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9 downsides to being a leader at work

June 5, 2014

kevinspaceyhouseofcardsBeing a leader isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. You’re probably thinking: putting your feet up on the desk and barking orders at people both sound like pretty cool ways of leading. And hey, if that’s all leading was about, then I’d be the first to sign up. So, you got a big promotion. Or you’ve been told that you’re a natural-born leader. Your ego is a bit inflated, and you get excited. One day, you’re “gonna be at the top”, the “decision-maker”, the “one who signs the checks”.

Well, I hate to bust your bubble, but leading an organization or team is not always as glamorous as it seems. Now, don’t get me wrong: leadership is a skill that you should strive for, practice, and develop. It’s one of the four pillars of management and it’s vital in today’s business world and society. These are 9 downsides of being a leader at work as outlined by Andrew J. DuBrin from the College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

1. The myth of the 40-hour work week

Say goodbye to overtime pay. Once you’re on salary. It doesn’t matter how many overtime hours you work, you won’t get a dime more (unless you get bonuses). Now this is evident in so many industries. In my current position, I have worked 50-60 hour weeks, without any overtime pay. If your job or projects are flexible, then you may be able to do some of this work from home, but you’re still not compensated for it. Even when I was teaching, if you were in the arts or sports, then you could expect to work 60-70 hour weeks. If you have kids, that means that you’re spending more time with other people’s kids than your own.

2. “May I have another please? An aspirin?”

The number of headache-inducing problems rise with every second that passes while you are a leader. This can be attributed to contingencies. Example: The project demands an intense and comprehensive marketing and advertising campaign. The launch has been expedited. Everything is due next week. Your lead graphic designer just had a baby, so is on leave. Your lead copywriter got another job. And the only thing your intern has learned is how to make a decent cup of coffee. The better the leader you are, the easier it is to handle these types of issues.

3. “Publish-” Er- I mean, “Perform or Perish”.

This can be one of the most stressful things to deal with. If the company doesn’t do well, then who’s to blame? You better believe, that if you’re a leader, the CEO s going to come gunning for you. You better pray that he has a very in-depth knowledge of the market, industry, and organization if the reason for poor overall performance is out of your control. If he or she doesn’t, then you WILL be blamed.

4. They expect miracles from peanuts.

As a leader, you will often be faced with a situation where you are responsible for a goal, that you have little control over. If you are asked to get a fully loaded web and social media marketing strategy executed, you are going to need a budget. If you’re asked to construct a building, fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and design, you are going to need some kind of budget. There isn’t a way around it. This really comes down to authority. And, no, I don’t mean YOU pay out-of-pocket and then submit expense reports. That is complete BS. No money. No work. Comprende?

5. Oh, so alone.

Be careful getting too “buddy-buddy” with your teammates. If you get promoted, you’ll be the one deciding their fates- who gets promoted, who gets fired, evaluations, the whole nine. Then what happens? The team goes out for drinks after work, and they don’t invite you. They’re actually going to talk shit about you. It’s true. Get over it. That’s why you shouldn’t hire your close friends.

6. You have to be a people person.

Man, do I hate people. Well, I really love them too. What’s a guy to do? Being a leader means that you will be dealing with people on a daily basis. This means that after you fire John, you’ll be up late at night wondering how he, his wife, and kids are going to pay for their mortgage next month. Say goodbye to college, John’s kids. You did this. Now if you can master being a people person, more power to you. Being a people person isn’t about feeling guilty about firing someone, it’s about being sure to provide employment resources and references for one of your displaced team members, a.k.a. John.

7. Politics is a bitch.

Yup, it’s in your backyard, it’s in your house, it’s in your office, and it’s probably in your pants. It’s in every office in EVERY industry. Don’t believe your pal who brags about how their job doesn’t have that much politics, because it’s all a load of crap. Start learning how to negotiate, and politics will get easier to deal with when it comes up.

8. “We just want different things”.

Conflicting goals is often a source of trouble for you in a leadership role. It is already hard enough to get everyone on the same page, but then Bob has something completely different in mind. Lots of meeting are gonna result from this one. If you’re lucky you won’t have to fire him, and you’ll still achieve your goal. What if he doesn’t budge? Well, there’s a little thing called compromise. This is why being a leader involves a mutual partnership between the leader and the follower. (Yes, I said “follower”. Good leaders are also good followers.)

9. The evil businessman.

Being a leader of a large organization or business often comes with the public perception that you’re evil, selfish, greedy, and generally an overall bad guy. “But, Alex, I’m not a bad guy.” Whatever. You are in the eyes of the “people”. You’ll get people to change their perception once they see some action. Actions always speak louder than words.

Do it. Be a leader.

