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Fix It Or Forget It?

September 5th, 2012

It’s rare that everything about the job goes well – or poorly – so the important thing to ask is, “Am I satisfied with what is going well . . . and can I fix (or live with) what isn’t?”  That’s what Maude* and Niles* wondered.

Maude* had gotten a position that she felt would allow her to learn more about her career and develop new skills.  She was pleased to learn that there was ample training provided – particularly because it really wasn’t in her last job.

Initially, she could see herself growing with the company, and quite possibly retiring here, after moving up within the ranks over time.

After several months, however, Maude realized that, while people were cordial to her, they weren’t what she would call friendly.  This was a company where people simply did their jobs and went home.  Most people ate lunch at their desks and kept working . . . if they ate lunch at all.

At Maude’s previous company, there were happy hours after work, gangs of people going to lunch together, not to mention various baby and wedding showers and assorted birthday parties, etc.  She was finding that she really missed the workplace camaraderie.  There was none to be found – only obligatory polite chit chat instead.

Although Maude was pleased with how her work skills were developing, she felt that her social skills were on the verge of atrophy, and wasn’t sure what to do about it.  She had made an attempt to ask someone to lunch at one point, only to be met with surprise at first.

After her co-worker’s initial reaction wore off, she was amenable to the idea, but they “never got around to it,” leaving Maude to wonder if she would ever have friends in the workplace again.  She began to reconsider if this was the right company for her after all.

I suggested to Maude that she seek peers from another venue, by joining her professional society instead – and perhaps one of their committees as well.  This would not only allow her to network with others who are interested in getting to know people in her line of work, but eventually, when she begins to look for another job, she’ll be connected to people at other companies.

In addition, I noticed she wasn’t taking full advantage of the training seminars that she attended.  By simply going to the courses (and not the hosted reception, etc. events before and after), she was missing out on prime networking opportunities during these various conferences.

Maude was able to Fix It! by connecting with those in her field – who could not only meet for the occasional lunch, but brainstorm about the latest challenge, celebrate her victories and listen when she had a problem.  This situation provided her with the best of both worlds, until she was ready to move on to the next job, which some of her friends helped her find.

Niles* was a very diligent worker, who had been successful in his small fundraising shop for a few years.  He took a new position with a nonprofit, in charge of the direct mail campaign, and noticed that the organization’s database was – frankly, inferior.

Many tasks that he was used to automating had to be done manually, such as adding non-donor spouse names to the addressee name.

Instead of omitting any important spouses, Niles combed through hundreds of spouses that had been left out and added them manually . . . wondering how many other manual tasks awaited him with this software.  It was important to him to make a good impression.

After the mailing dropped, a major donor was aghast and complained:  Her (many years) dead husband’s name was included on the envelope and letter!  She announced that she wouldn’t be contributing to the organization any longer due to this oversight.

“Obviously, it was my fault,” Niles told me, “But I tried to explain how difficult and cumbersome the database was to work with, to no avail.  I felt damned if I did, damned if I didn’t.”

Niles worked that much harder all the rest of his first year, to show how good a fundraiser he was, finding new ways to approach old campaigns, new sources of revenue, and new potential donors.  Overall, at the end of the year, he had raised a great deal more money than the goal that was placed before him, and was pleased that he could show his manager his true nature, despite the bumpy start.

When it came time for his evaluation, he felt that, with his successful year behind him, not only would he work on a substantial raise, but he also wanted to broach the subject of upgrading the poor database he was tasked to work with.  He felt he was now in a position to make the case that, given better tools, he could do even more.

“I couldn’t believe it when I read my review, though,” Niles recounted.  “There was barely an acknowledgment that I had (substantially) surpassed my fundraising goal!  The focus of the document was laden with petty criticisms on mistake after mistake I’d made throughout the year, such as a misspelling, failure to add/remove a name, and, of course, the addition of the prominent donor’s dead husband shortly after I’d began!”

“I wondered,” Niles continued, “How my director imagined that I successfully raised so much money for our campaign if I was as ‘inadequate’ as he made me out to be in my review?  Apparently, I would always be the one who sent Mrs. Smith’s dead husband’s mail, and nothing more.”

Since it was obvious that Niles’ manager was impossible to please – and he only saw faults – Niles decided to Forget It! and we began his job search immediately.  In the meantime, however, Niles took care to continue performing at (and documenting) his usual exemplary pace.  He would be able to use this record during interviews successfully, even if his current manager refused to acknowledge his talent.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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