Real Adult Life

a diligent over-analysis of "adultolescence"

Loyalty January 11, 2011

Filed under: Work — jamiej527 @ 11:23 AM
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What’s the role of loyalty in today’s workplace?

Two months after I joined my company, they eliminated an entire division.  Two months after that, another.  Then they began the strategic restructuring steps, eliminating individual positions that often left two- or three-decade employees without a job

This was hard for me to swallow.  For all my flaws, insecurities, and mistakes, I’m one of the most unfailingly loyal people on the planet.

Obviously this leaves me with three choices: move to Japan or another country where loyalty is still valued, travel back in time to the 1950’s (which really wouldn’t work, since I’m female and all…), or shut up and deal with reality.

Companies, of course, still want employees to be loyal.  And if I’m honest, I can’t help but be loyal to my company.  Despite the tough decisions I’ve watched my leaders make, I have huge respect for them.  So much respect, in fact, that I can’t even start describing the reasons without overwhelming the focus of this post.

Given a choice, I’d much rather advance within my company than jump ship and move to a new one.  I also know that many of my mentors have left our company only to return to it, finding their “new homes” weren’t as great as our current employer.

That said, it doesn’t change reality. I’ve busted my ass for my company for two and a half years, but one lousy quarter and I’d be out of a job.  Or, depending on circumstances, even a series of great quarters won’t save me from a round of layoffs or corporate restructure.  Emotionally, that just doesn’t sit well with me.

I’ve been paid for the work I’ve completed.  I know I’ll be paid for the work I’m currently completing.  Beyond that, I have to earn my keep.  At other companies I’ve seen the dangers of keeping underperformers on the payroll.  My business mind understands these decisions, but heart doesn’t

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Project Change: Mini Win! December 22, 2009

Filed under: Work — jamiej527 @ 12:45 AM
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I had a breakthrough today with Challenging Coworker.   Challenging Coworker apologized for some brash comments and stated that I’m much better than the average person who holds position (which is a compliment akin to a marriage proposal, considering the source).  (S)he also stated that (s)he does have a great deal of respect for me.

Ho.  Lee.  Crap.

Granted, given the chance this person would still get me fired in the blink of an eye.

But one particular comment stood out to me: Challenging Coworker says the branch is a markedly more positive place since I joined the team.

HALLELUJAH!!!

Sales this month are nothing to write home about, and we’re stressed by understaffing.  But I’ve fought for this mini-win for nearly three months.  You’d better believe I’m gonna celebrate it!

 

Professional Identity December 21, 2009

Filed under: Musings,Work — jamiej527 @ 1:01 AM
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I bought a new cell phone yesterday, and found myself putting deep thought into which protective cover to select.  I’m drawn to bright colors, and instinctively grabbed one with a bright blue design.  After a few moments I began to trade my spunky cover with a grown-up clear one.  My boyfriend blocked my hand and grinned at me: “C’mon, Jamie, get the one you want.  You don’t need to be professional all the time.  And if you do, just take the cover off.

In my year-and-a-half at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, my self-image has changed.  I no longer feel like I’m dressing up to go play banker.  I’m no longer surprised by the level of authority my customers and coworkers grant to me.  Somewhere along the way I grew to see myself as a professional; I came to believe the myth I’ve worked so hard to weave.

But, as my moment in the Verizon store revealed, part of me is in no hurry be a Real Adult.

There’s a natural dissonance with any major change, and these little moments make me smile.  But they also make me realize that I never want to lose the piece of myself that loves brightly colored accessories.  The fact is, I’m going to have to fight to keep her.  That piece of myself is also the piece who, while interviewing someone who we hope will become a new employee, gets completely distracted by a man in a Santa suit and exclaims “Hey, look!  St. Nick!”

After the interview, my Buzzkill Coworker made it clear that she disapproved of my “unprofessional action.”  She also doesn’t like that I wear a Northface fleece jacket above my pink Ann Claiborne heels or use the word “bummer” when working with customers.

I’ll grant that my professional identity isn’t flawless.  The secret?  I don’t want flawless.

 

My “Great” Company November 27, 2009

Filed under: Musings,Work — jamiej527 @ 1:26 AM
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I met a former coworker for post-work drinks this week, where we indulged in obligatory company gossip.  We swapped our latest customer “war stories,” caught up with life outside the office, and vented about general company policy.

As we talked, I noticed that my view of our company had changed considerably since moving to my new position.  Like pretty much every company in the country, ours is cutting costs in every possible corner.  The inconsequential cog that I am in the company wheel, I loathe these decisions.  They invariably make life harder for those of us in the branches: we end up fighting to maintain our own credibility while enacting changes that we may or may not agree with.

Working at headquarters places me closer to these decisions.   Our President’s office is a few floors above my desk, I’ve chatted with members of twenty departments at my desk while helping them manage their personal banking, I’ve watched three members of our marketing department walk out like zombies just moments after being laid off.

