We can do it better:
One of the challenges of being a individual contributor in the professional environment is that that we have education and training that’s focused on seeing the big picture. We aren’t small minded thinkers. Heck, every now and again we run into these small minded thinkers who have elevated to a position of some rank and it frustrates us. How did they get to that position we think? Well we know the answer, but just because we do, it doesn’t deter us. When it comes to our company, our organization, the goals at hand we ‘get it’ we know how to do it better. We know how much wasted time and effort we can eliminate: Those BS reports that are required by senior management, that they will never look at? Why waste time to do that? The tradeshow with no attendees? What’s the point of spending all that money? The vanity project by the senior manager? Why put resources into that? We know if we strike out on our own we can definitely do it better.
Maybe it is a crazy high sales goal. Maybe it’s some initiative that’s not related to profit, but to promoting some new vanity project that the market doesn’t really need or want. Sometimes we are asked to train a team but not share the whole picture, just to paint a perfect picture. For program and case managers it can even be requiring six extra forms of documentation for CYA when only one is technically needed. In any case there are many many professionals who are expected to push a service, sell a product or enact a requirement that isn’t really in the best interest of those we serve. More often than that it’s about driving profit. There are only so many people who can stomach selling an overpriced warranty contract or recommending an unneeded service for years let alone the entirety of their career. Maybe you are expected to do three times the necessary work so that it turns into extended billable hours. I think the right term for these behaviors is ‘scuzzy’, because these grey area type behaviors just feel bad.
We live in a service economy, so for anyone who understands and appreciates their role in serving others there is conflict when we know we are engaged in a DISservice. We don’t want to do this and feel a bit dirty pushing, but we have a job to do that pays our healthcare, it pays our rent, it puts food on our tables. We have to do it even if we despise it. We dream of a day when we don’t have to compromise.
Companies aren’t in business to be nice or fair.
Maybe you put in the extra sixty hours week after week, month after month to make the big project come to fruition. Your thanks for that? In many cases it’s something small like a BBQ luncheon and some kind words.
Companies push and push. Because of the insane levels of competition to get to the ever shrinking number of management positions, the people who ascend tend to be hyper competitive. It is indeed a rare thing when a mid-level manager will look at his or her senior manager and say “NO” As in No, that is not achievable, No i’m not going to be unfair to my team, No, I’m not going to be dishonest or lie to make that happen. How often have the professional heard “we just have to make it happen” even when the stated goal is obviously impossible. On the rare occasions with herculean effort and a generous douse of luck, the impossible does happen, the huge goal is met, the profits are enormous. Get your napkins ready for the BBQ, because the massive bonuses and profit sharing generally aren’t in the cards.
We understand that it’s their job, not our job.. We work for the company but that doesn’t change the fact that we get sick of seeing all of our hard work go to benefit someone else. There is no equity growth for the efforts of the professional individual contributor. It really doesn’t take too long to realize that we have to own it if we really want to benefit from what we do.
We dream of a better balance in our lives
Work Life Balance is very important, and not for the reasons usually given such as mental and spiritual health. Work / Life is important because society and life don’t align. When you are in your primary career years, you also generally have a family. This puts incredible pressure on the professional who has the demands of the corporate environment to deal with. Schools open late and close early. There are field trips and teacher meetings. Daycare and afterschool programs don’t align to the 9-5 world. Don’t forget the occasional snow days. Maybe you have a kid with specific medical or mental/emotional needs that requires trips to specialists. It’s not just children. With people putting off having children until later in life and the average lifespan extending more and more often professionals are becoming members of the sandwich generation where we are taking care of elderly parents as well as young kids.
We need personal time and lots of it, but the professional organization whose overly aggressive doesn’t believe in that. If it’s a snow day you are still expected to come into the office or if they are forward leaning.. telecommute in. The information age has driven telecommuting from a position of convenience to an expectation. If your having to take time off beyond your two weeks granted per year, well don’t worry, you can work evenings or weekends. Except of course, your committed to ballgames and helping your kid read, or on the phone with the nursing home trying to make sure Mom is taken care of.
There are several other reasons why we do what we do, but these are the biggies. The primary ones that seem to have the most impact to help drive us to try our hand at starting our own business. Many of us do it, even though the odd’s are against us. Why do so many who try go back to being a denizen of the corporate world? Well that’s the subject for next week’s post. If your not having to work until 11pm to make up for the time you had to take to meet with your kid’s teacher, then I hope you’ll be be able to read that post too.