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Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

The job market has made many pause and reassess what they value – personally and professionally. When the positions or other benefits aren’t available, people become more demanding and resourceful. See what Gail* and Hunter* did.

Gail* was feeling very underappreciated, to the point of being taken advantage of by her manager.  It seemed that no matter what she accomplished, it was never good enough – and that was saying a lot, because she was actually quite good at her job.

“I’m not sure how I got here,” she explained.  “I thought I started out being one of his more trusted employees, and worked to prove to him that he could count on me, but it seems to have backfired, and I don’t understand why.”

To Gail, it seemed that she was held to a higher standard and judged more harshly than nearly all other employees, although she typically produced more – and usually higher quality – work.

As we reviewed her work history, not just at her current employer’s, but the past several, Gail described a repeated series of working at a company until she reached a point of exhaustion.  When she felt she could no longer work any harder, she would look for another position.  This appeared to be her pattern.

Turning to the beginning of her jobs, rather than the end, I learned that Gail was always eager to please a new boss so much that she would start every new job with so much energy and enthusiasm, she began by giving about 150% effort . . . “to make a good impression,” she explained.

I demonstrated to Gail that the effect of her beginning every job with this super human effort was actually self-defeating over time.  Since she couldn’t maintain such a hefty output forever, what eventually happened was that she would end up scaling back her energy at some point.

However, she began by establishing a baseline for employers with the “150%” she described, which would leave her new boss expecting it as the norm.  This ended up not impressing them, as she expected, but disappointing them over time, when she couldn’t sustain it.

The effect this would have, then, when “scaling back” to a mere 100% was that she was “slacking off,” so even if her performance was still exemplary, it suffered by comparison, and her performance reviews, etc. would suffer as a result.

Instead of the gratitude she expected, Gail received quite the opposite . . . although she was still working very, very hard at her job. This resulted in resentment and confusion, as well as exhaustion on her part – and eventually, yet another job search.

She decided to Forget It! at her current job, but when she and I began her new job search, we took care that she didn’t put forth a super human effort at the new job.  Of course, she did a good job, but she didn’t set herself up to fail and repeat the same patterns over again.

She’s now more appreciated, as well as less exhausted.

Hunter* worked in the manufacturing industry for many years, and had been watching people around him get laid off by the dozens, as well as various businesses close their doors altogether.  Each time a new “reorganization” came around and he was spared, he’d count himself lucky, but after a while, he wasn’t so sure anymore.

“Of course, I was happy to still be employed,” Hunter explained, “And I certainly don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but there are consequences for those who remain as well.  With every layoff and downsizing, it means the company expects to get the same (or more) output, but with fewer people to produce it.  That translates into the remaining workers each doing the work of two, three or more people.  Oh, and you’ve probably gotten a pay cut in the process of the ‘restructuring’ to boot.  Some reward.”

After seeing so many others lose their jobs, Hunter knew there was no such thing as a “safe job” in his field and made a point to cut expenses, as well as try to save a little bit with each paycheck . . . just in case.

Eventually, he couldn’t escape the effects of the economy, and was included in the final round of layoffs that came around.

Hunter knew that his prospects were bleak:  the field of manufacturing overall didn’t hold a great many job openings, and, of course, everybody he knew was vying for them.  Also, his age would open him up for discrimination, probably making it even more difficult.

Calculating how much unemployment he could get, combined with his savings, Hunter decided to Fix It! instead by going back to school with some financial aid he qualified for, to get a degree in a different field he was interested in that would make him more marketable: Culinary Arts.

In order to continue qualifying for unemployment, Hunter still had to continue applying for positions in manufacturing and interviewing, but he already had a notion of how it would go, from friends of his who had been in his position before.  Although nobody came out and said so, it was clear that he was deemed “too old school” to be of any real value.

By the time Hunter had graduated with his degree, he was able to find a position as assistant chef in the restaurant industry, and now has a healthy employment prospect for the future!

“I never would have thought it at the time,” Hunter says, “But getting let go was the best thing for my career.  I never would have left on my own and decided to reinvent myself.  It took my being forced out to make this happen, but I’m glad it eventually did.”

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.

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

Similar Posts:

Abby* Works To Break the Abusive Boss Cycle

Does My Manager Believe In Me?

