R. Karl Hebenstreit
As I prepare to leave the safe haven that was AT&T, I've recently found myself reflecting on the morals of my experiences in corporate America thus far and realized that there are many popular sayings that ring wise and true in the world of work. Some of you may consider them clichés, but these gems really do stand the test of time and the office. Among the more poignant ones, in no particular order, are:
- Choose your battles. As you get older and wiser you realize that not all battles are worth the energy or effort to fight. This may be because you discover that sometimes, no matter what you do, the outcome has already been predetermined by a power (or level) greater than yours. Or it may simply be that the older you get, the more tired and cynical you become! In either case, the moral is to stand up for only the important causes. If you rebuke everything, you will only be perceived, ignored, and dismissed as a confrontational troublemaker. If you only challenge the issues that are truly and personally offensive to you, your opinions and dissent will bear more weight and people will listen. This is similar to the "cry wolf" phenomenon whereby if you keep sounding an alarm for unimportant and trivial issues, the villagers won't listen to you when the threat is real.
- It is what it is. This is very similar to the popular one-liner, "Whatever!" I credit my good friend Patricia for ingraining this one in me. When nothing can be done to change a situation, when you are forced to react to an event you have no way of controlling or managing, just deal with it and move on. Get over it! Look at the big picture and see how trivial something you're worrying about may really be. Is it worth getting upset and consumed by it if it has absolutely no consequence to the universe? So what if the report is a day late and doesn't meet the artificial deadline set by someone who has no concept or concern about your workload (or better yet, your "bandwidth"-ugh!). If you need celebrity endorsement of this attitude, consider Cher's putting-it-into-perspective comment: "It's not like we're finding the cure for cancer here!" (Unless, of course, you are...)
- People are funny. I credit my good friend Jocelyn for this one. This axiom is similar to "different strokes for different folks" and totally underscores the need for and value of diversity. People should not be feared, mocked, or disrespected because they're different. They should, rather, be seen as individuals who are distinct and who, because of their idiosyncrasies and quirks, can be rather amusing. Glean positive enjoyment from interactions with people rather than negativity and distance. And remember the immortal words of ABBA's "Me and I": "Think about yourself a minute; then you'll find the answer in it: Everyone's a freak!"
- Don't burn your bridges. Walt Disney was right. It really is a small world, after all. And it's getting smaller all the time due to technology and mergers/acquisitions. The chances of running into your ex-coworkers again are just too great (especially if you work in the same industry). Be civil, mature, and grown up in all of your relationships and you won't have to worry as much about watching your back.
- Treat others the way you'd like to be treated yourself. Ah, the old "golden rule." Respect your fellow human beings and understand that people behave the way they do because of situations they are in, not necessarily because they are naturally and irrevocably bitchy. (In psychology, the "fundamental attribution error" is exercised when you regard someone's actions and behaviors as an outgrowth of their personality rather than considering their personal situation and "walking in their shoes.")
- Consider the source. Don't get upset when someone says something mean and nasty about/to you (and you know they will!) and, by all means, don't take it personally. The offender probably doesn't have a personal vendetta against you. It's probably their style and mechanism for coping with some deep-seated issues (or, in some people's cases, deep-seated subscriptions) that have nothing to do with you or the other targets of their frustrations.
- Above all, to thine own self be true. This goes hand-in-hand with the old standby, "honesty is the best policy" and parallels "You gotta do what you gotta do." Whenever you're faced with an ethical/moral dilemma, remember that you're the person that will have to look at yourself in the mirror for the rest of your life. You'd better like what you see or you'll be reflecting on a lot of regrets and shame for a mighty long time.
- Things always work out for the best (or at least for a good reason). Although there may not seem to be a good reason that something seemingly bad has happened (or something good didn't take place), you will inevitably understand why things occurred as they did. The cosmos has worked with this principle for thousands of years and will continue to do so. Just go with the flow, try to find the positive perspective of every situation, and in time you will understand (and be happier in the process).
- Actions speak louder than words. If in doubt about somebody's sincerity, check out their behavior. They may be "talking the talk" but not following through with "walking the walk." When the talk and the walk aren't jiving, the disconnect should tell you to think twice about believing that person's promises.
- The grass is always greener on the other side. Ironically, this is akin to "absence makes the heart grow fonder." How can both these adages say the same thing? Think about it. You know all about the positive and negative aspects of the company and environment in which you currently work. It's your decision whether to dwell on one or the other. That task is made more difficult by the tales of new cars being given as sign-on bonuses, lucrative stock options, generous time off, Friday beer blasts, on-site masseuses, mythical management styles, etc. being enjoyed by workers at other companies. But you don't have the whole picture. There is no utopian business or ideal company for everyone, and the negative aspects of prospective new employers are never highlighted in the recruitment literature! Company culture and management styles (and the way they mesh with your personal beliefs and work style) must be carefully taken into consideration and evaluated before deciding to sell your soul to a new devil (that's where vault.com comes in handy!). And remember that sometimes "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't." Once you start your new gig, you could find that the negative aspects of your old job are "out of sight, out of mind" and that the time away has "made your heart grow fonder" for the good old days with your former employer. Or you may be sipping margaritas as you lounge in your pool taking that pesky conference call delineating your new stock option grants.
I won't guarantee that abiding by these common truisms will make you a financial success, but they certainly can lead you to make better decisions and develop new ways at looking at things to enhance your state of content, improve your social relations, and decrease your levels of stress. Isn't that what it's all about? "
<Note from JobFairy.com: Good advice from an old telecom troop - the same environment that spawned most of us Job Fairies. The part about choosing your battles is excellent. The only thing he leaves out is the art of having others fight your battles for you...>