If you are a bad employee, don’t be shamed into believing there is something wrong with you.
First things first. This is not a piece about stealing from the company, punching the boss, or setting the place on fire. Those choices, while certainly actions of a bad employee, are also results of poor judgement. My problem is how poorly I fit into the mold most places expected of me. My hang up is there are so many people who do good work, are competent and show up every day, but because of the structure of work and the common actions of leadership, they are miserable. I am speaking for those of us who have gone to great jobs that people think we should love, and we hate it.
I am not a bad person.
I am bad at being an employee.
This is where the John Wayne type rides in and says, “It’s just a day’s work for a day’s wages, pilgrim, don’t take it personal,” but he’s wrong, and dead. We are stuck right in the middle of a dying, antiquated work model and an economic revolution that is changing the world. The idea that a monster company pays us tiny portions of their profit in trade for our time is a dying thought. What I am bad at is meeting the expectations of these jobs. Even the good jobs seem to require things from me that I’d rather not give. Here are three examples.
#1 — I am bad at taking orders.
I am very bad at taking orders from competent people, much less anyone I feel is less capable than me (and, given my predisposition to authority, that is most of them). As Jim Rohn used to say, I’d rather “take advice, not orders.” I have quit jobs that so many people would love to have, simply because of this. I don’t have a great argument for my stand either. I wish I could site a study, research or even an antidotal story to back up how I feel. All I can say is this isn’t right or wrong, it’s just true.
#2 — I hate seniority.
I really don’t care how long you have sat in one place. I don’t now, nor have I ever judged a quality leader by the amount of time they have put into a project. If you think that the amount of time spent is a reflection of quality, you should take a drink of your New Coke, write a note on your Apple Newton and drive away in your Ford Edsel. The market doesn’t reward time, it rewards quality, effectiveness and value. Unfortunately, sitting in one place doing the same thing over and over almost never results in these traits. It results in promotion.
#3 — My time is much too precious.
I can’t believe that companies still give money to people for their time. The idea baffles me. The same companies that pay us by the hour expect results in that hour, so let’s just cut out the middle man and pay me for results. Let me make a contribution, improve the safety, build in efficiency or something that makes me feel valuable. It is proven that money is a bad motivator and trading time for money is even worse. In Dan Pinks book Drive he explains that what we are doing is much more valuable to us than how much we get paid to do it.
The idea that we are to punch a clock, do what the boss says all day, punch out and repeat for the majority of our life is dying. Contract workers, freelancers and side gigs are enveloping modern day work. This change is not because of the internet, (though it helped) de-regulation, (though it opened doors) or Donald Trump (I really don’t know why you even brought him up). This change is coming about, like most changes, because people want it. We want to have the freedom to create, make what we want, be effective and competent. We strive for greatness and to be rewarded for that greatness. The old business model of employees working under a non-motivating leader, for a wage kills all of that.
I don’t want my greatness or creativity killed. I want to go for broke, do my best, out work the lazy ones who do the same thing day in and day out. I want to feel alive when I work. I want to make change and not by standing at a cash register. This drive to grow and make a dent in the universe makes me happy and makes big things happen. But it also makes me a horrible employee.
If you are a bad employee, don’t be shamed into believing there is something wrong with you. You may just be in the wrong place. The world is waiting for your unique contribution. Start today! Self-publish a book, sell something on Fiverr or make better soap. There has never been a better time to get into the game. This isn’t a get out of work ticket. In fact, if you take on the freelance or entrepreneur route, be ready to work harder than you are used to. If you are smart you’ll keep that crummy day job until the market begins to reward your uniqueness. But one day you will look back on this moment as the moment you chose a path, you either gave up dreaming and became a good employee, or decided to go after what you want.
Which one will it be?
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