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The Day Job – Are my people better off?

Business team behind question marks

     Leaving an organization almost always comes with some introspection. If you’ve read much of the Day Job series, you already know the questions I want you to ask yourself on the way out: 
– Did you have a good time?
– Did we both get something out of this?
– Are you leaving on your terms?

     Those questions are all focused on you, and I want you to be able to say yes to those. But what about those colleagues and junior people you’re leaving behind? Here’s the best question I can think of:

– Are they better off because you were there?

     The answer to this can be yes in a number of ways, but the best way you’ll know is in those last few days, when people come and say goodbye, when you make those last sets of rounds, and you find out in the final hours how they measured your worth over the years. I can tell you from the experience that comes from far too many transfers that the value comes in saying yes, from not losing those few chances to do right for those in need, and being a mentor when possible.

     Unfortunately, you may also learn about the times you got it wrong. I hope there aren’t too many of those, because by then it’s too late.

Why ask at the end?
Why not ask your people now?

     If the normal question is “Are my people better of because I was here?” let’s change it to “Are my people better off because I am here, right now, today, doing whatever this Day Job is?”

Is the next person coming into my office going to be better off because of the answers I give or the information I can share?

When I go home at the end of the day, will the energy I’ll have spent benefited someone other than myself?

     That junior person thinking about asking you a question, taking that opportunity you’re offering, or just opening the email you’ve sent is asking the same thing, if he or she will benefit from interacting with you, if he or she is better off because you’re there, and in some cases, if it’s worth coming back for more of the same tomorrow.

What if your boss were to come to you and ask the question?

Are you better off today because I’m here?

What would your answer be?

     I think most of us would welcome the question from our boss and hopefully the adult conversation that would result. It would be impossible to say yes every day of the week, and it would take something pretty amazing to get everyone to say it in the same day, but more often than not, your boss probably thinks the answer is yes. I hope it is, because that says a lot about the organization you’re in and your attitude there.

I think there are three answers we could come up with if we ask our people this question:

1. Yes, and here’s why…

– This would be good, and you may be surprised that the person you’re talking to values something you do that you might not. We often need someone to remind us of what we’re doing right.

2. I don’t know. I don’t really have any goals, so I can’t really be better off regardless of whom my manager is.

– I know, this isn’t the most likely version of that answer, but it’s what the English-to-Jamie translator hears each time.

 3. No. I’m no better off because you’re here, and here’s why…

– This might get our guards up, but it’s still important, and you don’t get to judge the answer once you’ve asked the question. This is probably more important than listening to people tell you what you’re doing right. We need to hear about where we can improve just as often.

     Whether asking yourself this question when you look in the mirror, thinking of what you’d tell your boss if he asked, or if you were to go right out and ask instead of people coming to you in the last days, I think we can all learn a bit about our professional relationships and different goals in the workplace.

I know this article already has a lot of questions in it, but here’s a good one to end with:

– If you boss came asking and your answer is no, do you have the work environment that would allow you to honestly say no and why?

– Do your people?

Have a great week out there.

– JT


My good thing: The new Day Job coffee mug arrived.

DSCF1163You can get one here.

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