Did you ever feel like you just don’t fit in; especially at work?
I feel this way from time to time and I’ve been at my current job for years. I can only imagine what it’s like when you’re new to a company. It can be difficult to socialize with co-workers at a company function especially if it is with leaders in your organization. You may think “I feel like they’re Judging me” and guess what… they are. After all they are only human too and if you believe you can completely let your hair down at a social function then show up at work the next day and it is completely erased from the minds of everyone who witnessed you in such rare form then you are being naive.
I remember years ago, I went to an after hours event and there was this one person there who… well, let’s just say she got her money’s worth at the open bar. As the night went on the atmosphere became more relaxed and this person began a conversation with a high level manager over something rather inconsequential but they had opposing views on the topic and before long, she let the manager know what she really thought about him, his ability to make decisions, and what he and everyone else in the office felt about the way he treated people in the office.
People can’t just turn that off the next day and forget what happened and what was said. Even if they never speak of it again, it’s there. It’s lurking in the back of people’s minds. We’ve all heard these types of horror stories that ruin or severely damaged someone’s career but that is not the focus of this post. Let’s back away from the worst case scenario (above) and talk about just the tendency to shy away from corporate/company functions because of workload, fatigue, or even feelings of in adequacy that perpetuate the dread that often accompanies one of these “opportunities”. That dread may cause us to shy away from going or assigning a lower priority to what is also important but is by no means urgent.
Your Presence Is Requested:
This is going to sound strange but your attendance at these extra curricular activities and events are just as important to the upward mobility of your career as showing up to do the job.
Let me explain why.
Our People Are Our Most Important Asset:
We hear our Human Resource Team’s (HR) tell us all the time “our people are our most important asset”. In fact, we hear these types of general statements so often that we let them go in one ear and out the other.
Let’s think about this for a second. Companies spend hundreds of billions of dollars on its capital assets. I don’t know about you but when a hear that it makes me question the whole value proposition because in my mind there is no way people are worth that kind of money. I know this because my salary is a minuscule fraction of that amount; right? Well, your pay is not a true reflection of your value to a company (subject for another post). So, why do we continue to allow HR to make these types of blanket statements? Because its true for the following reasons.
- Capital assets don’t solve problems, people do.
- Capital assets don’t motivate the workforce, people do.
- Capital assets don’t maintain themselves, people maintain them.
- Capital assets don’t bring creative/innovative solutions to business, people do.
- Capital assets don’t care about social/environmental responsibility, people do.
- Capital assets don’t provide moral conscience to businesses, people do.
- Capital assets don’t increase sales, people do.
- Capital assets can’t establish an emotional connection to our customers, people can
- Our businesses’ customers are not capital assets, people are.
Brown Nose, Brown Nose, Everyone In Town Knows:
We’ve heard it said, “Only brownosers go to those events” or “I go to work, do my job and nobody notices and I’m not about to spend my time going to that event”. If you feel this way now and then, I want to challenge you to reframe the way you think about things.
Last thing first, going to work and doing a good job is a condition of employment. It falls under the category of “what have you done for me lately” where your company is concerned. You are probably right, no one does notice when you are doing your job well because that is what you’re supposed to be doing. Your supposed to be doing a good job while everyone else is trying to do the same thing; even the people that you’re mad at because they’re not noticing you.
Instead of being pissed off about it, how about taking some personal responsibility for the outcome by capitalizing on opportunities at company events or social functions where people aren’t busy working and actually has time to get to know you. These events provide a low profile platform where there is time for a one to one conversation and you have that opportunity to share your experiences or ideas (in a subtle way). This may be the time and place where those conversations convince people that your commitment to quality doesn’t end on the job, with what you do but It is actually, who you are.
Classifying people who do participate as brownosers should be a red flag to you. If you do this, you are making rash generalizations about people (never a good idea) who are taking seriously, the trust the company has placed in them by participating in the social culture of the company. It doesn’t have to be (nor should it be) about “trying to get a promotion”. We should attend these functions and share the unique gift of ourselves and become a part of something larger than ourself.
Think about it like church. Church is a community and it has a culture of its own, as well. We don’t attend church to be a brownoser. We attend for a common purpose, our faith. We participate because we want to be there not to get a promotion. The rewards are great (often intrinsic). However, occasionally extrinsic rewards are an outcome because we connect with people there on a personal level and as a result we end up patronizing businesses owed by people in our church. Why? Because, we want to do business with people we know and trust.
Whats the Difference? What do you think the most valuable asset of a church is? It’s the people.
It’s the same way in business; we believe! We believe in our products. We believe in the service we provide. We believe the value we offer is best most cost effective. Why do we believe these things? Because, we believe in or people and when like minded people come together for a common purpose, we believe we can achieve whatever we set out to do.
I Hate The Politics:
Get over it. There are politics everywhere, not just at work. If you go to the baseball game there are people in the box seats and and people in the bleachers but guess what. Regardless of whatever political BS it took to “score” the box seats, we all watched the same game.
Back to the church example, I love it when people tell me they don’t attend church because there are too many hypocritical people who do attend. I do not want to allow anyone to keep me from participating or belonging to something I believe in just because I may not agree with their views on every subject and every detail. I can’t think of anyone that I agree with on every subject, not even my family but I still go home every night.
Therefore, I challenge you to dissect what it is about the politics that you hate. Is it because (government or office) politicians are, in your mind, hypocritical or “fake”? No matter what the reasons you have to define them before you can change them and this could take years.
I don’t want to see you wait years to become larger a part of your companies’ greater, positive culture. Thats what average people do. I want you to rise above the temptation to settle for only coming to work, just doing your job and going home unsatisfied. You have to much to offer. I want you to recognize that and be confident in it. If you feel like you don’t fit in because people at these types of events are just trying to “fake-it until they make-it” or they lack authenticity then here are three things you can do to better fit in.
- Lean into your discomfort I can guarantee other people have reservations too.
- Commit to getting outside your comfort zone. Sign up for and schedule an event where you can practice.
- Rise Above Average and begin adding authenticity wherever you are.
That uncomfortable feeling, that you always have to be “On Your A Game” at these events will subside with practice but don’t ever let it completely go away. Thats called wisdom.
Until next time,
Rise Above Average, Stay Above Average and above all… Be Above Average!