Archive | 2008

Don’t Like To Work? (And What You Can Do About It) Part I

Interestingly, this phrase is one of the top search phrases that lead folks to Bailey WorkPlay. As much as it pains me to say it, I can understand why. I’ve done my fair share of work that’s sucked, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to do work that’s been exciting and rewarding.

Here’s a truth about me: I don’t like to work either when that work doesn’t challenge me, inspire me, or use the best that I have to offer. So, this issue is one that I’m curious to explore in more depth. Below is part 1 of 2 in this series covering two reasons why we might not like to work.

Reason #1: I don’t like to work because…the work I do feels like drudgery.
I’m starting with what I think is probably the #1 reason folks do a Google search on this phrase in the first place. You’re in a rut, doing a job that sucks, wishing there was something better on the horizon. Now, I can tell you that the answer is to get out and go find work that you’re truly passionate about, but somehow I think you already know this. The question you’re likely wrestling with is…how? I can’t offer a complete answer here, but I say this: you owe it to yourself to find work that is uniquely yours, that fits your unique set of talents, that makes you feel of use. Make a commitment to find a career coach who can help guide you toward work that let’s your best shine through every day (note: I’ve worked with quite a few who I can highly recommend so shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to guide you along).

Other things you can do right now…
Know exactly what that drudgery looks like to you. Do you seriously want to leap to something else only to land in the same muck you left? Sit down and create an inventory of what you dislike about your JOB. Once you know what that drudgery looks like, you’ll hopefully be far less likely to find yourself neck-deep in it again.

Okay, now what do you like about your JOB? I guarantee there’s something there you can work from. Build an inventory of these things. You can use this list to construct an idea of what your best work looks like.

Reason #2: I don’t like to work because…I feel undervalued, underappreciated, underpaid, under-etc.
This was the impetus behind my recent post You Alone Define Your Value. Far too often, we internalize these feelings and own them as if they were ours to hold. Well, it’s time to disown this crap right now.

Things you can do right now…
Reclaim your value in your current work. If you feel undervalued, underappreciated, etc., create a gameplan for addressing this. It starts with you. Do you honestly feel that you’ve added value to your organization? Have you done something remarkable in the past few months? Have you visibly grown your business over the past year? If you can answer “yes” and have concrete examples, put these to paper. Now, it’s time to have a chat with your manager. Given the belt-tightening that’s going on right now, you may not be able to do much about the underpaid issue, but focus on a persuasive argument as to how your performance deserves greater visibility. Managers aren’t mindreaders and as much as we might expect them to instantly see our work and give us the necessary kudos, we need to understand they can fall prey to busyness too and can benefit from our gentle prods.

Find another place to work where you are valued, appreciated, well-paid, etc. Let’s say that you’ve done the first exercise and had the talk with your manager to little effect. Then, it’s time to move on. If you like the work you do and need to find another place to practice it, connect with your network. If you don’t know what that looks like, find a career coach, a mentor, or a colleague to bounce ideas.

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You Alone Define Your Value

It always amazes me how easy it is to lose our sense of value. As working professionals, it usually starts in our work. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that organizations are notorious for not fully grasping the value of each employee. I’m not talking about valuing that little slice of work that falls within the job description (though there are times when even this may be undervalued for sure). Rather, I’m talking about the richness of each employee’s value: their passion, their potential, their desire to bring the fullness of themselves to all they do. When this feeling of undervalue goes on for a while it’s all too easy to feel invisible and downtrodden. It’s also all too easy to create a story that says that no other organization will find you valuable. So you toil away in the same place, under the same conditions, quietly, desperately, each day muddling into the next. And the heart-wrenching part is that it often slides ever so easily into our personal life when we begin to question our value as an individual.

Remember that you alone have the ability to define your value. You get to decide your own worth as an employee, a professional, a human being. You determine which labels apply to what you do and to who you are.

If you’re trying to figure out where you’re going or how your work fits into the bigger picture of your life, I hope this holiday time gives you a chance to ease back and reflect. Know that it’s never too late to reclaim your value for yourself and choose to offer this for something better. Be of use to something or someone that appreciates all you are.

