This morning, I was struck by how maddening careers can be.
We start off thinking we can enter the workforce, do great work, be recognized and rise through the ranks to an executive role with an organization that sees our work as extraordinary wants to reward us with money and authority.
When the reality of our first choice disappoints us, we realize that we are hired to be little more than ants in a big machine and are rewarded with 3% raises. We notice that people are being brought on from the outside to step into those positions we crave and some of them are quite deserving of the positions and we learn something from that. Sometimes, we see that the new hire is nothing more than an Emperor missing clothes . . . an empty suit who hypnotized management with wonderful stories on their interviews.
We are told how much management appreciates us and their behavior is incongruent with their words.
Little by little, there is an emotional death by a thousand cuts that occurs that leaves us hollow depleted of our desire to succeed and just try to get along.
I know that was true of me at the agency that I contracted through for many years. I was a solid performer from a sales standpoint but management, despite words to the contrary, really didn’t want me to succeed. It’s hard to imagine in a sales organization that management would go out of its way to interfere with a sales staff succeeding but many of you who work in sales (and many who don’t) have your versions of what I experienced. Management talking out of one side of its mouth and then saying, “Don’t look at what’s behind the curtain. Don’t notice the contradictions.”
I know parts of me tired and surrendered to acceptable mediocrity for years. Maybe the same is true of you, too.
You won’t be the leader you dream of being without rocking a boat or two.
You won’t be the man or woman you dream of being if you allow managers to instill fear in you with the implied or real threat of you losing your job unless you are an obedient slave boy or slave girl.
The responsibility of leadership is far greater than someone can imagine who has not held its mantle.
It is not enough to be the critic who points out the failings or mistakes made by others from the sidelines. It is far more important to approach a person in authority and work with them to affect the change and learn from their difficult choices.
Madness can be instigated from many sources but resides within your willingness to accept your allowance of authority and power. If you accept the terms you are presented with (work as long as we need you, do what you are told for this amount of money, and go away when we don’t need you), you will probably find yourself shocked one day when someone comes to you and invites you to a conference room where HR and your manager are waiting for you with a letter for you to sign marking your termination.
“I was a good employee,” you’ll think.
“Why me,” You’ll lament.
There’s an old fable about a turtle and a snake. The snake wants to be taken across a river by the turtle who asks what guaranty does he have that the snake won’t bite and inject its venom into the turtle and kill them.
“I promise I won’t,” the snake offers.
But half way across the river, the snake bites. The turtle exclaims, “You promised you wouldn’t bite!”
“A snake does what a snake does.”
Business is not a snake, per se. It does have to do what it has to do to stay in business and live for another day. It has to protect the owners, investors and others to live for another business cycle.
Your madness may be putting strong faith that you will be dealt with with kindness. That when the next downturn occurs, when the next promotion is to happen or next position opens you want, that they will look kindly at you and allow you to cross the river.
With clear eyes, you know that is unlikely, just as it unlikely that you will grow from junior to C level executive or manager to SVP, or go from $70000 TO $180000 with your firm yet your madness distracts you from reality like a narcotic.
It’s time to get off crack, detox and plan ahead for yourself and your interests.
The next recession is coming. I don’t know when it will happen but I know one will occur. It always does. It’s time to start planning ahead NOW before it is too late.
© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2015
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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a career coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years.
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