Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Making it as a professional vs Minding your P's and Q's.

There are days when it seems like I am from the last generation of people taught to lead their lives based on some basic tenants:

- Always say please and thank you.
- Be respectful of and never speak back to your elders.
- Don't start a fight just for the sake of arguing.
- If you're going to speak, make sure you've got something to say.

It was morals and belief systems like these that shaped most of my generation in our youth. And our parents, bless our parents, by and large did a good enough job at hammering these things into our little psyches so that we still remember them to this day. More than even remembering, they are ingrained deep into our minds and our mannerisms.

This is great....fantastic, really! Thanks to people like my mom and dad, there are adults like myself running around who always say please and thank you, always hold doors for others, never fail to bless even strangers when they sneeze. We defer to our elders, and we don't make waves when riding out the tide would be easier for everyone involved.

So my question is: how can one balance these basic principles of not being a complete jackass with having a successful professional life?

It's counterintuitive, if you think about it. People such as myself, we make good and do good by remembering our manners and respecting those who are meant to be shown respect. And then...we enter the work world, and suddenly we're not 'assertive' enough. We need to 'speak up' more. We should 'share our opinions' on every little thing from where to have the office lunch to what color to make the logo. And...you know...that is fine. Except, people such as myself sometimes find ourselves shrugging our shoulders and saying 'I can eat wherever.' or 'Black...red....gray...I like them all.' And we're not just SAYING it...we really CAN see the logo in any of those colors, and no matter what we think it'll look great. Is there really anything wrong with that?

Well, yes and no, I suppose. I've never been known as a good decision maker. I will suffer through dinner at Res Lobster - despite being staunchly anti-seafood - if it's what everyone else wants and I can just get a Diet Coke and a salad. I have no problem with the gray OR the red OR the black in the logo. I think it's a bonus to be laid back and adaptable to change. But sometimes, I suppose, in the professional world it is important to be able to make snap decisions and decisevely choose black over gray.

So, what is a girl to do? I can't very well just ignore my mom and dad's teachings whispering to me 'Be nice to that woman, even if she never follows through - after all she's your elder.', can I? And am I supposed to fabricate a strong opinion on green file folders vs blue when really I don't see the damn difference? How do I balance these conflicting parts of my life: the teachings of my parents (which, by the way, I refuse to forget because I think these things also happen to be the markers of decent and kind human beings) vs the expectations places on modern professionals?

I don't have the answer. But I do wonder if anyone else out there does.

2 comments:

Jennifer said...

I can relate to everything you wrote. I am the exact same way. Kevin and I sometimes feel we're the only ones left on the planet who say please and thank you, or hold the door for people. I don't know what ever happened to good old common courtesy, but a lot of people seem to be lacking in that department. Making decisions at work has never been something I wanted to do, hence the reason I've never strived to be a manager. I don't want to be the one to tell people they suck at their job (although there are some days I'd like to, but that's another matter) and I sure in hell don't want to be the decision maker. I can't decide which is best because it really doesn't matter enough for me to care, but then once a decision is made someone will inevitably hate it and I'll doubt myself. I'd rather just be the hard worker who makes a nice paycheck and doesn't have to say "yea, definitely the red logo. Oh and I hate that place for lunch, I want to go to ___ instead." No thanks. Just not me. The logo color can be orange for all I care and wherever we go for lunch, it's likely I won't like it because I'm picky but I can always find a burger or salad on the menu.

Tabitha said...

Aw Kate! You are right... our generation may be the last ones to actually care about another's feelings over our own. Just remember, it's ok to be indecisive so long as you are also willing to stand up for yourself! Next time you are suggested Red Lobster for lunch (which I think is nasty... their saving grace are those little chedder bay biscuits!), say you'd prefer Sweet Tomato! You have a beautiful mind and I know you have the balls to say it... so do it every so often... people will realize that you'll speak up when something really bothers you, and you'll go with the flow the rest of the time!

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