You owe it to YOURSELF to bring your best self to work

Call me an idealist. Call me naive. Call me a puppet for “the man”. Well…don’t call me that last one unless you’re prepared for a litany of examples of how I’m not.

Seriously, I realize that there are some bad companies out there that take advantage of employees, that don’t appreciate their contributions, that don’t pay well or that have mind-blowingly horrible management styles. But for the companies that are just going along running a business and generally maintaining a reasonable (read: compliant, non-discriminatory, with maybe a couple of decent benefits) employment practice I ask you….WHAT is the problem???

Spit it out! Shout it from the mountaintops! What in heaven’s name is so torturous about showing up for work on time, every day, with an interest in the work, a bit of energy and a pleasant attitude???

Is it your incompetent manager? Is your pay lousy? Is senior management a bunch of thieves? Is your HR department a bunch of tattletale ninnies? Then, like St. Patrick, let’s run the snakes of discouraging employment situations out! Of course that takes time and, depending on the situation, may or may not be possible. Hmm…what to do?

A great reference guide for times like these is this highly transferable employee handbook by Laurie Ruettimann at Punk Rock HR. Love that.

Let’s take a more in depth look at what you can do to make things better for yourself and your fellow employee. You can start by answering these questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • What does the company you work for do?
  • Do you care?

Who are you?
What are you bringing to the employment table? Why should your company want you around? Does anyone know you bring these valuable things? How are you offering them?

Companies have goals to meet and a job to do. They hired you to help them do that. They owe you nothing more than adherence to FLSA, wage and hour and other regulations designed to protect employees. That is the deal. If you are holding up your end of the bargain, help them to see what you need in return (see question number 2).

Bottomline: Be true to your word and to yourself by being the best you can be at work. You owe YOURSELF that much. Forget about whether the company benefits from the “best you”.

What do you want?

Do you love your work? Is it what you were born to do? Is it just for the money?

Consider what you need from your job. If it’s love and affection, a social life and a little understanding, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. If you want to have fun, get a hobby.

Bottomline: Work is work. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It means it’s challenging, purposeful, gratifying and rewarding. If you are doing what you love, it will be as fun as it is hard. If you are doing it just to do it it will be more hard than anything. Just keep in mind, that that is not the job or the company’s fault.

Note: If you genuinely feel that the company is not holding up its end of the bargain, consider your options. Can you speak with your manager? Is HR equipped to receive a professional inquiry about changes in pay or work environment. Does your company offer an EAP to field confidential questions about employment concerns? If there’s no reasonable outlet, consider a change.

What does your company do?
Do you know the short and long term goals of the organization you work for? Do you understand what challenges or opportunities are facing the organization?

If these question sound boring and irrelevant, you are likely not doing what you love. Which means… (Quick! Open book quiz: check out #2 above) …your job will more hard than anything, certainly more hard than it will be fun. And, again, this is not the job or the company’s fault.

Bottomline: If you are interested in the answers to these questions, ask. Or read. Search the web, look up your own company or companies like it. Read your organization’s press releases, ask your manager or your president. It is not management’s job to spark your interest in your own job. It’s yours.

Do you care?
You might have picked up on a theme here. One of accountability? Responsibility? I’ll add integrity and personality as well. Let me elaborate on these.

Accountability:
You are accountable for your employment performance and for whether you are gratified, statisfied and justly rewarded for your effort. If you are not, and you’ve tried a number of professional methods of getting it fixed, then consider a change. It’ll do you good. Do you care enough about the time you invest in work to be accountable?

Responsibility:
If you have entered into an employment situation with an organization they (presumably) are paying you in return for you helping them meet their goals. As an employee, you are responsible for doing your job well and supporting the company goals. It is not okay to burden your co-workers with work you are supposed to be doing nor is it okay to undermine company progress. Do you care enough about your organization to be responsible to it?

Integrity:
You owe it to yourself to be doing the best you can for something you can believe in. If you are a manager of people, you have even great responsibility here since – quite literally – livelihoods depend on you and your management practices. Do you care enough?

Personality:
Style and personality are very difficult to quantify and more difficult to judge as “good’ or “bad”. Organizations should welcome strong personalities of all types – idealists, realists, contrarians, cynics and everything in between. However, in my experience organizations and the managers and teams within them are much happer when people are “on board”, everyone is “on the same page”, and things are “running smoothly”. If you find yourself frequently being admonished for not being on board or on the same page with everyone else, I’d encourage some self help such as either of these two fantastic books on interpersonal communication: Crucial Conversations or People Skills. Do you care enough to hear and be heard at work?

Today’s moral of the story: You owe it to yourself to be the best you can be in whatever you choose to do.

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