Don’t let these nine downsides of being a leader discourage you. They are just a realistic view of the challenges that leaders face. Be ready to face them. Everyday. Move on. Be strong. Go lead.

Peace out.

-Alexander

Business, Writing

Selling Your Soul With a Smile: Ethics at Work

June 2, 2014

Here’s the thing. When you’re faced with a situation at work or anywhere, when your values are compromised due to poor leadership or poor leadership ethics, what do you do?

Now, I’m sure your thinking, ‘If my boss or CEO makes me do some illegal stuff, I’m gonna tell him “Hell, no! You can take this job and shove it up your (expletive)”.’ However, what if you quit your job, but you have debt collectors swarming your ass with swat teams, because you can’t cough up one or two thousand bucks per month in credit card, student loan, medical, and other bills? What if the only thing keeping you and your family afloat is the very thing you demonize?

Stand up to the “Man”

Stand up to the “Man”, they say. Oh, the platitudes that once motivated you to take on the world in teenage and college years no longer bear any influence when one “Man” enslaves you with debt and another “Man” pays you for services that disrupt your personal values. Simply put. If you stand up to your boss/CEO, then you WILL get fired. This is especially true for low to mid-level managers that don’t have a strong relationship built with your superiors. I have known some people to stand up to their boss or CEO, and get away with it, some are even respected for it! But these people usually have decades of some kind of working relationship with their superior, and in some cases are family.

But they say “CEOs and bosses want you to give your opinion”. Maybe some of them do. But many also only want to give the illusion that they “listen” to their employees. At the end of the day, they will do what they want. Many also only want your opinion if it aligns with theirs. You can tell this is the case when they start their sentences and questions with  “Don’t you think that…” or “I think that (fill in the blank), and that this needs to go much faster, and (insert mid level manager name) needs to be responsible for (list tasks or goals here)……. What do YOU think?”

Your response: “Well, that sounds very logical. I will contact (mid-level manager) and get that going right away.”

Your internal response: “It doesn’t matter what I think, because you just told me what you want me to do, instead of stating the goal, and allowing me time to come up with solutions.”

Shoot the Messenger

So, let’s say your boss or CEO does give you the opportunity to provide solutions. So you do. The only problem is that the solution is one that he doesn’t want to hear. He doesn’t want to hear that what is really lacking is the establishment of proper processes and procedures that will provide optimal goods and services, he wants to hear the shortcuts and methods to gaining the most money as fast as possible.

But you say, “this will yield better results in the long run” and he says “there won’t be a long run if we do that”. Or he cusses up a storm, slams his fist on the table, and tells you that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Well, if all you’re focused on is short term profit, maybe you shouldn’t have opened a business in the first place, dude. Go back and take some basic business or economics classes. (Wish you could tell him that, don’t you?).

Get a New Job

They say. Like you can just walk down the street and have your pick. Let me reiterate that unless your making more than $60,000 a year, you’re not going to be able to pay all your bills (if you have credit cards, student loans, and outstanding medical bills). There’s just no way. If you have a mortgage and car payments too, forget about it. So, sure- keep looking. It doesn’t hurt to apply. And you need to be staying active in your networking. Let your friends and family know that you’re looking. Reach out to acquaintances who might be able to help. Reach to those who might not be able to help- hey, you never know.

The job market sucks. Most of us get it. It always sucks. The days of applying for two or three jobs and landing one are looooooooong gone. Try more like 300 applications, 4-5 interviews, and zero offers. Yes, my friends, that is the reality of the job market, especially if you come from a liberal arts background.

Go Back to School

Three points here. One. Go back to school as quickly as humanly possible. Stay there forever if you can. Two. Get scholarships, get a company to pay for it, or go to a cheap public university and take out loans. Three. Study something that will actually yield job offers. Look up careers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Sorry to tell you that getting your MFA in anything is not likely to get you out of debt, but if it’s not gonna cost you that much, knock yourself out. I myself still plan on one day going back to get an MFA, but I most definitely don’t expect to get any exciting job offers from it! Go into an MFA for self-enrichment, not to “get a better job”.

Surviving the Day-to-Day

So, finally- what you’ve been waiting for. Surviving the daily grind. Your going to have to suck it up, right? Your going to have to set aside your dignity and values so that you can keep your shitty job just until something else turns up. Well, friends, there is no magic answer for this. The only things you have to remember is to be careful when you get a job offer, because the grass is always greener on the other side. Don’t let your current situation change you. You are still you! You still have wants, dreams, desires, and you still have hobbies, passions, and skills. Disrupt your routine. Take on new challenges at home and at work. Learn new skills and take on new hobbies. Learn to be present when you spend time with family and friends. Because at the end of the day, this is what its all about. This is why you drag yourself to work everyday. So you can love and be loved. Do your best to always disrupt your personal status quo.

Peace out.

Alexander