By Jeff Altman
This morning, I was struck by how maddening careers can be.
We start off thinking we can enter the workforce, do great work, be recognized and rise through the ranks to an executive role with an organization that sees our work as extraordinary wants to reward us with money and authority.
When the reality of our first choice disappoints us, we realize that we are hired to be little more than ants in a big machine and are rewarded with 3% raises. We notice that people are being brought on from the outside to step into those positions we crave and some of them are quite deserving of the positions and we learn something from that. Sometimes, we see that the new hire is nothing more than an Emperor missing clothes . . . an empty suit who hypnotized management with wonderful stories on their interviews.
We are told how much management appreciates us and their behavior is incongruent with their words.
Little by little, there is an emotional death by a thousand cuts that occurs that leaves us hollow depleted of our desire to succeed and just try to get along.
I know that was true of me at the agency that I contracted through for many years. I was a solid performer from a sales standpoint but management, despite words to the contrary, really didn’t want me to succeed. It’s hard to imagine in a sales organization that management would go out of its way to interfere with a sales staff succeeding but many of you who work in sales (and many who don’t) have your versions of what I experienced. Management talking out of one side of its mouth and then saying, “Don’t look at what’s behind the curtain. Don’t notice the contradictions.”
I know parts of me tired and surrendered to accept mediocrity for years. Maybe the same is true of you, too.
You won’t be the leader you dream of being without rocking a boat or two.
You won’t be the man or woman you dream of being if you allow managers to instill fear in you with the implied or real threat of you losing your job unless you are an obedient slave boy or slave girl.
The responsibility of leadership is far greater than someone can imagine who has not held its mantle.