What Are You Learning?

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Work can be tough when everything depends on how the boss communicates.  Is it simply a matter of adapting, or constantly bending over backward for someone who’s never going to be satisfied?  See what Esther* and Fern* did.

When Esther* came to me, she was worried.  As an older employee, she felt that starting a job search at her age would be a never-ending task, since she expected to face a great deal of age discrimination.

On the other hand, she told me that she already was, in her opinion.  Since her new manager came on board last year – a much younger manager – it seemed that he wasn’t really interested in hearing any of her ideas when he asked the team for their input.

The new manager made a point over the past year to emphasize that he wanted “everybody’s” ideas, Esther told me; however, although she contributed nearly every time by emailing him a suggestion or two – well before the stated dealine – he very rarely brought her ideas up for discussion during the bi-monthly staff meetings.  In fact, there had been occasions when similar ideas to hers were discussed . . . and other staff members were credited.

I examined Ester’s process of submitting her ideas more closely – particularly when the similar ideas made it to the meeting, asking her, “How did other staff members submit their ideas to the manager?”

Esther discovered that most of the (younger) members actually sent him text messages, rather than emails, much to her surprise.  She also reviewed her emails on the topics and found a couple of responses from the manager, asking her to send him a consolidated version prior to the meeting.

“I thought that I had,” Esther recounted, “But I’m pretty sure that was the month that he presented (and credited) someone else’s similar idea.”

I told Esther that I believed she could Fix It! by learning how to communicate with her Gen X boss in his preferred medium: texting.  Something that would help her become more comfortable and skilled in this area would be to open a Twitter account and learn how to tweet.

Not only does Twitter teach users how to succinctly make a statement, but the 140 character limit forces writers to make every word count.  Clearly, this type of writing is important to Esther’s boss, who just wants the bare minimum when collecting ideas for staff meetings.

Esther applied this new tactic, and within a few meetings, not only did she get her ideas on the agenda, but was complimented on her improved writing skills.  She is very pleased to know that she can continue being appreciated for her talents in her current job, rather than begin interviewing.

Fern* had seen firsthand how difficult the economy was for people.  For the past couple of years, her cousins had been out of work – searching, to no avail – and living with her.

She had a very difficult boss, but didn’t feel she had any choice about putting up with him.  It was obvious to her that the job market was difficult, and she felt lucky just to have a job.  Besides, other people were counting on her – it wasn’t just about her.

Recently, though, the fog had begun to lift.  Each of her cousins had found positions that were permanent, and had begun to save some money.  In several more months, they were planning on moving out, to get their own apartment!

Just knowing that things were going to settle down was making her home life much less stressful, which had the side effect of allowing Fern to really notice exactly how stressful her workplace really was, though – with a kind of laser-like focus.

Fern began to see that the CEO’s odd behavior wasn’t solely directed at her, for one thing, but that others had similar frustrations, not knowing what to expect from him, one day to the next.

She could see that this was the crux of the difficulty, actually:  he was so unpredictable and moody day to day, that his mood swings often greatly affected her mood afterward.

The CEO’s demeanor frequently would oscillate to great extremes, often playing out during meetings, as well as affect policy decisions.

For example, there were numerous planning meetings, where the CEO sat nearly sullen and silent, leading others to speak up more, ultimately heading the project and making the decision on what would happen, because as everyone looked to the CEO, he either nodded or clearly didn’t care, from his shrug.

Later, (often much later) when a great deal of the project was in the works, the CEO would step in, sneer, and either dismantle it altogether, or find so much fault that it ended up getting such a makeover that it didn’t even resemble the original design!

Other times, the CEO was so engaged from the start, nobody could get a word in edgewise during the planning stage, but it was just as well.  Clearly, he only wanted “yes men,” so people either nodded vigorously, or sat silent, waiting for their assignments and watching the clock.

Those who had been through his “mania” before knew that he’d lose interest in whatever he was currently feverish about soon enough, anyway, so there really was no point in volunteering for something that would be altered or shelved, so why bother?

As Fern considered this repetitive pattern, she told me, it gave her a bit of relief.

“I suppose it could have made me even MORE depressed, but I think it was what I needed:  a chance to step back and look at the situation rationally.  My fear of my circumstances had just gripped me before, but now, I could see that it really was him, and not me . . . and that I needed to Forget It!

