“No, no, no, Lisa. If adults don’t like their jobs, they don’t go on strike. They just go in every day and do it really half-assed.”
- Homer Simpson
So if there is one constant on this blog, it's probably that I complain about my job. A lot. Without being too harsh on my employer, it's worth noting that I think a lot of my criticism of my workplace is completely valid, and that it is more than shared by many of my co-workers.
That being said, I have been pleasantly surprised with how much better work has been in 2010. I mentioned a few months back that I switched teams at work, and to be honest, being under new management has really helped. My supervisor is fantastic. She does a great job of managing our work loads and organizing our assignments for us, and she says thank you and recognizes people for their work. It's amazing how something as small as a "thank you" can really make you feel, well, like what you're doing isn't a pointless waste of time.
I don't think I ever brought it up before, but for about 6 months last year, I was doing the work of 2.5 people pretty much all by myself. One of the developers who was supposed to be on the team was being unofficially farmed out to another project, and the other developer who was supposed to be dividing her time between dev work and a new management position on the team ended up spending most of her time doing management work. As a result, I got stuck with most of our development work, but because on paper it looked like I was only doing the work of one person, I never got any credit for it. (This includes not getting paid for all the hours of overtime I put in trying to get all my work done.) If anything, I caught flack any time the quality of my work dropped off or I had to request to have a deadline pushed back. My HR supervisor gave me a really hard time about it and basically told me flat out that he thought I was a slacker. When I told him that the only way to resolve my "performance issues" was either to give me official overtime to do it in or to cut back on my work load, he just went "Huh" and started to make suggestions like check lists.
It was frustrating. I worked my ass off, and I got worse than nothing in return from my entire team. I became an employee who came with a warning label (no, really, they warned my new supervisor about me when I switched teams and told her I wasn't able to code and that I liked to surf the internet a little too much) for little other reason than complete mismanagement of resources and projects on my previous team. Not super surprisingly (at least not to me), after I left the team, the person they'd move into the management position for the team got taken out of the position, and they hired a third developer. My HR supervisor was suddenly willing to entertain the idea that maybe I hadn't been lying about all the work I had to do.
And despite the warnings given to my new project supervisor, she pretty much treated me like a blank slate when I started. When I told her what I was capable of, she actually let me prove it, instead of simply saying that I couldn't and passing me over. And when I showed repeatedly that I could do high-quality work quickly, she recognized that I was doing a great job. We had a meeting at the end of last year to discuss my performance on the team, and it was overwhelmingly positive, and she passed along her review to both her HR supervisor and mine.
I have received more thank you's and kudos in the last 4 months than I received in the entire 20 months prior. That feels good. And in turn, that makes me feel better about my job. I feel like I'm actually kind of useful.
In January, I got put on a project for another team while my team was experiencing a lull. I got to work with one of our new managers and an entire team I've never had the opportunity to work with before. I did a good job and, I think, was much more useful than they expected. It was really fun working with new people, too, because they didn't have any preconceived notions about me. They treated me like a valued and respected coworker, someone who was their equal and not just some dumb kid who spends too much time on teh intarwebz.
While I know I shouldn't let myself be so easily influenced by how I am treated at work--I should be committed to quality regardless--when you feel like what you are doing doesn't matter or that people aren't paying attention, so who cares if you do a good job?, your work will be influenced by that. There has been a definite shift though in the past few months where I feel like people are paying attention and my contributions matter. There are people invested in me, and that, in turn, makes me feel more invested in my job. I no longer cringe every time I start on a new assignment because I know it's going to be a wasted effort. It's now an opportunity to show what I'm capable of.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned here, I think. That if you want good employees, you should be good to your employees. That you can't expect people to grow if you shove them in a dark corner and deprive them of water. That you shouldn't let yourself become jaded--keep pushing for new opportunities to prove yourself. And when you get a second chance to do that, don't let it pass you by.
I'm actually kind of excited about some of the things going on at work now, and this has inspired me to work harder and push harder and prove that I am capable of a whole lot more than I have been allowed to show. Now that I have the opportunity, I'm running with it.