I expected this new branch to bring greater frustration: eliminated departments and laid-off employees are no longer abstract corporate mandates, they’re decisions that affect the lives of my close acquaintances.  I’ve actually found that I respect my company more than ever before.

That is, my definition of “my company” has shifted its focus.  “My company” no longer refers to executives and the Board.  “My company” refers to the wonderful, talented men and women who work their asses off every day.  When I say “my company” I’m no longer referring to the entity that cuts resources, I’m referring to my coworkers who find ingenious ways to achieve results despite these cuts.

For example, it maddens me that our company’s television commercials are woefully sub-par.  Since moving to headquarters, I now see them and appreciate the volume of exposure our meager 2-person marketing department is able to assemble.  My frustration has melted.  I’ve grown in it’s place an appreciation for the amazing work my coworkers can do despite being stretched thinner than ever before.

As a customer recently commented: the longer you stay at a company, the more you notice its shortcomings.  True, but only half the story.  The longer you stay at a company, the more you begin to value the employees more than the brand.

 

Inter-Generational Challenges November 21, 2009

Filed under: Life,Musings,Work — jamiej527 @ 12:01 AM
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Like all workplaces, mine has one particular challenging coworker.  On Thursday this individual stated that, “as you’ll know if you’ve taken any HR training courses, this new group of young adults is just horrible to work with.” She went on to explain that she dislikes working with me and others like me Gen Y-ers.  That I have usurped a position that I don’t deserve Gen Y-er’s sense of entitlement leads them to take on more responsibility than they are prepared to handle.

Without rehashing details, our 20-minute conversation was incredibly uncomfortable.  I’m proud to say I kept my composure during our chat, speaking from my brain rather than my defenses.

Since the beginning of time, each generation has chastised the next.  The “kids these days!” curmudgeon stereotype grew out of truth.  My hypothesis: we’re raised to uphold particular values and bristle when a large group of people succeeds by flouting these same values.

The best way to work between generations, IMHO, is to interact with each coworker as an individual rather than a member of a subgroup.  But what does one do when she’s already been pegged as a token subgroup member?   I’m stumped.

 

Project Change: Post 2 November 16, 2009

Filed under: Work — jamiej527 @ 10:58 PM
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Today (Monday) was my first day back in the branch since Tuesday of last week.  I left a branch with slow sales and returned this morning to a branch that had fallen even further behind.  I left the branch on Tuesday feeling discouraged and daunted.  Today, refreshed from my break, I felt more ready to take on the challenge.

I forced myself to focus on the positives, even though they were harder to find.  I crafted my weekly “coaching opportunities” to focus on praising successful changes.  Our communication whiteboard featured the message “Let’s breeze past our goals this month… EASY for a branch this talented!!”  I posted a report that showed only 2 of 10 employees are meeting a given standard, with the names of successful team members highlighted with an arrow and a “WooHOOOO!!”

And we blew our daily goal out of the water.

I’m not scared to be Bad Cop when need be.  And I worry that focusing so much on what people are doing well makes me come off as an easily-manipulated Pollyanna.  My coaching strategy, “You’re so good at A, B, and C!  How can I help you fix D?” comes off as naive to some.

Because I am naive.  Nothing has become so evident since I started this new position.  I think one of the Great Secrets of Adulthood is that calling someone “competent” is really saying “she learns fast enough to keep us from realizing how little she knows.”

 

Workday Secrets November 15, 2009

Filed under: Work — jamiej527 @ 1:51 AM
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Each Saturday night I browse Postsecret before turning in for the night.  I loved this gem:

postsecret shred

It made me smile.  It also made me ponder my own work-related secrets:

1) My “personal drawer” at work contains several types of tea, lip balm, lotion, and backup hosiery.  It also houses a bright-pink first-grade-style schoolbox containing gel pens and ten Crayola washable markers, a Dunder Mifflin stress ball, five lollipops shaped like flowers, two matchbox cars, and a copy of every award, thank-you, or certificate I’ve earned at my company.  These things simply make me smile.  It also contains five random pieces of Orbit spearmint gum just because they make the drawer smell nice and fresh.

2) The fax number on my business cards is incorrect.  I could fix it, but who cares?  People shouldn’t send surprise faxes anyway.

3) I intentionally get to work earlier than all my coworkers.  This isn’t so much about getting a jump on my workday or making a good impression, but rather because I like twenty minutes to drink my coffee in peace.

4)  I went into this job thinking it would tide me over until I could support myself as a writer, because writing was my greatest joy and talent.  I love becoming a businesswoman more than I ever could love being a writer.  Each day corralling my staff is a greater challenge and more fulfilling creative endeavor than any prose I’ve ever authored.

5) I’ve yet to find even one woman in the business world whom I truly admire.  I’m not sure whether this is telling about my company, the strength of my network, or my personal values.  It’s probably telling of all three.