In show business, there is a saying “Never work with children or animals”. Some days, actually most days, I feel the same could be said for office life. Today was one of those days…
I have never been one for office politics or for playing games when it comes to my personal or professional life. To me, a job is a job, and as a consultant and contractor who typically stays at a place for not more than 6-12 months, I see my job as working with a client on whatever the project happens to be, deliver it and get out in the quickest possible time. My motto, and I say this to people often, is “You win, I win. You fail, I fail.” That is what teamwork is all about. So why is it that some people feel like it is their life’s mission to make your life hell?
Companies these days make employees attend compulsory training for all sorts of things: Anti-Money Laundering laws, Trade Practices Act, sexual harassment laws (I always think those online training courses are giving people ideas for bad pickup lines!), anti-discrimination laws, Occupational Health & Safety (anyone care to learn how to pick up a box? Hint #1: move closer to the box then bend your knees…oh and pick the lightest box!), etc.
And at job interviews, you’re either asked extremely outdated questions like “Where do you see yourself in 5 yrs’ time?” (Hint #2: it is extremely bad form to reply “Be your boss!”) or “What are your strengths/weaknesses?” (Hint #3: how much you can bench press is not a strength – unless you’re going for a job as a personal trainer, and how big your bum looks in that dress is not a weakness – unless you’re a model).
There is an organisation which mandates that every employee be trained on taking ownership and following up (the acronym is synonymous with a soy product and I don’t have to tell you what the alternative interpretations of the “FU” might be). And each week, the entire organisation is required to spend 15 mins discussing ways of improving service to internal and external clients. I would say it was time well-spent if it wasn’t so tedious and the answers so obvious each week. It all boils down to the same basic principles of professionalism and work ethic.
Can professionalism be taught? There are classes on ethics and ethical behaviour but that usually refers to ethical questions like “should you take that gift from a client in order to give them a pass in their tax audit?” or “can I quote the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica (sorry I’m old school but not old!) in my history essay as long as I reference it all in my footnotes?” (Hint #4: answer to both questions is No).
This is what being professional means to me:
- aim to do your best each and every time
- take responsibility for your actions and your deliverables – don’t be afraid to make mistakes but take responsibility for them when they happen (even the “Fonz” admitted he was wrong on the odd occasion)
- be proactive and anticipate – raise awareness where necessary
- help your team achieve the end goal – I repeat “you win, I win”
- give credit where credit is due – recognition is important or no one is going to want to work with you again
- knowledge is power – use it, share it but don’t abuse it
I am not saying that I expect everyone to follow my rules – I would just like to know what the rules are when I join a new team so I can be more prepared..otherwise it is just like working with children or animals – unpredictable, messy and frustrating. And please don’t change the rules mid-stream…it is too hard to keep up.
Oh and in case you were wondering about the title of this post, Office of Professional Responsibility (or OPR) is the equivalent of Internal Affairs but for the FBI – I learnt that watching television (“White Collar” to be precise…I just had to throw that in! See Mum, I can learn something from TV!)