I’ve lived a pretty cool life when it comes to work. I’m not saying that I loved every job that I’ve ever had. But, I do think that I learned a lot from each one and when it comes down to it, I think that each one was an important step. Even those jobs that were, when it comes down to it, AWFUL (I’m looking at you, “picking strawberries for a summer”) had some value. Each job I held was a temporary stop where I learned things (like that it’s awful to pick strawberries for a summer) and then moved on to something else on the path to where I am now, a self-employed freelancer, the most fun and occasionally terrifying job I’ve ever had. It is this concept that makes me so sad when I see good people laboring in bad jobs.
What’s a good person? A good person is someone that wants to work. They’ve got a skill set that is useful and they’ve got the tools to help businesses succeed. They WANT to work, they WANT to help and they WANT to learn. These people will stick a job out because they have a strong worth ethic and they want to be successful. They value creativity and flexibility.
What’s a bad job? A bad job is where the employee isn’t given the responsibility or power to help businesses succeed and aren’t able to use the tools they have to get the job done. They don’t value creativity or flexibility and they suck people into sticking them out without providing any ability to truly succeed in a meaningful way.
So, as you can imagine, matching up good people with bad jobs is not something that works well. In fact, bad jobs are a good way to turn good people bad. But is it possible to make a bad job good? And can that change provide good people with the pride and pleasure they need to enjoy their job? I think so.
One of the things that I heard often from employees is that they’re not given enough responsibility at work. It happens, REGULARLY. The reason, I think, is that managers often don’t have enough confidence in their employees. They believe that it is better to give their workers a series of tasks rather than true roles and responsibilities. Managers have a lot on their plate (or at least pretend to) and creating a powerful and useful succession path for employees can be difficult. At the bare minimum, it’s work and managers often don’t have time to do that work because they’re either overworked or underachieving.
So if managers aren’t willing to give you responsibility, what can you do? Simple. TAKE responsibility. First, start by taking a look at the tasks, processes and duties within your company. Find the pain point. Every company has an area or areas that they’re not very good at. It’s a place where they’re failing. Almost everyone sees it. Every employee knows their business sucks at SOMETHING. Employees need to think like entrepreneurs because REALLY that’s what they are. Corporate entrepreneurship is about finding solutions to problems within your company, just like “regular” entrepreneurship is about finding solutions to problems within the world as a whole. So, start by figuring out the answer to the following question; “What is wrong with my company?”
Once you’ve figured out something that is wrong with your company, start to think about how you can fix it. At this point, DON’T tell your boss what you’re working on. Make sure you’re getting your work done and that you’re not sacrificing your performance. When you think you’ve figured out the solution to what’s wrong with your company, THEN you go to your boss and you tell them the following things;
- This won’t be more work for them. You will take total responsibility for this task.
- This will not get in the way of your existing work. You will ensure that this is managed either outside of your work or within work, during downtime (assuming that’s a thing).
- This will do one of 2 things. It will either save/make the company money or it will save the company time. IF your solution doesn’t do one of these two things, it is NOT a solution.
You don’t just say, “Hey, I think we should do this.” YOU champion the cause. This is YOUR baby. YOU are in control. You’re going to ask your boss for the permission to proceed and take responsibility for this solution. If your boss says no, walk away. Not just from the task. Walk away from the job. Obviously if your boss gives you an incredibly compelling reason, fine, but if after all of this your boss just says, “no thanks”, this job is a dead end and you need to find a new one.
How does taking responsibility for a task like this change the job from bad to good? Jobs are bad because you don’t feel valued. By taking, not being given, TAKING responsibility within your company you CREATE your value. And MAYBE that’s what your company needs in order to finally GIVE you more responsibility or maybe it’s what another company needs to see in order to steal you from your current company. Whatever the case, taking personal responsibility for making your shitty situation better will make things better. Maybe not immediately. But it will. What’s the worst that can happen? The worst is that you could continue trudging along in a job you don’t like, for people you don’t respect. THAT’S the worst that could happen…the situation you find yourself in…RIGHT NOW.