Without others depending so much upon her, and an indication that the job market was a bit better, Fern decided to start looking for a job for herself.

Although it did take several months, Fern feels that she wouldn’t have been a good candidate before her change in attitude and outlook, anyway.

“I am so relieved to be in a new atmosphere,” she says.  “It’s incredibly different, to be headed to work and think about the tasks I’ll be facing, rather than wonder – with trepidation – what sort of emotional storm lies ahead today!”

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.

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

Similar Posts:

Merle* and Naomi* deal with age gaps in the workplace

Lynn* deals with her OCD manager

Gabrielle* found a way to be more relevant

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Employers have countless applicants per position, so they can be much more selective than ever about whom they select.  When does “discriminating” become “discrimination,” however . . . and what can be done about it?

Arthur* worked for a large company and had survived a few rounds of layoffs, but it was unsettling to him to watch various people around him lose their jobs – friends, acquaintances and strangers combined.  Perhaps worst of all, though, was the manner in which some of the RIFs were handed down.

Of course, it’s never pleasant to lose one’s job, but Arthur felt that there were more equitable means to select who would be let go than the current methods.  For example, instead of length of time served with the company, relative level of management, or even perceived departmental value to the company, Arthur personally knew of individuals who were terminated after years of dedicated service simply because of a recent minor error in judgment or mistake that could easily have been fixed.  Much of it seemed related more to politics than skill or tenure.

Since it appeared that management was looking for excuses to get rid of various staff, Arthur felt that he couldn’t consider his job safe, and that he had only been lucky thus far.  He thought it was best to begin a job search, but quietly, because one of the “mistakes” that cost others to be let go was visibly job hunting.

Among the staff left behind, it was common for lunch room discussion to be about how lucky the remaining ones felt, not to have to be looking for another job in such a difficult market, and many lamented about the challenge being greater, “at my age.”  When Arthur shared his actual age during one of these discussions, the others were stunned and expressed that they all thought he was quite a bit older.

Arthur has a family trait of being prematurely gray, and upon learning that he clearly comes across as much older than he is, felt that this would hurt his chances while interviewing.  On the other hand, he was concerned that dyeing his hair would be a dead giveaway that he is interviewing, and his head would be next on the chopping block for the upcoming round of layoffs.

I advised Arthur to leave his discount haircut place and Fix It! by investing in a higher priced salon – one that he would have to visit very regularly.  Instead of having a different person cut his hair each time, he needed to build a relationship with a single professional stylist, and have her gradually take the gray out of his hair.

Setting up interviews would likely take a couple of months, I advised, and if his hair slowly lost its gray, it would be less noticeable at work.  Over time, he would probably be perceived as “more valuable” at his office, as well as during his upcoming interviews.

It took nearly a year, but Arthur avoided a couple more rounds of layoffs and kept his current position, while also interviewing, until he found another position with a smaller company that he felt was a better fit.

“It surprised me how many details I had to invest in during my job search — including items, effort and time.  Details that nobody thinks about before they begin, but are actually quite important in helping you reach your ultimate goal,” Arthur recounted.

Blanche* had a long and successful history of recruiting and managing volunteers.  She interviewed with an organization whose identity was strongly associated with community service and outreach, through volunteer service, and they had an opening for a senior volunteer manager position for their main project.

Blanche had made it to the final round of interviews and for this final meeting, she was given a good deal of detailed internal literature to review, in addition to the online research that she had already done.

What she learned while reviewing these materials the week before her final interview was that the site managers (and senior manager, when present) are expected to lead the volunteers at the start of each day’s work in a group prayer, as a motivation.

This disturbed Blanche, since there was nothing in the organization’s website or mission statement to indicate that it was a religious organization.  While she understood the need to motivate the troops, she could certainly see how someone might feel isolated, intimidated or even offended by feeling compelled to begin the day by participating in prayer.

Blanche herself had misgivings about leading a group in prayer as well, and it was clear from these final enclosures that it was part of her job description.   While she expected that she could explain that she wished to abstain and so forth, if this was part of their organizational identity, she realized that she probably wouldn’t be as effective in her job if she began by not participating in something they considered to be so important.  Mostly, though, she found the organization’s subversive tactics to be distasteful.

