“There are no small jobs—just small people.” ~ Rob Letterman
Making big mistakes isn’t the only way we fail at work—little blunders are deadly too.
Like not submitting project hours to the company’s accounting system. Yes, we might be integral to a high profile assignment, but if we don’t submit our billable hours, accounting gets delayed and annoyed. They issue the paychecks, after all.
Or maybe we talk too much. If suddenly no one is available to go to lunch and the co-worker in the next cube says he is more productive at home, it might be a sign to be more focused. It’s important to respect our teammates’ need for quiet.
Or perhaps our email tone is too casual, too mean, or our response time is too slow. Emails provide permanent evidence of a transgression and are easily handed over to the boss.
We don’t want to do anything that makes the boss add us to their “to do” list. The boss has plenty of work and likely hates confronting subordinates, so it’s best to not do anything that makes them have to “deal” with us.
Why? Because bosses have long-term memory. When raise and promotion time comes, they may promote (and give the extra bonus cash) to Trixie who followed the rules, Donald who wrote pleasant emails, and Jerry who kept his eyes focused on his work and mouth closed.
How do I know these little mistakes undo us?
I’ve made them all. And after getting knocked down more than I’d like admit, I’ve changed my ways. So much so, that people now ask me to mentor them to avoid similar career mishaps.
When I begin a mentoring assignment, I always ask my client: “Why are we here?”
Most of the time, the person already knows. They realize they are being difficult or disruptive, but maybe this job isn’t their dream job, so they don’t care. Or they are unhappy with their lives outside of work so they’re acting out at the office. Or they are not challenged enough in their job to stay focused.
This is a common problem, and (perhaps surprisingly) one that yoga can help.
Karma yoga, the yoga philosophy of “right action,” suggests that work done well is a form of prayer. So, if we view work as selfless action performed for the benefit of others, even doing the dishes can be an act of spirituality (okay—maybe that one’s a reach).
An illustration of karma yoga is found in the following story:
Three men in ancient times were hired to construct a large building. This was back-breaking work. They work 12-hour days in the hot sun, lifting large stones, and digging with small tools.
One man absolutely hates his job. He dreads it and is painful to be around.
The second man is not happy with the job, but understands he is working to feed and shelter his family.
The third man says to anyone who will listen, “I am building an important structure which will give society shelter for years to come. I am proud of what I am doing and cannot wait to get to work every morning.” He sees his action as beneficial to others, is enjoyable to work with, and is eventually promoted to a supervisory position.
The moral here is that even if we are doing a demeaning and exhausting job, we can flip our internal switch from disengaged and disgruntled to passionate and selfless. This is how we find joy and fulfillment.
How does this translate to modern times? Well, if we are a people-person, we can learn more about the client we are working for and how its products improve the lives of its customers lives. If we are an analytical person, we can research the company’s operations to understand how they might gain efficiency. We can discover how our role links to the health of the entire company, society, and the world.
When feeling demeaned by a small task, distracted by outside inputs, or tempted to be disruptive, we can always return to this motive.
Once we have achieved more work satisfaction, I recommend avoiding the following small mistakes that can derail progress:
>> Follow all the rules, not just the big ones. So many times amazing employees permanently hinder their job prospects because they ignored someone they thought was insignificant or annoying.
>> Watch communication tone in emails, meetings, and interpersonal conversations. We can never be too kind. Always be the pleasant one—it costs nothing and pays off.
>> Do the work. Don’t interrupt co-workers by talking for hours about the latest TV show or game or taking long lunches. Come in, do the work, and go home.
>> Make deadlines because they impact your co-workers, clients, and supervisors. And manage the boss’s expectations if they are going to be missed. Then they can explain if someone complains. When the boss is happy—our paychecks are happy too!
How might rethinking our job—by using the yoga and career tools above—help us find more contentment and success at work?
Author: Donna Yates Kling
Image: Youtube Still
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman