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