If they want to identify as a religious organization, why not do so, out in the open?  And, if they want to embrace all faiths, why compel others to participate – without warning – in a ritual that some may not believe in?

Blanche decided to Forget It! and she called the HR Director prior to the final interview, telling her that she wished to withdraw her candidacy.

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.

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

Similar Posts:

Rebecca* and Simone* adapt to the boss’ idiosyncrasies

See how Vicki* and Woody* deal with the unexpected

Opal* and Peter* respond when they don’t get what they should

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Sadie* felt lucky to have stable employment in this economy, but she hadn’t really been able to get additional assignments over the years and didn’t feel her boss took her seriously for anything beyond her current job. Just how long was she supposed to spin her wheels?

Sadie stayed in her position longer than she might have, due to the unstable work environment, because she told herself, “I’m luckier than a lot of other people: I have a job.”  What Sadie wants, though, is a career that she can build upon over time.

Whenever she approached her director – who repeatedly assured her that he would be “showing her the ropes,” he always had some reason why there wasn’t time “right now” for her to spend time on “that,” and he needed her to continue doing what she had always been doing.

Later, she called him on this, because, although she realized she had performed adequately during the year for business as usual, she had fallen short on some of her “additional” goals.  Her director responded by turning the tables on her saying, “You need to consider what you really want here,” and implied that her previously negotiated telecommuting was preventing her from being considered a serious professional.

“I was so stunned,” Sadie said.  “I felt as though he was telling me that I had to choose between my family and ever being promoted!  Not only that, but he acted as though this is what was ‘holding me back’ all along!  If that was the case, why didn’t he say so a couple of years ago, instead of ‘Not now . . .’ all that time?!  I was hurt, shocked and infuriated!”

Sadie decided to Forget It! and “lucky to be employed” or not, we began her job search.  She wanted to pursue her career, and knew that, although the job market was difficult, it wouldn’t be that way forever.  She wants to plan for the future and work in an environment that is more supportive to her building her career and doesn’t make excuse after excuse, or penalize her for having a life or a family.

Sadie’s search did take many months, and when she found a position, it didn’t pay as much as she made before, but she was pleased with the other benefits it offered, including a great deal more autonomy, training, room for advancement, flex time, etc.  She feels that several years with her new employer will have a much greater payoff than the past several years has.

I had been coaching Tanya* on a variety of ways to help improve her chances of becoming a finalist candidate for second or third interviews, and the resume I designed for her had helped her acquire quite a few first interviews over the past several months.  She realized that the chances of her being able to match her previous salary were slim to none.

Eventually, Tanya reached the point of not only being a finalist candidate, but entered into negotiations with an employer who was ready to make her a job offer – at a salary that was significantly lower than her previous pay.

While Tanya did want to take the job, she also knew that an employee has more bargaining power during this point of negotiation than at any other time . . . and that women often leave too much money on the table.  On the other hand, she didn’t want to push too hard and talk herself out of a job.

She examined all of the facets of the offer, as I instructed her to do during this phase of negotiations.  Many candidates are also concerned with other aspects of a position, besides pay – such as Sadie, who cared about telecommuting and/or flex time, to be with her children.  For other candidates, they might bargain for items such as a better title, more vacation time, a larger office, or other perks or benefits.  A great deal depends on the person, industry, and so forth.

Tanya noticed that the health benefits offered by this employer were quite good, but she already had health coverage through her husband’s employer that was sufficient.  She proposed to the employer that instead of providing their health coverage, they give her an additional $5,000 annual salary, and she would waive the health benefits.  The employer happily accepted these terms, and Tanya was hired.

Tanya still didn’t start at the same salary as before, but this was a workable compromise to all parties, so that she was able to Fix It! and move forward with her career, rather than spend an additional unknown period of time interviewing and eventually finding something else that still may have paid less anyway.

The employment landscape has changed, and so have many of its rules.  The more adaptable you are – and able to negotiate – the more marketable you are.

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.

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

Similar Posts:

Kraig* and Lorriane* network within and outside the office

Fletcher* and Gina* position themselves for the right job

Adam*, Barbara* and Chloe* find an effective level of assertiveness


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