Over the years, others have shared a few attitude-adjusting pointers with me about work. They’ve stood the test of time for me in a number of different jobs. Here they are.
1. Remember, you don’t need this job. You need a job, but not this one.
In my first full-time, salaried position, my boss shared this nugget of wisdom with me. (He shared the next one too.) I had to chew on this one for a bit, repeating it to myself in different ways for it to sink in. But once it did, it changed how I looked at my job.
The biggest change is that it removed a fear. I didn’t fear losing the job, because, after all, I didn’t need this job. With that gone, my attitude shifted to where I was willingly giving my time to the job. It was my choice to work there, so in a way, it gave me back some power, emotionally. I wasn’t dependent on the job, and I wasn’t begging for the chance to do that job. Instead, I had the freedom to focus instead on what I needed to in order to get the job done.
It also has helped me to not worry about the inevitable politics of an office, and instead more clearly relate to the people I work with. It helps me better respect my colleagues as the human beings we all are.
There is a simple, yet powerful, proverb that stands hand-in-hand with this pointer: “Do you work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men.” Attitude-wise, taking this proverb seriously means that I crave honor from God, not from my boss, coworkers, clients, or employees. This has been profound for me, and I encourage all who read this to take this proverb to heart.
This first pointer is probably the biggest of these for me.
2. If you want to seem invaluable, find a problem and solve it. See a vacuum? Fill it.
This one is obviously simple, I think, but sometimes I wonder if it just hasn’t occurred to people. If you want to be valuable, do something valuable. Keep your eyes open for that thing that clearly needs doing that you have a shot at doing, and figure it out. If it happens to make sense with your job description, great. If not, just do it anyway.
3. A secret part of your job is to make your boss look good.
This is an interesting one because it still applies when you aren’t happy with your boss.
How do you do this one? You give your boss credit for good work, good decisions, whatever, to others. You don’t have to overdo it, but keep it in mind. Also, I’ve been in situations where I’ve been asked to help prepare a presentation or a proposal for my boss, and even though I may not be the one delivering the presentation, I can try to make sure that my boss will seem organized, coherent, and smart.
This pointer is helpful because, by making this part of my job, it forces me to check myself when I have a bad attitude about the person I report to.
4. Bring an alternate idea along when you bring a critique. (And if you can’t, then think twice about offering your critique.)
The point of feedback, of critique, is to make something better. I get the feeling that people forget this, and think that the point of critique is to look smart, to make someone else look dumb, and to thrill in the dark joy of shredding someone else’s work.
So, if the point of critique is to make something better, doesn’t it make sense to point out a problem and immediately follow it with at least one idea to overcome that problem? Maybe it isn’t the idea that will be chosen, but by offering that idea, you make yourself a collaborator with the person who receives the critique. You offering an idea can spur more creative thinking on the problem. Plus, offering an idea is brave, because your idea can now receive critique. If all you ever do is critique but never add ideas, you’re probably a coward and are making things worse, not better.
I know there are all kinds of other thoughts on work that I have, and I’m sure many of my blog readers have their own life lessons to share.
Please comment with your reactions or additions!