As English learning friends of mine graduate and find themselves in the work force, I am beginning to hear complaints from some of them about how terrible the job is, how terrible the boss is, or how unkind their co-workers are. Often their first reaction is to try and find a job somewhere else. Anywhere but here. There may be times when moving on is the best choice, but I would suggest you at least think twice about it before you leave.
When we first enter the work force, we have high ideals and high expectations about what we will be contributing, and we have perhaps unrealistic expectations about how much freedom we will have to apply our new skills as we wish. The “politics” of the work environment is rarely taught in school, and certainly not something we give a lot of thought to in the beginning. It has been my experience that, no matter how high or how professional our skills are, a large part of succeeding in the work environment has to do with conflict resolution. It is important to find ways to resolve conflict with co-workers, bosses, and customers.
Unless we are fortunate enough to be fully self-sufficient and self-employed with no boss over us, we will always have some authority above us telling us how they would like to see things done. And, they will usually have the power to enforce that. If we are very lucky, the boss will be kind, gentle, and wise; the boss will be quick to notice our best efforts, and will offer us lots and lots of praise. When they wish us to do something differently, they will be helpful and constructive, and will give us a clear understanding as to how to implement the changes they’d like to see. Right?
If we are unlucky, our bosses might be self-centered, under pressure from their own bosses to produce better performance, and they might be poor communicators. When they want us to change our actions, it might be clear that they are unhappy with us but it might not be clear just what changes they want to see from us. We have no clear idea of what actions we need to take to satisfy them.
Sometimes in this situation our first reaction might be to seek work elsewhere, where our efforts might be more appreciated. But if we do that, we are really just avoiding the issue, and the same situation is likely to happen in the next job. It is important to learn to communicate well with the people we interact with, even if they are not good communicators themselves. We need to continue to work with them, to get them to clarify just what is needed to resolve the conflict. We might even try to think of it as a challenge, and try to come up with innovative ideas for satisfying all people concerned with the issue.
Also, if we proceed to apply for a different job, it is these same people that we didn’t get along with that the prospective employer will be talking to, to find out what type of employee we are. Do you think they will give us a good reference if we didn’t try to resolve conflicts?
What do you think? What is your experience in the work force?