Today I am sharing a blog that I frequently read and my thoughts on the post. The blog is found at: http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2012/08/atis-mindset-can-damage-your-career/
Now, I did not grow up in the ATI sect of fundamentalism, but the same general ideas permeate throughout all of the sects and you end up hearing the jokes begun in one sect retold at another so it is obvious that there is much crossover between the sects. As with the author, I found that some of the ideals that we were told would make us the best of the best of employees did not actually work when put in to practice.
· Ask permission. As Dr. Lois Frankel says in Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, when a person asks for permission, “she diminishes her stature and relegates herself to the position of a child.” Children ask permission. Employers don’t want children working for them. They want adults who are confident and who can make decisions. It is very true that employers are looking for capable people. While you do need to ask permission when you are dealing with a substantial project, not every little thing needs to be reviewed. In that case, your employer might as well be doing the job themselves since they must take time from their busy schedule to micromanage you.
· Don’t make decisions on your own. Part of this relates to asking permission. Part of it, however, relates to not making mistakes. If you refused to take final responsibility for a decision, then you were not the one in trouble if something went wrong. And since there was always a spiritual aspect to any correction of mistakes at IBLP, you did not want to be the one in trouble. So you passed even trivial decisions up the line to the highest possible level. Again, you do need to make decisions on your own. Your employer had enough confidence in you to hire you to make decisions. You need to determine where your authority ends by finding the confidence to be able to ask, “Do you want me to check with you before I do thus and so?” or “Would you like me to update you weekly on the progress?”
· Check and re-check until a project is perfect before you release it. The expectation of perfection and the fear of severe repercussions for mistakes fed my already problematic perfectionism until I was nearly paralysed with fear when I had to let go of a project. Nothing was ever perfect enough. In addition, some of my employers have complained that they don’t need, or want, perfection. They are perfectly happy with “good enough.” And they would very much like for me to learn when “good enough” is good enough, so that I don’t wear myself out striving for unnecessary perfection. (This one really shocked me. Who would have thought that you could be reprimanded or penalized for always turning in perfect work? But perfection slows you down, and sometimes fast and imperfect is, apparently, preferable.) No matter how hard you try, there will always be something that you missed or something that is perceived differently than you intended. While you should do your best to ensure that your product is as correct as possible, you need to learn to let go of self-blame if it is not. This is still a very hard one for me. I still need to find the balance between thinking something is good enough (and then finding an error I should have caught) and agonizing over every detail that has already been checked. First, if you are truly worried, have a peer look over your work. If you offer to do the same for them, they are usually willing to assist you. Secondly, when an error is made, if it is your fault, say so. If it is not your fault, do not take all of the blame. You can say that you wish you would have noticed John Doe’s error, but you did not and you will take care of letting John know so that you can both be aware and ensure that it is not repeated.
· Authority is always right. That’s just not true. Ever. Authority may be right. But there is no one in authority who never makes mistakes. And a good leader is always open to question and input. It is only a poor, insecure leader who objects to being asked “why” or who resists suggestions for improving either processes or morale. Thinking authority is always right is a dangerous path to go down. Most likely your employer does not consider him/herself your “authority” and will likely welcome your input. Learn to work with your employer as part of his/her team.
· Let other people praise you; never “toot your own horn.” This simply does not work in the business world. If you don’t toot your own horn, you will never get ahead, other people will take credit for your work, and you will not be recognized as a valuable and contributing member of the corporate team. It is okay to let other people praise you and when you are praised, accept it. When you have the opportunity to toot your own horn, maybe during your annual review, do it! Your employer is a busy person and may not have time to keep track of your accomplishments, but if you remind them at an appropriate time it is likely that they will remember and will note that in your evaluation.
· No means no. Despite the teachings on the “wise appeal,” the overriding message that one got in working at IBLP and ATI training centers was that once you got an answer, that was it. No was no. Don’t ask again. Several employers have told me that one of my most frustrating habits is not pushing back when something is important to me or when I get additional information that might change their decision. There is nothing wrong in saying, “I know that we considered doing this before and decided against it, but I’ve reworked it and making these changes, I still think that this is a really good idea that could work for us.” Your employer may say no again or they just might say yes.
· “I am here to make you successful.” I will never forget the first (and last) time I actually said this to a boss. He was embarrassed and stunned. Had no idea what to say. In his eyes, I was there to do whatever work he needed done. His success, or lack thereof, was his own concern. I differ from the author on this. Perhaps it is because my job is that of a supporting role. My job is to make them look good. A good employer will realize your contributions to his/her success and you will be carried along with his/her success. If you don’t have an employer that sees that, then start looking for one.
