One of the common frustrations that we all have shared in our lives is the one that involves sitting through some type of math class, ANY type of math class, and asking ourselves “Are we really going to use this in our adult lives?” And then, living those adult lives and finally coming to that realization that no, we don’t ever need to determine how much that guy weighed as he sat on a moving train traveling 90 miles an hour and eating 3 of the 5 apples that he had brought for a snack. You know what I am talking about.
But the other day, another realization hit me; I actually have been paying attention and learning from some things in my life. They haven’t always been bad examples of living. And this is one I think I am most proud of.
I have been lucky enough in life that I haven’t had to hold too many different jobs and/or employers. I say lucky because I have always enjoyed the work I was doing; but with those feel-good jobs came the absolute most horrible bosses ever. Not to knock not-for-profits as a whole but interestingly enough, both of my positions with horrible bosses were in that tax exempt status. And in both of those cases, the main people in charge were clearly not in those positions to do good in life. Maybe this is normal because in being a not-for-profit you have to fight for scarce dollars, so maybe it’s true that boards and committees look for ruthless people that have that mindset of leave-no-prisoners so that success for the cause can be had. It still sucks for the actual workers of NFP’s because they truly are there for the good of the cause and go into the work knowing their pay will be low and their hours high and their reward is helping someone who is less fortunate.
Anyway, jumping off of that little soapbox, one the main lessons I did pay attention to in those environments was the awful treatment I, and so many others in the office, were subjected to. How those days made me feel. How desperate I was when I tried to find another position and then finally how dejected I felt when I was turned down. When I didn’t get a position that would supposedly save me, I berated myself something horrible bringing up possible reasons that I wasn’t good enough and asking myself if I ever would be. Looking back now, I realize that I wasn’t wanting those other positions because of any passion I felt for the job but for the plain reason to escape and in truth, I shouldn’t have gotten them anyway. I will admit it took me awhile to catch on, but I finally did learn to put my big girl panties on, stop whining and to pursue a job that I wanted, not a pathway.
So back to the lesson learned. As I have said, I am the boss lady now. So it is my job to ensure that I have enough employees, and the right employees, to do the everyday tasks we need to do. Our “client” needs this. (Yes, I switched to “for profit” and I don’t have a regret in the world. In looking at our financials, we make such a “profit” we can pay our bills month to month. We don’t have a multi-million dollar CEO, just one that knows that to be able to improve the building and benefits, a small profit needs to be made.) So lately, I have been sitting in on interviews for some of our lower level acquisitions and that is where I have actually used what I have learned in life!
Yesterday a young woman came in to interview for a position. I had another employee in the room with me that had once been in the position that the young lady was applying for and she had worked her way up to an office position. I am so proud of her and more importantly, she is so proud of herself. Anyway, the young lady before us was small in frame and young. So young. And she looked terrrified. But after talking with both of us and hearing about the philosophy that we have in our building and how my goal is to make this truly a home for not only our “clients” but the employees and how although this position was on a lower level, we encouraged employees to utilize our scholarship programs and move up to higher positions; she surprised us by bursting out in tears. She looked at me and told me that she was a single mother who was barely into her twenties and she had never had an interview like this. She went on to say that she was on her own with her baby and that she thought her life would never amount to anything. She said she thought she would never have a chance. Just giving this young lady a chance made me feel more not-for-profit than I ever did in the 23 years I had worked in that sector.
And yes, one could say that talk is cheap and that as soon as she put on that uniform I could and/or would go back to the bland treatment that one gets on that level in so many other workplaces. But here, I am going to toot my own horn. I can honestly say, “Not in my place”. I thought about it long and hard last night and I could easily come up with many employee situations that I go out of my way to have patience with; I forgive for human errors that they make on the job and make sure they have more training or coaching prior to coming to the conclusion they aren’t a good fit for that position. I have learned how defeating it can feel to be judged but not assisted. And I encourage my employees to see their own strengths. I may not be able to pay in money but I certainly can make sure they leave everyday feeling good about themselves. And somehow when I do these things each day, it makes those horrible days I lived through worth it.
And I guess if I did learn and carry out only one lesson in my lifetime I am glad it is this one.