Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Don't Be Less

Just when I thought life at work couldn't get much worse for my friend, John. Goodness....I couldn't make this up. I don't think the best fiction writer on the planet could make up the following story. My thanks to John for allowing me to share his experience with this blog's readers:

On Thursday morning, John woke up at an ungodly hour to catch a flight for an all-day business meeting. He arrived back to the airport later that evening with his boss and found that their flight was delayed 3 hours. His boss thought she'd take the time to provide him with some feedback on his performance. Here's the abbreviated laundry list that she expounded upon for 1.5 hours:

Too motivated
Communicates too well too often (Her quote to him, "Jesus, I'm not your texting buddy." My advice to her - then stop replying for one thing, and don't complain when you're in the dark on details, which is true just about every day.)
Has too good a relationship with senior management (a.k.a., "I feel threatened that people like you so be less likable)
Too ambitious
Takes too much responsibility and ownership for work
Too collaborative with people outside of department

Ouch - I don't even know where to begin on how pathetic and foolish this feedback is. Essentially John is supposed to be less of a person than he is because it makes others uncomfortable to be in the presence of someone who is talented and hardworking. This is gross - I'm so furious by these comments that I can barely speak. 

Being a pro, or numb from exhaustion, John took the entire conversation in stride and stood his ground, politely. His only response: "This is so odd. No other company that I have ever worked for, or even heard of,  tells its people to be less collaborative and less motivated." And that's it. He let it lie. Didn't agree, didn't really say much of anything. He was too shocked and confused. 

Here is my advice to John and anyone else in this situation: you are NOT to compromise your integrity. Ever. For any reason. You are not to be less of a person to make others feel better about themselves. Their laziness and lack of motivation is their problem, not yours, so don't take it on, politics and "business as usual" be damned. Your job is to shine as brightly as you can and add value to the people and the environment around you. That is your only obligation, ever. Smile, hold your head up and be proud of yourself. And write down all the things you are and are not. Keep the list handy and refer to it often. 

If President Obama has taught us anything it is that the time for change has come. Throw off the yolk of being what to do when by people who want you feel less empowered so they can feel more powerful. The feudal system died out centuries ago and there is no chance of resurrection. This is the time of the individual, and don't let anyone tell you differently. 

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