· Don’t watch the clock. Work until the job is done. The problem is that when you are an hourly employee, they want you to watch the clock, because, most of the time, they would rather you finished the job tomorrow and clocked out on time, so that they don’t have to pay you overtime. And if you are salaried and you don’t watch the clock, you can easily end up being taken advantage of, especially if you enjoy the work you are doing. I have been in positions where I worked 80 hours in a week with no extra compensation “because you are salaried and that’s what it took to get the job done.” One of the ways that businesses have tried to save money in this economy is to “outlaw” overtime. If you truly can’t get your task done in your allotted hours, let them know that you will need more time, help, or paid overtime. Good employers- or at least smart ones- don’t want you to work unpaid time. Lawsuits aren’t good PR.
· People are more important than projects. Not if the project has a deadline they aren’t. I’d have to disagree with the author here. People are more important than projects. Find an acceptable balance.
· Character is more important than skills. Not if you want to keep your job for more than a week or two. I remember another former ATI student who struggled to get and keep a job in the “real” world after marrying and leaving the program. He said, “Character may get me in the door, but when my skills don’t match their needs, character won’t keep them from kicking me out.” Both are equally important. If you are a whiz at the skills, but lack the character to show up on time, there will be problems. But showing up on time isn’t going to keep your job if you can’t do the work. Lack of character or skills can get you into the unemployment line rather quickly.
· Integrity and following the rules will get you noticed. Okay, yeah, they will get you noticed. But often for the wrong reason. For example, it is against the law for a notary to notarize a document unless the signatory is present; in some states, it’s a felony. Several of my supervisors have been incensed when I refused to notarize documents that their spouse signed and sent to the office to be notarized. I’m known as “overly conscientious” about notarizing. It’s a standing “joke” at the office — but there is a sharp barb of irritation nestled in that joke. Very true. In the scenario the author describes, you have to decide which is more important, being liked or following the law. Personally, I don’t think jail time is worth being liked and your co-workers should respect you enough to not to ask you to break the law. That is their problem not yours.
· Always wear a smile. There is, as The Preacher said, a time for everything. And there is a time to smile and a time not to smile. Inappropriate smiling sends a wrong message and can confuse the people you’re talking to. If you’re firing someone or trying to get your boss to take your ideas seriously, it’s not a time for a smile. This is one that is dear to my heart. So often on reviews, thank you notes, letters of reference, etc., I am described as “always with a smile”. While it has worked for me, I guess, the reason behind the smile is what breaks my heart. “A Christian has no reason to frown.” “If you’re really saved, try letting your face know it.” “If you don’t have a smile on your face right now, you should check out your salvation.” “God has given me the ability to tell just by looking at your face that you are not really saved.” These are the messages preached at me during a time when my family of 6, one of whom was in college, was living on a $7 an hour salary. One week we had only $12 for food. We had no cushion if there was an emergency. Maintaining a smile was difficult. But I learned to fake it and now it is as natural to me as breathing. So while the smile works for me, I have had to learn that it is okay not to smile, to have a bad day. I don’t think that Jesus was smiling when he came to Lazarus’ tomb and wept. He wasn’t smiling when he wielded a whip and threw the money changes out of the temple or when He called the Pharisees a “generation of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). I don’t think He was smiling while He shed sweat “like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). I don’t think that Jesus was smiling as He said, ”Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34. While we should do everything we can to leave work at work and home at home, there is going to be some spillover. If you are able, take the day off if you feel that you will not be able to control your emotions while at work. If that is not an option, tell your employer that you aren’t having a good day. A good employer will understand because they have good and bad days too, and you have likely had to have some patience with them on one of their bad days.
One of the hardest things I have had to and still am working to overcome is being assertive. I was raised to be submissive but as mentioned in the first two items, employers don’t really want submissive. They want someone capable. I have been let go from a position because I was not assertive enough. Granted they had given me duties that had been taken from someone who was very capable simply because they did not get along with the new boss. I wasn’t assertive enough but neither should I have been given those responsibilities when I lacked the build-up in experience needed to be confident in my abilities.
Another ideal that doesn’t work is that loyalty to a position or company will pay off in raises and promotions. While the business world did once work in that way, it does not now. You are expected to take charge of your career. If you want a promotion you apply for it, either at your company or at another. Your employer does not consider it their job to advance you in your career.
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