” Hmmm, I thought to myself, what could this be? I know those crazy cats of ours didn’t order food without me knowing it!!”

As it turns out, Chewy had done something completely unexpected, something very generous, and without any provocation. They weren’t apologizing for an error they made or sending out a rewards treat for being a good customer (because in truth, I don’t spend that much with them).

This is the picture I posted on Facebook; Oliver is the cat inside the left box.

In this package was a beautiful hand-painted portrait of Oliver, one of our cats. A few months ago, I had posted a picture on Facebook of our cats playing around in the Chewy packing boxes, which got their attention. They could have commented and shared it and left it at that. But they went above and beyond what any vendor would do for a casual customer. When I opened this delightful surprise and beautiful painting, it left a lasting impression. It spoke volumes to their commitment and creativity to produce an exceptional customer experience because they had gone above and beyond anything I would anticipated from them.

Why it matters

This effort was so meaningful to me for the following reasons:

  • It went above and beyond any expectations
  • Clear indication that they cared about me
  • The action was done without any invitation or request
  • The ‘product’ was focused on the end-user
  • There was no requirement for further action
  • It made me feel happy and good about the company I’m doing business with

Managers and employees can take a lesson from this cat portrait. When I think of buying cat food—or now any other animal product for that matter—who do you think comes to mind? Chewy, of course. They have cemented their reputation as one I admire and trust.

Oliver approves of his portrait!

The same concepts holds true for individuals, it’s not just businesses who have this advantage of being remembered for outstanding effort. Employees at all levels who go above and beyond are the ones remembered. That helps at performance review and salary negotiations, but I think it’s even more important than that. It’s your reputation. 

Do you want your co-workers to think of you as the team member who only does the minimal work that is required? Or do you want them to say that you give more than 100%? An important distinction is that going above and beyond doesn’t (necessarily) mean doing more. It really means doing better. Higher quality work sometimes equates to additional steps or action, but it always means doing something exceptionally well.

‘Going above and beyond’ examples

Here are a few examples of activities that illustrate going above and beyond. I’d be interested to hear of other ideas, perhaps ones you have done yourself or those when you’ve been on the receiving end from someone else.

  • Research something about your position (without being asked) that will make you more informed
  • Volunteer for an extra assignment, especially one you know another person doesn’t especially care for!
  • Taking time to explain something thoroughly, completely, and without being patronizing when you’re not expected to do so
  • Offer to fill in for someone when they are on vacation without them asking; this can be for a isolated, specific task but will still be very valuable
  • Step in when someone is struggling with a technical or mechanical issue that you can fix
  • Clean up your messy desk if it is bothering others who work near you

Going above and beyond doesn’t always require a lot of cost or time. But it does require your thoughtfulness and effort. Don’t do this expecting anything in return, but you will be rewarded with something priceless: a favorable and lasting impression that shines on your reputation. 



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