I was volunteering in a job mentoring program and reviewing a participant’s job history which included several short-term jobs. When I asked him why he left each position he replied “It was the people.” After hearinghim repeat this four consecutive times, my polite-self left and I said “You’re the People!”
He looked startled and said, “What?” I explained that he hadtwo options. He could get a restraining order against these people who were stalkinghim from job to job, or he could look at himself—the common denominator. Hebecame quiet, looked angry, and hesitantly said, “You may be right.” After this,we discussed creating a stable job history, dealing with conflict, and the artof transitioning without the blame-game.
Sometimes you have to look at your people (me,myself and I) first and with honesty to get to the root cause of your stateof discontent or transition. This is hard for most of us because blaming others is much easier thanexamining the clues that our successes and failures tend to leave. Like anyother investigation, ours should establish the facts from the clues, and evaluatethem to surmise an objective conclusion. Depending on your objectivity, youwill end up with the ugly truth or a pretty lie. The ugly truth will provideinsight behind your discontentment or constant state of transition, and apretty lie will constantly keep you in a place where you are “Swinking”- not quite swimming, not quite sinking. “Swinking” iswhere you will find:
· Short-term job hoppers—blaming “the people” forpushing them out
· Frequently downsized people—blaming unstablecompanies versus their unstable performances
· Fired people—blaming it on the company or boss whoobviously had it in for them
When ‘your people’ are out of sync and living the ‘prettylie’ it creates a defiant victim with a narrative that only speaks to whom and what is working against them. I often ask people who are terminated, “what did youlearn?” and very few learned anything about themselves. They talk about whatthey learned about the bad company, manager, coworkers, or industry. But whenwe start examining their clues, we often find that months before theirtermination:
· Their workload was significantly reduced OR
· Another person was hired with similar responsibilitiesOR
· They were reassigned to a junior department/responsibilities
In other words, they started becoming insignificant andthey didn’t do anything about it. They didn’t try to fix the problem, look foranother job, or discern what was happening…they just kept showing up whiledisappearing.
Most of us see what we want to see, when we want to see it,because the truth typically leads us to places we don’t want to go. Unfortunately, it’s not just a people thing,but a company thing too.
Companies have their own strategies for avoiding the ugly truth.One I’ve commonly seen is to “reassign” ineffective senior executives insteadof terminating them. They would announce that “Bob” is leavinghis current position to work on a special project. You may see Bob in the hallways for a fewweeks faking excitement about his special project and then, after a few months,you notice that Bob is gone.
Even though most of us know the “special project” tale, we playalong while betting on Bob’s disappearance…will it be 30 or 60 days after the announcement? It’s one of those sad ‘why didn’t he see it coming, because wedid!’ events from the history of workplace cautionary tales.
The bottom-line: you can’t afford to be clueless in this dynamic world where companies are looking for contributors. Once you feel like youaren’t contributing, it would behoove you to confer with ‘your people’ firstand your manager second to determine if you are missing something or if you arebecoming a missing person. Sometimes lessons knock softly and sometimes they break downthe door. But in either case, you should ask yourself, what are your results honestly telling you?