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Why Job Fit Is Important To Your Confidence

Unless you’re one of the exceptionally rare and fortunate individuals who has always landed in the right job, you’ve had at least one job that didn’t fit right. Like a pair of shoes three sizes too large or small, it always felt poorly aligned with who you are and your unique set of talents. Maybe you’re in one of these jobs right now. If so, let me ask you a few questions:

  • Do you often question your own personal value?
  • Do you sometimes feel a distinct lack of confidence in your abilities?
  • Do you feel marginalized and demotivated?
  • Do you wonder if you’re professionally valuable not only within your current organization, but possibly in future organizations, as well?

When we talk about job fit, at least on a surface level, we may understand its importance. But there is a deeper level to job fit which affects us psychologically. Here, we begin to form stories about ourselves. If the fit is wrong, then it’s much easier to create stories that the reason it’s wrong is because of what we’re doing. We tend to pin the blame on ourselves. If we’re not getting it, then it must be because of a deficit of ours, rather than the actual job or even the organizational structure supporting the job.

I’m not suggesting that we should throw personal responsibility out the window. But all too often, we take a bad job fit and assume all the responsibility for not doing well, not feeling content with our work, not feeling that we’re bring our best into the world everyday.

Instead, let’s take a breathe, back up, and consider a bigger perspective. Let’s get curious about whether we’re doing a job or in a position that uniquely fits us. Let’s think of how our work can create a healthier livelihood for ourselves. Let’s hold true to the knowledge that we do have choices about how we live each day.

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Faith And The Bankrupt Leader

As a leader, do you expect faith from those who follow you? Do you reward that faith by continuously fulfilling the promise of things you say you’ll do? Or do you constantly expect your people to believe in you without doing the hard work of following through on commitments? Think hard about this because it’s your integrity and effectiveness that’s on the line.

It always amazes me when I see individuals in positions of leadership assume that their position affords them a never-ending surplus of good will and trust from their people. They get caught in the trap of thinking that their position bestows on them an ordained authority. It’s the same authority that drives the mentality of “I’m the boss, now respect me and do as you’re told.” In this form, the rights of leadership are not earned but always taken. All of which is really just another form of arrogance that creeps into the workplace.

I’ve always liked Covey’s metaphor of the bank account. New leaders coming into a team, department, division, and company are given a starting balance. It’s then up to the leader to manage their bank account of trust, faith, and follower commitment effectively. Yet, too many leaders quickly put themselves into the negative side of the balance sheet (for which – if we were truly talking about their ability to manage P&L in such a way – they’d be tossed into the street).

If you’re unsure of where you stand with the folks you lead, carefully observe the looks on their faces. Do they appear ready to follow or do they doubt you? Listen carefully to your own words. Do you find you have to say “Trust me” or “Be open-minded” when talking about initiatives? If you find commitment from others around you waning or already at the bottom, don’t be arrogant and believe that the problem is “out there” with them. Take a good long look inside and see that you’re a bankrupt leader. Remember, when you lead with no followers, you’re merely walking somewhere alone.

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Five Things That A Playground Can Teach Us About Relationships

This weekend, I took Katie and Leah to one of the many local parks here in Austin. The brilliant thing about our city parks are the really neat playgrounds…and on weekends, there are always a gaggle of kids enjoying the freedom of playing. As I watched, it occurred to me that there is a lot we can learn about relationships – and in many cases relearn – from observing how kids interact with each other.

1. Lack of judgment
Watch kids play and first thing you notice is that there is a lack of personal judgment taking place. When a new boy or girl enters the scene, they don’t fret and wonder how this fellow player is going to add to their social circle. They don’t worry if hanging around with them is going to build or kill their cred as someone cool or hip. They don’t get hung up in a bunch of the social tangles that we create everyday. The only question they have is whether they want to have fun and play.

