Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When Your Responsibilities Conflict

How can you tell when the synergy between your two career management responsibilities (referred to here: Responsibility to Yourself and Your Employer) are in conflict with each other? (Hey wait a second! Did you see how I did that? I linked to myself!)

Right out of grad school I worked for a theatre company in the Midwest.  My closest colleague was a woman who was by any measure old. Not just at-the-end-of-her-career old, but actually elderly, much closer to being an octogenarian than anyone else I will ever work with. She had spent more than 30 years working a desk job for a major airline, retired, started drawing her pension, and then for reasons I don't think I will ever understand she went back to work fulltime in an environment fraught with temperamental artists and last minute scrambling to get the job done. Our desks actually touched. Our phones were inches apart. She wore a heap of makeup the likes of which clowns don't even know.

It was like working with my grandmother every day and was every bit the struggle you would imagine working with someone who was born before the Great Depression would be. Her status quo was complaining about everything. The job was fast paced, entailed a lot of night and weekend hours, and had a fair amount of crisis management involved. We'd go 2-3 weeks straight with no days off and were often on call at all hours. (Theatre sounds great doesn't it?!) By nature this person was cranky and when things got tough she was downright unbearable. 

The problem was her unbearableness was a secret to nobody. Actors, directors, stage managers, and other staff members all could see it plain as day. People would often pull me aside privately to talk about what could be done. The only one who didn't realize this, besides her that is, was our boss who was obviously the one who kept her around. It made no sense.

There was a conflict somewhere between her responsibility to herself and to the company. In some way she was not getting what she needed on a personal level from the job and she took it out on everyone from the company to her coworkers. Mind you, this is someone who had retired before and could do so again but she chose to work and thus chose to be seemingly miserable.

To answer the question above, you should be able to tell when there's a conflict between your responsibilities. You can probably look at some of your coworkers and see this happening, although hopefully it isn't as bad as I experienced. If you have to, ask someone how they and others perceive you. Ask yourself if you dread going to work every day, doing certain parts of your job or seeing and interacting with certain coworkers. If you do find a conflict then for the sake of your own happiness and the happpiness of those around you, seriously consider making a change.

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