I played Aunt Agony to a junior of mine in the team at work the other day, and ended up spending more than an hour trying to “counsel” her and providing with a different opinion of the situation that she is in.
Here’s a brief background.
This junior of mine is one of the youngest in the team, not just in terms of experience within the organisation itself, but also collectively her experience in the line of work that we are in. Having said that, she is a very smart, capable and ambitious young lady, and I have a good relationship with her and personally feels that she has the potential to go further in her career.
Currently, she feels stifled in her career. She thinks that she is not given the opportunities to learn new things nor progress in her career, and in particular, feels that her direct manager is stifling her growth, by giving her “meaningless” tasks to do, like updating of databases, etc., which she feels are pretty junior tasks. In addition, she feels that she is playing secretary to another member in the team (also a junior) and is frustrated by his inability to perform well at his job, even though they might be pretty simple functions.
The most important point though is this – she feels that the work she does is not reflected in her title. And the title does not reflect what she’s capable of. To be honest, I do think that she has the potential to go for one more round of promotion. The unfortunate thing though is this – she was promoted twice within a year, and as such, the next promotion probably won’t come so soon for her. (Considering organisations have certain protocols to follow regarding promotions. Imagine the ire of the people and colleagues around you when you are promoted and they have been passed on so many times. That of course, is a separate story and issue.)
Basically, I laid out 3 points for her.
1. You will not always get to choose what you want to do at work
We are paid for what we do, in our job, in our career. And more often than not, the unfortunate thing is that we might not get to choose to do the thing that we really want to do. For instance, you might need to cover for another team member when they are away from work, or perhaps due to manpower constraint, we might have to end up doing more than what we could do.
Sharing with her my experience, as a more senior member of the team, I am expected to do “higher-level” work as well but the truth of the matter is, I am still doing pretty mundane stuff on a daily basis, like printing of brochures, or even liaising with fedex on delivery, updating of data bases etc. The way the work is structured within our team is such that no matter how senior you are, we will still need to work on some pretty “low-level” tasks whenever that is required.
And I am sure that is the same in a lot of other organisations.
2. A promotion is not just about your capability
To illustrate this point, I used a pretty cliche Chinese idiom – “天时，地利，人和” which essentially translates to “the time is right, geographical and social conditions are favorable”. What this means is that sometimes, the flow of things depends not just on oneself, but also the nature of the situation, and whether that situation favours you might unravel an outcome that could be favourable to you. Or not.
In her case, I mentioned that she was promoted twice in a year (which is an excellent indication of the recognition of her work as well as achievements.) As such, even though she is good enough to go for another round of promotion, realistically speaking, it will be tough. I was explaining to her that for the next round of promotion, other members of the team will also be taken into consideration. We have other team members who have been with us for almost 2 and 3 years respectively and never yet promoted. Should there be an upcoming round of promotion, it is highly likely that it will be them before it will rotate back to her.
3. Think about what you want
“The grass is always greener on the other side.”
We might feel that our current situation is not favourable to us and that there are other places that will be more suitable. That could be right. But having said that, there might also exists not so pleasant elements that manifest in the new environment, which we might not yet be aware of now.
I was been brutally honest with her here – if she feels that the current environment makes her so miserable, perhaps it’s not the right environment for her. As a matter of fact, I have also received feedback from other members of the team about how negative she has been feeling, in addition to a-not-so-pleasant attitude occasionally at work. Negativity spreads. It will affect the people around you, not just your colleagues, or your families and it might inadvertently put a strain on the relationships somehow. It is not healthy, both mentally and physically to be feeling misery all the time at work and thus affecting the dynamics of the team. To me, she is like a younger sister, yet at the same time, a junior, a compatriot at work and I would wish to have the best for her. However, if she does choose to depart ultimately, I would totally respect that choice, and will wish her all the best in her future endeavour.
After all, no one is indispensable.
I am not sure how much she was able to absorb and digest after the long conversation. But she seemed to be in pretty deep thoughts and thanked me profusely for sharing my experience and thoughts with her.
I shared this with Dave and told him how different it is for me right now. Perhaps I am at this stage of life, where I am “comfortable” with my current status, and yet at the same time, having a clear sense of the direction where I am moving on to. Adopting minimalism was one of the best choices I have ever made and our common pursue towards a common goal is also something that makes it worth pursuing and engaging in. My junior is still young, single (not yet married), and she has a lot of fire and ambition. And I can understand that frustration that she might feel sometimes, as there are a lot of things in life that probably doesn’t necessarily pan out the way you want, despite making your best effort.
It’s upsetting. It’s excruciating.
That feeling of helplessness.
But I think the great thing for her is, she tried to fight for what she wanted. She spoke with me. She spoke with her direct manager. She told us her thoughts. She told us what she wants.
And this is something that not everyone has the guts to do.
At the end of the day, no matter what the outcome is, at least she tried. And she made a decision.
And we will move on from there.
For such, is life. Albeit just a small episode or prelude of what is to come later.