Job Red Alert!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had job alarms just like we have burglar and fire alarms?
Some things are obvious. For example, if you’re a computer programmer and you’ve been asked to compile a program that does X, Y and Z, you find out soon enough.
Other things are not quite so obvious. Like how your co-workers, customers and boss perceive you. Keep in mind that people generally won’t go out of their way to tell you how they feel about you. Especially if it’s negative. (Want to know why? See below.)
Yet other people’s opinions of you matter at least as much as your technical skills. In fact, studies in the Harvard Business Review have shown that people would generally rather work with a likable dunderhead than a brilliant boor. Apparently, since the dunderhead is likable people are willing to take more time to help him or her learn, whereas the boor gets no benefit of the doubt since they don’t like him…and sooner or later the boor will make a mistake.
Not to mention that, as career expert Penelope Trunk has pointed out, modern teleworking, outsourcing and automation mean that if a problem can be solved from across the hall, it can be solved from across town, across the country…or across the Pacific Ocean. Or from the software’s Help screen. That means that more and more, the jobs that stay in the U.S./First World at good salaries are the ones that involve helping people face to face and making them feel good about it. If all you do is deliver technical information, someone, somewhere can and will do it a lot cheaper.
The only way we can escape this worldwide race to the bottom is to build close relationships with those around us, so we’re special to them.
Of course we need to do our jobs and do them right. We also need ways of knowing when our relationships are going astray, while we can still either save them or change jobs ourselves before it’s too late.
So, without further ado, here’s some warning signals:
- You have less and less to do. Your peers do parts of your job for you, or even just learn to get everything done without you. Or your boss has reassigned pieces of your job. It’s a pretty clear signal that you’re not seen as necessary to the organization. Sooner or later, the boss will decide that the company can just do without you — and eliminating your job will save money (and not just your salary either, especially if you get benefits).Also, your boss may reason that if you just let other people do parts of your job, you’re not really attached to your work and hence not really doing well at it. (Not to mention that if you just let others take over, the company may not want you managing its fate in a competitive world!)
- You do get plenty to do…it’s just a bunch of “special projects”. Now, some special projects are very important, and help propel you to higher things. The “special projects” I mean more like sorting and alphabetizing the agency’s catalogs it gets from suppliers. Anything that might be nice to do but they could certainly do without.They’re probably getting ready to do without you.
- People don’t chat with you as readily as they used to. There are two reasons for this.One is that if they know the boss is after you, they don’t want the “guilt by association”. That is, if the boss sees or just hears of them talking to you, she might assume they’re on your side and thus they’re just as bad as (she believes) you are.
Another is that no one likes to be the bearer of bad news. That’s because many if not most people “kill the messenger” — they attack the person who just happens to tell them about bad stuff. The human mind hasn’t yet evolved to be clear about who’s saying stuff you don’t want to hear and who actually caused it. And if they don’t yet know that you know, they’re afraid of inadvertently telling you.
Sure it’s important that somebody warn you. Somebody else, that is.
- When you walk into a room, it goes quiet and everyone looks at you.Somebody might as well get a bullhorn, jump on the nearest table and go: “ATTENTION, ATTENTION! WE WERE ALL TALKING ABOUT YOU, AND NONE OF US WANTS TO TELL YOU WHAT IT’S ABOUT (OTHERWISE, WE’D’VE DONE THAT ALREADY). IN FACT, THE MOMENT YOU’RE GONE, WE’LL TALK ABOUT YOU SOME MORE!”
- You just had a serious disagreement with a customer or your boss. Or maybe even several co-workers, or a co-worker who’s popular, or anyone in public.
Forewarned is forearmed!