Suck it up buttercup, your job is not you.
Being asked for input on anything can be a great feeling. It can lead to praise. It can lead to scorn. It can lead to a promotion. It can lead to humiliation. The praise and humiliation “Its”can turn you into someone you’re not: worthless. That feeling will absolutely lead to anger at some point…never a good thing.
Indulge me and my whining for a bit.
A difficult emotion to deal with is anger especially when that anger can materialize from people shitting on your ideas after you’ve either suggested it thinking it’s a great one or they’ve already had their solution in place but just want you to feel like you’re part of the process. This happened in my Navy days and still haunts me. It turns me into someone I’m not: An angry, self-loathing person.
It’s more than a pet peeve with me, I find putting people in an authoritative position, even at a micro level, and not allowing them to make decisions is unprofessional. I completely understand that there will always be obstacles such as having to sell the idea all the way up the chain, financial analysis, and of course office politics. Fifteen years ago I was at a small credit union where ideas were listened to but not heard; the old guard was in place and very little swayed them. I get it though, management wasn’t comfortable with the minions outshining them. I think it had less to do with the analysis and financials in place than it did with politics but I wasn’t surprised. Like I said it was a small place with people entrenched in their jobs, almost unfireable. Attempting to sell an idea to upper management was a line that was rarely crossed. I can’t say people didn’t care but I can say it was a place where the mantra was “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
The worst for me has been when solutions are already in place but management is either required to hear you out or are just doing it as a courtesy. Now, one can never really know if they’ve already made up their minds but you can tell by body language and how quickly their solution is implemented. The military is famous for this.
NOTE: The word “watch” here means shift. Welcome to the Navy.
I once was asked to be part of a panel to establish a new watch schedule to replace a rather harsh one. I was on a watch crew that worked 2 weeks of days then 2 weeks of mids (overnight). Every other Saturday was a “doubleback”, work your day watch then come in that night to convert to the 2 week mid watch. Wasn’t easy but my body got used to it. The panel came up with some great ideas including a regular 40 work week with people on permanent watches doing 5–8s. We narrowed the choice down to working 4–12 hour watches and having every other Friday off, this way we’d get a 3 day weekend twice a month. Didn’t fly. The Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) heading this already had it in his head that nothing was going to change and we found out probably 3 days later. That one hurt badly because we were to report to our watch leaders what progress was being made and it was always good news. When the final decision came down, to a person, they gritted their teeth and a random audible “Fuck!” was uttered here and there. And these were senior enlisted people that probably knew this was coming but still held out hope. Let’s be straight about this, when you’re in the military you don’t get many choices in the enlisted ranks when officers are involved. But they let us be part of the process and in my mind disrespected us in the end when our analysis and input was ignored for what the LCDR already had in mind; we were all royally pissed. I just couldn’t hide my anger and it got the best of me. I pounded my fists on a desk and then kicked said desk much to the delight of my fellow sailors who thought it was hilarious. They’d all been there done that and I humiliated myself for their viewing pleasure. A great Chief Petty Officer took me aside and told me, “It’s ok to be disappointed but it’s not ok being unprofessional.” I felt like shit but, again, it’s the military so suck it up buttercup!
In the private sector there’s still leeway. Older companies will listen to ideas but not really implement them too often. Younger companies (maybe less than 10–15 years in business) and startups welcome ideas when you can prove that it’ll make a positive difference on the bottom line. They’re also not risk averse making the sell a bit easier.
Admittedly I’ve gotten thin-skinned over the years and my work day can quite easily spill into my evenings. I sometimes come home pissed beyond belief, downright angry, whiny, lacking any motivation to do anything other than Netflix without the chill. It sucks. Why? We take everything personally. Just because we don’t get our way or aren’t able to get our great ideas past the immediate managers doesn’t mean it reflects poorly on ourselves. They aren’t trying to make you feel angry, they certainly contribute, but we control how we feel. It’s OK to be angry but NOT OK to make it dictate who you are. We take our work as a personal extension of ourselves like an emotional appendage. We question our value to the company and, even worse, our self-worth. I happen to be going through this now and writing is my coping mechanism. So is saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people. Taking things personally is a weakness that needs continuous work.
Working at a community college I once got so angry that I would bite back at managers so bad claiming that I don’t want to be part of any decision process anymore and I ended up getting angrier and down right nasty to deal with. It took a few days of non-communication with people for me to calm down. WTF!!?? At least my input was heard. Management simply decided to go in another direction, so what made me so angry? Taking my work so seriously that it has dictated who was in that moment. I still have some emotional growing to do but I at least acknowledge it.
At 48 years old I’d hoped to have grown out of my thin-skin but I’m still working on it. Over 25 years in the IT industry and my perception for presenting ideas to managers that don’t get recognized for their worth or implemented altogether still makes me feel bad about myself, but it shouldn’t. It can fester into disappointment then to anger which then defines me in that moment but it’s not who I am. After reading that last sentence, maybe it is who I am. I’m not going to accept that. What would the Chief think about this? I look to that moment for clarity more often that not, it works.
I am certainly not angry all the time at work, not even close. The good times outweigh the bad ones exponentially. I do recognize the trigger of not getting my way after presenting a great suggestion or idea and even found coping mechanisms that work well for me. So many colleagues, past and present, have been able to shrug things off and move about their day. What was their secret? They don’t let work define them. Easier said than done but it makes perfect sense.
Me…I’m buttercup and need to suck it up.
Here’s some links with good information and coping mechanisms that have been helpful to me. Some good reads, check them out.
Thanks for reading all of this and I appreciate you stopping by. If you enjoyed this piece please click the applause hands below and comment if you wish. I’d love to hear your experiences no matter what they may be. Also, I have two books available on Amazon that I advocate you to buy, Manku and Manku Too. For more about me and what I do, here’s my website. Everyone is also welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn.