Choosing Your Battles At Work
A friend of mine recently spoke to me about a very difficult situation they have at work. They work as a designer, much like myself, for a young startup that is arguably failing right now. And they work under a person who unfortunately has the following undesirable characteristics:
- The Expert An expert is someone who believes their knowledge and experience supersedes that of those around them. They’ll push their opinions (which are more often than not wrong) and exercise a refusal to listen to the thoughts of others. They leave no room for growth and shy away from risks and innovation.
- The Method Man A “Method Man” is one who pinpoints certain methods and opts to follow them like they are rules of a religion. This means that if the Method Man reads a blog post titled “5 Best Practices to Building an App” by someone they admire, those “5 best practices” become an all-or-nothing policy. For everyone. Process is forced for it’s own sake, not for the benefit of the customers or company.
- The Analogy Maker As an “expert”, this person feels the need to explain everything to everyone else. After all, if you don’t agree with their opinion, there must be something you’re missing, right? They will make up painful analogies (“Let’s say you were a pizza…”) in a weak yet determined attempt to get their point across.
- The Blamer Someone who is quick to point out the flaws of the group, or individuals within the group, but can never find fault in their own actions. At times a Blamer might seemingly admit a mistake, but look out for sentences like, “That was my mistake. But in my defense…” which indicates an inability to take responsibility for their actions.
- The Extremist A person who makes bold states, to an extreme. For example “I’m never late” (usually said a few days before arriving late) or “I remember everything that is said in our meetings” (which proves to not be true time and time again).
People with those characteristics often end up being the elephant in the room, making the team feel uncomfortable. In the case of my friend, it’s a major pain point for the following reasons.
When you are in a situation where you need to deal with someone of this sort, it actually makes your job a lot more difficult. For example, my friend recently solved a design issue by coming up with a design element that fills all criteria and adds styles. They added a different style button to a screen where the buttons were mismatched and confusing to users. Their boss (the one with the charming personality listed above) opted for a long and drawn out meeting to discuss the philosophy of design, color and buttons. You can imagine how frustrating that can be. In return, a day of work was lost and the project no longer has a solution.
When a friend reaches out to me to share this sort of story, it irks me greatly because I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with similar people in the past. Now I don’t know my friend’s boss. They might not be as much of a monster as they seem to be. It does, however, raise the issue of choosing battles at work.
If you find yourself in this situation, try to keep the following in mind:
- If you work with someone like that, things are not going to change. Quietly begin looking for a new place to work.
- Given that it’s near impossible to stay passionate about a product when working in that environment, don’t expect yourself to act passionately
- At the end of the day, you now have a 9-5 (as opposed to an exciting job), which is unfortunate but may just be the case. While you no longer have the incentive to strive for greatness in your current position, you still owe it to your employer to do the best that you can do during the hours they’re paying you to work. It’s called integrity.
- Given that you’re no longer passionate about the job, only battle if you feel very strongly about it. If you’re convinced that you are correct, but you can’t get your point across, let the other decision be made. A) Perhaps you’re not right after all and B) If you’re right, and they’re wrong, it’s not your problem, is it?
Do not quit your job right away. Take a walk, have a breather, try to rethink the issue and pinpoint why you’re so upset. Speak to a friend, speak to another friend. Of course if you can, speak to person who is making your working life difficult. Remember that there is fair chance you are wrong, so be fair.
Best of luck.