Photo by JC Gellidon
There are a lot of myths and legends about work, how it works and how do survive and thrive while you are there. Some of them seem more true than others but, to be honest, they are all contextual because it depends on the culture of the place you are in. What goes in one office is totally taboo in another. Whats incredible is how much these “rules” guide us and often make us very unhappy in the process. Over the years, I have encountered plenty of them, but here are 5 particularly damaging ones:
Success means having to climb the career ladder
This is something society pushes at us quite hard. It is also reinforced by going to school where we are rewarded for doing well and at the end of each year, we take a step up the ladder. By the time people get to work, this pattern is very established in our minds. The truth is, not everyone wants to or is a position to get to the “top” and sometimes it is hard admit to - either just to ourselves or in public. I often coach people who have very mixed feelings about where to go next in their careers because of this type of belief.
I need to make an amazing impression all the time.
This is a really dangerous one. Yes, avoiding mistakes, from terrible career bloopers to typos, is 100% recommended, but the fear of making mistakes can be so inhibiting, it can lead to nothing getting done at all. I talk to people who lose sleep, family and holiday time because they feel the need to make every output, every email, every presentation into a work of art.
Whats needed here is some perspective: how much does it matter? Is the extra effort worth it? For this second question, I’d challenge you to find evidence to back your answer. I know people who spend days scouring the internet for perfect images for presentations, which is lovely of course, but makes no difference to anyone in the big scheme of things. The big question for this situation is “is it really worth it?” And if it isn’t a resounding Yes” then its time to make your peace with good enough!
Saying “no” is a career killer!
This is a myth I certainly bought into in the past. I would say “yes” to anything because I thought saying “no” would totally scupper my career. I eventually learned that if you say “yes” to too many things, you just get asked to do more and more until you are so overwhelmed you start malfunctioning. And, it turns out that saying yes to something you later are unable to deliver on is the career killer, not saying no! It took me a long time to learn that one! A great way of managing your workload is to be open abut your other commitments and get feedback on priorities before you make a decision about picking up or dropping tasks.
Asking for help makes you look stupid/incompetent
This, to be honest, can be a cultural issue. I have worked in places where it was obvious that if you admitted you could do with a bit of support somehow indelibly marred your track record forevermore. Ugh! The worst thing is that not getting help when you need it can be more damaging - for the person and for the organisation. The individual gets discouraged and is likely to start to be less effective and that impacts on the organisation because its needs are being served less optimally.
Sometimes, its just easiest to do it myself
This is a killer.Learning to trust others, to give guidance when needed and then stand back and let them get on with it can feel very exhausting and scary. The big fear is that they won’t do a great job and it will reflect badly on everyone. Which leads us to think that we’ll only have to re-work their efforts later, so why not do it now? That may make sense in the sort term but it’s also a terrible trap. Because you are not letting them learn how to help you, you set up a scenario where you can never step away from the tasks you always do in order to take on new challenges and grow new skills yourself. Over time, you will start to feel weighed down by the burden of all the tasks you are responsible for and maybe you will notice that your less encumbered colleagues are making better career progress than you are!
So, it’s very well worth challenging ourselves about what we believe to be true about how work works because it may help us see what is getting in the way of enjoying our time at work. Like fish having no sense of the fact that they are swimming in water, many of these beliefs are invisible to us at first. Coaching can help you explore your thoughts in a way that you may not be able to do alone. Give me a call if you want to find out more!
25 years experience in helping teams build user centred products and services, now helping digital colleagues learn how to bounce back better than before from the challenges life throws at us from time-to-time.