2. Sometimes you need a buddy
While kids can go off and play by themselves, they know that the teeter-totter doesn’t work very well with just one rider. And the merry-go-round works way better when someone else helps push. Listen for the laughter on a playground and you’ll likely see a group of kids enjoying the heck out of themselves – together

3. Free to begin, free to leave
There’s no planning, no exchange of business cards, no tearful goodbyes (well, only when you have to actually leave the playground). Kids live In the moment. They’re single-mindedly focused on swinging higher, sliding faster, climbing farther. When a friend leaves, another friend may enter.

4. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Notice that there’s never one person ordering others to go push them on the swings or spin them on the merry-go-round. There’s just a mutual sense of helping. And if someone’s hogging all the fun, they get left behind pretty quickly. That built-in sense of fairness means that there’s always a fluid agreement of leadership and followership.

5. It’s all about sharing the experience
For kids, it’s the fun of being together and enjoying the companionship and fellowship of others. There’s an acknowledgement that discovery is better when you can share it with someone else.

If all of this is true, what happened? Unfortunately, we went through that crazy mixed up time called adolescence. We were bombarded by all sorts of messages about what’s cool and hip and dorky and childish. Most of us figured out that some pretty good defensive armor was necessary to survive the hallways of middle and high school. Then, as adults we never stopped to check whether these things we learned during these tough times still work. If we did, we’d recognize that they don’t.

No worries. The cool thing is that as adults, we now have the maturity and insight to come back around to the lessons we intuitively knew on the playground. So, next time you find a playground inhabited by some fun-loving kids, sit down and just observe. And think about how you can bring some of these lessons that may be locked inside of you back out into your work and life.

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Don’t Jump Ship Too Quickly

Admit it. There are days when you come home from the job and toy with the idea of ditching it to move on to something better. But is ditching your job the best answer? It all depends on your circumstances.

CNN published a (somewhat surprisingly) insightful article called Look on the bright side of a bad job. Based on this title, I didn’t have high expectations. I rather expected the writer to admonish his readers to just “buck up” and find their shiny, happy selves. Instead, there are some pretty good ideas in the article…in particular the last one under their category of Wisdom.

If you’re unhappy, examine why. Do you dislike the people you work with or is it the actual work? Are you in a dead-end position? Think back to your interview and see if you missed any warning signs that this job might not be the one for you. Use your experience to avoid falling into the same predicament in your next job. If the situation didn’t turn sour until after you’d been with the company for a while, you know to stay attuned to shifts in attitudes and practices…Making the best out of a bad job situation doesn’t mean being complacent. A positive outlook shouldn’t replace your plans to move on (emphasis mine).

This is brilliant advice. I know from personal experience that when the shitstorm at work starts to get wild, there’s a strong impulse to jump ship. Yes, there are times when it’s necessary to move on (say, when our health is at stake or the situation has become toxic), but it’s not always the best plan for our working future. Most times, these bad jobs are chock full of learning that we need to absorb in order to make better future decisions that will help us find work that has meaning and purpose. Or else, we risk falling into the same situation again and again (think Bill Murray’s plight in Groundhog Day).

If you’re in a spot where you’re edging toward the end of the plank and thinking about leaping for another ship, take some time to answer the questions posed above. Take full advantage of the wisdom and experience that this experience is offering you.

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The Monodimension Of Absolutes

Here are a few phrases that I’ve heard thrown about lately:
Billy is an absolute ass…he’s always out for himself.
Stan never does his job right…I’m always having to pick up the slack for him.
I can’t stand Beth…every time I need something she’s too busy to help.

Note some of the common language used here – always, every, never. These are the kind of absolutes that get in the way of an open perspective and honest dialogue. They position our own thinking about people toward an extreme edge that most folks rarely occupy. Do we really believe that those around us are so one dimensional, so monochromatic? It certainly makes it easier to pin labels on them and make snap judgments.

Since people rarely exist at these extreme fringes, we need to stop trying to force them there. Whenever we think of a person in a very limited way – he’s just this way or she’s just that way – it’s time to think in a more extra-dimensional way. We can’t let laziness or a perceived lack of time get in the way of how we perceive other folks. If we commit to building a more well-rounded, and therefore more human, story about individuals around us we’ll immediately see that they have a rich personality that isn’t so easily pegged by one limiting label.

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