If we were men in some great battle, our pain would be physical. The greatest warrior would be our leader; our general. He would wield a sword and you would respect his command for two reasons: 1) Because he is great and 2) because you fear him.
But these days the wrath of our general is delivered in a conference room rather than on the battlefield. The sword has been replaced by a Smartphone. Bows and arrows have been substituted by stern emails and carefully selected recipients in the CC and BCC fields (don’t you love it when someone CC’s your boss for no reason?) Our armor is who we know and how well they like us. Motivation in the workplace has gone from the desire to do your best into a simple will of survival. And worst of all: We let ourselves be hypnotized into this form of mind control.
Serving the Hand that Feeds You?
One of my customers made a comment that if his boss were to leave the company they work for, he would likely follow him to wherever he goes. Perhaps maybe they have a great working relationship. Or perhaps maybe this boss is such a mentor that the only way this individual gets motivated is to work solely for him.
Or maybe this person is just scared ….
Are our careers really so dependent upon the opinion of one man or woman? Will you let them be?
The Unfortunate Truth About Motivation in the Workplace:
Unfortunately, there are many indicators that seem to suggest that this form of mind control can and does exist.
What motivates us at work is no longer the satisfaction we feel from a job well done or an increase in pay. Rather it’s the manipulation of the opinions of others and how they affect effect our working (and ultimately our personal) lives. Inspiration comes less from the common good and more from an innate desire to “not be next” on the workplace chopping-block.
Make no mistake: If there is something they don’t really teach you in college as you’re preparing for your first big professional job, it’s the fact that so much of your career, future, and relative income will be dependent upon your ability to please the right people. You don’t have to make everyone happy; just the ones that can could potentially stunt your occupational growth and severely limit your opportunities.
This is an unfortunate but very true danger that many people don’t even realize until it’s too late. And you can’t ignore it. Once the damage is done, it’s very difficult to undo.
Not long ago I wrote a commentary on workplace gender inequality that was based on an article I read about a billionaire who openly admitted he felt women couldn’t be as good of stock traders as men. You can think anything you want about the man who said that or the way things “should be”. But at the end of the day, make no mistake: This billionaire was in charge and likely going to get away with being biased towards his employees. More sickening is the fact that without a doubt his bias has most certainly infected the entire culture of his employees and the way they look, act, and think about each other.
The Cycle Has Always Been a Part of Our Lives:
It’s a very strange paradigm of beliefs we instill within ourselves. We start by raising our children not to judge or hold prejudice. We tell them that all people are created equal and that all opportunities are out there for the taking if you can just set your mind to it. Some people grow up to proudly defy all odds and conquer the world. But that is only a small percentage. For the rest of us working class folks, we find ourselves at the mercy of other people’s opinions right from the very start of our workplace entry:
- The interview process is based just as much (if not more) on the opinion of those interviewing as it does your actual talents and skills
- The success of your first assignment with the company is based on the opinion of whoever you work for. If they are fair, they may say you did well. If they are a tyrant, they may only point out your faults and tell other people of your criticisms.
- Unless your raise or performance bonus is written into your contract or company policy, this is certainly an area that is based on the whims and attitudes of others. Please the Masters and you will be rewarded handsomely. However, if you do good work and DO NOT win their affections, you still stand to see your income opportunities severely reduced.
- Managers will only give those whom they trust a shot at the next big promotion or on the ladder to senior level. Piss off the wrong people and you’ll be stuck in workplace purgatory for forever.
Motivate Yourself into Action:
While I wish there was some great solution or escape route to offer you, I fear that my efforts would be in vain. Even the late, great authority on management and workplace motivation Peter Drucker with all his authorship and books on the subject could not offer any perfect resolution. But then again few things in life ever do have one solution.
What matters is not so much what happens to us but rather how we react to them. And there are certainly lots of reactions that can happen at the workplace that are within your control:
- Fight it.
- Change positions.
- Work with other people.
- Change jobs.
- Start your own business.
No matter how you decide to react or find the right motivation, you should know: The equation will always stay in equilibrium until someone changes the inputs and throws off the balance. If you want things to change, you have to introduce something new into the system. Otherwise nothing will ever change.
And while you yourself may not have much impact in the area of mind control over the thoughts and actions of others, there is simply one thing you can do to combat this phenomenon: Not buy into it.
When you become the boss, when you become in charge of the lives of others, remember how you felt and don’t let the cycle continue. Just because you excel doesn’t mean that you can’t still hold your ideals.
Always remember that the whole thing is a game – a game to be won. There will be winners and there will be losers. The question is how do you survive your workplace long enough to be a winner?
I tend to write a lot of reflective posts on My Money Design. But if I had to choose a favorite, it would be a piece I wrote a few months back called Believing In Yourself After Finding Out That You Suck. It was simply something that I felt and wanted to serve as a reminder to myself that no matter what people think of your work you can still drive yourself to success. I still believe that to be true. Remember that you are both your only cheerleader and your only judge of your performance. If you want real motivation in the workplace, look for it within yourself. If you want to be critical, be open and honest with yourself and you will find it in the same place. But don’t fall under the spell of others. Be your own person with a good set of priorities. They will take you further than anything else ever will.
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