Today marks my ten or so odd years as an employee. Like many other employees out there, my work life has been marked with ups, downs, and flatlines. I’ve pursued work with such a passion that I did it for a pithy allowance of around $23 a month. I’ve pursued work with no other motivation than a relatively huge paycheck. You can say that I’m a rolling stone when it comes to work. But I’ve also picked up bits of a common thread within my jobs. I’ve learned that I love working collaboratively with people, I hate being ordered around, I don’t like working with deadlines, and I abhor incompetent managers who act all high and mighty nonetheless.
I was also a bit of a rebel and quite proud when it comes to work. I have no qualms about leaving if I don’t like the way you run the show, I’ve expressed my dislike, and you still don’t do anything about it. People like me are the ones who get upper management riled up. I feel strongly about injustice at work and speak up when everyone else won’t speak up. You can say that I’m the type who’s not afraid of telling you straight that you suck, while the others are complaining about you behind their backs.
Presently, I’m a writer (yeah, this is what I do full-time and yes, it puts food on the table). Obviously, you’re not me. You probably have a better attitude about work than I do. But if you’re somewhat treading the same path I did, let me douse that passionate spirit with a bit of wisdom. You can call this unsolicited advice, if you like.
You just have to do the things you don’t want to do.
Earlier, I mentioned that I hated deadlines. Yet I am a writer. I have to work with deadlines. I deal with editors and project managers who nag me about my cut-off dates. I used to make excuses about missing submission times, but I pretty soon realized that following my passion for writing wasn’t enough. I also had to follow through. Yes, I was doing something I like, but going by my own (lack of) schedule was making me look unprofessional. More than that though, it was selfish. You can say that you can freelance if you don’t like rigid schedules. But permit me to laugh. Even as a freelancer, you’d still have to have discipline — perhaps, even more so. You don’t have anyone telling you when to go to work, but try not doing your work, let the reminders pile up on your business phone and email account, then watch your clients leave when you fail to deliver.
Inspire others to action, rather than complain.
I love complaining. In fact, you can even call me a world-class complainer. That is, until I saw this amazingly simple mind-boggling infographic by David Cohen. I’ll give you some time to read it and come back here. Read it? Got something to complain about? Yeah, you got that, huh. Complaining doesn’t solve anything. You let out some bad feelings then you end up feeling worse, plus you rain down on everyone else’s parade. You pop their balloons and trample on their happy pancake breakfasts or whatever. You catch my drift.
You know what works? Inspiring others to action. And doing this with positivity gets the work done. Not many people can live with a wet blanket for prolonged periods. I used to work for a political organization that motivated people by inflaming their anger for the “unjust system” they were living with. We managed to hoodwink some people, but the change wasn’t worth it for me. All people did was complain about everyone else, not seeing that they themselves also had to take more substantial action than rallying in the streets. Did I really want to make making people angry my life’s work? Why not show them how to take hold of all their negativity and do something constructive for a change? I switched to a non-profit that educated young children from impoverished communities, and I was glad I did. The atmosphere was more hopeful and encouraging. Hope that motivates does wonders for change. Even research shows that people need an infusion of hope to rise from poverty.
You don’t have to act like you’re part of the Brady Bunch. I’m just saying that you can make a difference in a more affirmative, more encouraging, and very real way. You can change people negatively or positively. Which way are you going to pick?
HOW you say things matters.
Some things need to be said, but sometimes, it’s how you say it that makes the difference. Craft your words carefully. Aggressive language makes tempers flare, repels people, and puts them on the offensive. Approach people with more gracious speech and with the intent that you can work on the issue together. You’d have a better chance of making them understand where you’re coming from.
Pick your battles.
There are battles to be fought, and there are those that you just have to let go. You can tell that supervisor who makes crass jokes that his sexual humor is offensive (I suggest doing this in private), but you don’t have to call him out on every little mistake that he makes. If you’re constantly nit-picking, take a breather and ask yourself if it’s worth it to ruin the rest of your day for a petty annoyance. Remember, these are people who can make mistakes. Just like you.