Everything happens in threes, including our progression through the phases of our jobs. I’ve even started touting my theories in professional conversations, like my recent one-year annual review. Since one of my professional friends said, “there is no original thought,” don’t deride me if you’ve heard this before under some psychologist’s scientific research; it’s common observations I’ve gathered through 25 years of on-the-job experience. Of course, my research is ‘by me, for me, about me’.
In phase 1, we walk though our new job’s pearly glass doors ‘ready for the day’ saying “good morning, how d’ya do?” to everybody. We are ready to tackle…anything. The unknown. I’ve ironed my clothes; I’ve sworn that I will not be reduced to wearing a 20-year old gap sweatshirt at this job; I’ve promised myself that I will not fall prey to office politics; I will not gossip; I will keep to myself and keep my head down. Sound familiar?
Oh, the Excitement of a new job, not the least of which motivation might be a higher paycheck. Although money may not be the only reason, right? Respect, location, freedom, title, and hours are some of the endless good reasons to make the switch to a new job. It’s the excitement of achieving whatever our goal may be that ignites the urge to change.
The dawn of a new day.
When we do what we need to do, because it needs to be done, we’ve entered Maintenance mode. It isn’t thrilling to do it anymore, but it’s comfortable and we get a feeling of accomplishment. We get things done and that alone feels good. We’ve found our routine, our niche where our paycheck rewards us satisfactorily for the effort we produce. Our work ethic lies here in the middle…we are neither here to impress nor here to abuse. I would hope that long-term employees, anybody who isn’t a job-hopper like me, finds contentment. I wish I could, but eventually I head into…
Oh my! When the alarm goes off and you can barely pull yourself from the bed to go to a place of horror one more day, you’ve entered Dread. Driving or walking up to the building where you will spend 8-10 hours per day introduces a kind of anguish, an unmistakable tension builds and you begin to stiffen. Your mood changes, and not for the better. Your subconscious frowns.
You can initially enter dread without realizing it, by ‘not caring’ as much; by leaving your conscience at home; by focusing only on the paycheck and not your half of the bargain in delivering results.
Like Monopoly, do not pass go. Do not collect $200. It is time. It is past time to get outta there. Neither you, nor the people you work with, are getting anything out of this relationship now. Well, maybe pain. Maybe revenge. Dread is when my attitude comes out. I had one manager who said, in the exit interview, “when you get bored, you get attitude.” My venomous answer: “Don’t let me get bored then.”
Each phase can last any length of time. I once had a job that went from excitement to stressed out dread and last day of employment in six months. Some actors in interviews have said that going to work isn’t ‘work’. That’s when you know you are in the right place. When excitement never ends. When I was younger, I wanted a career so that I ‘never did the same thing twice’…because how can that EVER get boring if you never repeat the same job.
Now the fun part. Identifying what stage you’re in is usually pretty easy, but you never know when you will move into the next stage. It’s not a conscious activity. It happens when we are not paying attention. In my review, I explained the stages and then said I’m still in Excitement after a year! Pretty good!
But even more fun is trying to figure out your co-workers. Does a certain someone lack a work ethic? Has that manager become so complacent that they’re scared they can’t make it anywhere else and are comfortable in their unhappiness? Are there some people who truly believe ‘this is the dream?’
Are we a vibrant workforce comprised of newbies trying to improve the landscape, the backbones of business who get things done conscientiously, and pissers who keep things unpredictable and off-key?
Or is it a dysfunctional extended family dynamic where newbies are hazed to fall into step because change is not welcome, and we’re all unhappy together. I once heard a manager off-handedly complain about a new employee, “why can’t he just do the goddamn job, we don’t want any new ideas!”
In baseball, on strike three, you’re out. When you get to phase 3 at work, you should be.