I’ve had a few conversations with friends and family recently that have all shared a common theme- the incredibly negative impact of a tough day on people’s emotions.
Tough days can present people with some of the most challenging experiences of their lives, especially in jobs where there’s a high risk of conflict/confrontation with public or colleagues.
One of my friends changed jobs a year or two ago after a long time struggling in a job that she hated. After much dissatisfaction, she discovered a job in the same sector that included all the appealing aspects of her current job with none of the aspects that she loathed. She took that job and is now very happy. It’s incredible how such a similar job (on paper) could be so different.
Another friend of mine often feels bad about her job, because on many occasions she works with extremely dissatisfied customers.
On a couple of occasions in the past I’ve felt very down after a hard day’s work, only to have a couple of very easy days follow it. It took me a while to realise that on those tough days, I was actually doing a very good job overcoming obstacles and was actually being quite successful.
The common theme in these experiences is that people feel disappointed with themselves because they think they aren’t doing a good job. But is someone who is working really hard to overcome obstacles or deal with tough customers really doing a bad job? These experiences leave people feeling incredibly down even though in many cases they’ve done an exceptionally good day’s work and their employers have really gotten their money out of them!
So why don’t people play to their strengths? Why are people encouraged to spend so much time focusing on their weaknesses?
In many cases it’s rooted in the increased pressure put on employees and middle management due to decisions by senior management and shareholders, and the pressure of the media and current business fads on workplace expectations.
Appraisals are increasingly geared towards staff being 10/10 ‘all-rounders’. It needs to be said that this is an unrealistic expectation and completely unnecessary. Staff are increasingly expected to pick up tasks that were previously the responsibility of others who have moved on or been made redundant. Business models are changing so there are fewer specialists/experts. Tasks that were previously performed by multiple specialist roles are blurred into more general roles, and unfortunate staff expected to carry them out without advice or guidance, introducing a higher risk of failure. It isn’t clear how much this affects productivity, but my guess is that the additional time spent by inexperienced staff when reluctantly blundering through obscure tasks and the resulting time spent in fixing mistakes that arise, frequently exceeds the planned savings from not employing experts. It also simultaneously makes people miserable- and can have a negative effect on all aspects of a previously enjoyable job!
It’s odd that on one side, people who are extremely single-minded (whether highly successful Olympic athletes, or mediocre business types) are praised for their dedication and commitment, whilst others already working in flexible roles are criticised if they show any preference for a particular type of work.
I suppose the bottom line is that there are limits to how much being an all rounder will benefit an employee; after all, you only demonstrate how suitable you are for your current job …and even then, some managers will never value your contribution.
Next time you have a bad day in work, don’t feel like you’ve been doing a bad job, if you know it’s been a series of tough customers, or you’ve stood up to a challenge, it’s likely you’ve just done a very good day’s work. Whether you should continue to work in something that isn’t suited to you is a different matter, it’s almost certain that you’re not making yourself happy.
If at first you don’t succeed don’t give up, but don’t forget what you’re good at.