Saturday, October 12, 2013

Job, career, calling

My short blogging break this week was due to my participation in a work-related workshop (forum?). It was in many ways very useful and inspiring, although one aspect that I have mixed feelings about is the coaching aspect. The coaches at these kinds of events really LOVE personality tests, the kind where you answer a few dozen questions and then end up in one of four or more rarely three overly simplistic boxes. It does not help that this is at least the third workshop at which I was subjected to this kind of test, making my experience a bit repetitive.

On the other hand, one thing mentioned by the coach we had on Friday was very interesting because I had not previously considered it from that angle. He pointed out that there are different stances people can take towards their work:

Job - they do it because they need to bring money home.
Career - they do it because they want to rise through a hierarchy.
Calling - they do it because they are really passionate about this kind of work.

It is clear that sadly most people will be unable to do professionally what they see as their calling and thus a great part of the workforce will see their work merely as a job. That does not mean, however, that they will be under-performing, quite the opposite. What the coach wanted to drive home is that a supervisor who sees their work as a calling or a career and who happily works many hours of unpaid overtime cannot expect everybody else to do the same. They can only expect them to do the work that they are paid for, and to do it well, and expecting everybody to be like yourself is atrocious leadership.

The funny thing is, I consider the aspect he stressed to be a no-brainer. I know that many people perform superbly and, if you give them the right environment, identify very much with their workplace even if they see their work only as a job. What I would be more concerned about are overly career-oriented people!

You may ask reasonably why that would be so. Should they not be very productive due to their great ambition?

Well yes, but productive in what sense, and to whose benefit? A job oriented person will aim to satisfactorily complete the task at hand because that is their job. A person who feels a calling will aim to complete the task well because they are enthusiastic about that type of task. But career oriented people may only see the task at hand as a minor stepping-stone on the way to where they really want to be, and it may forever be so because there is nearly always an even higher management level above them. Can I be focused enough on what I am currently working on to do it well if my real interest is not having to do something like that any more? Will I really work to the benefit of my current organization if my eyes are already on a more prestigious job elsewhere?

Perhaps that is a nasty way of thinking about it. Nor do I begrudge anybody their aspirations. What I mean to show is that, from my personal perspective, it might be a much harder to learn leadership skill to understand the personal needs and motivations of very career oriented people around oneself, and to balance the fulfillment of their ambitions and the needs of the organization as a whole, than it is to understand and deal with job-oriented people, although the latter seemed to be the major concern of the coach.

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