Unconventional Wisdom in the Workplace
Many people talk about wisdom and being wise. But wisdom is of two types — conventional and unconventional. Dealing with complex workplace dynamics certainly requires us to employ unconventional wisdom. Now, let’s explore more about the so-called unconventional wisdom and why we need to employ it.
Conventional wisdom says that you need to get some reputation in the workplace and keep maintaining it. But is it possible? Probably no. It may be easy to earn a reputation, but it is difficult to cling to it.
Now, let me explain why maintaining your reputation is a difficult exercise and why trying to do so causes multiple problems.
Life is full of ups and downs…right? During some periods of our lives, we feel as if we are treading a flowery path, and during some other periods, we feel the opposite, like treading a thorny path. It is natural… isn’t it?
Life at the workplace is no different. Sometimes you get positive feedback through a mail in which a client showers a profusion of praise on you, and the mail is shared across the team. Your boss and teammates appreciate your good work, and that makes you feel great. The positive feedback creates an aura around you, and people tend to think that you are a highly skilled and knowledgeable employee with a great commitment to work. So far, so good.
Now, you tend to think good days are ahead of you. But you are grossly mistaken. When you earn a reputation, the expectations increase. Not only your boss, but even your teammates also look up to you and expect you to do many things. So, you come under pressure to rise to the occasion. Because your reputation is at stake. If you lose it, things will be back to square one, and you don’t want that to happen.
However, performing at your peak and rising to the occasion when people look up to you is difficult for anyone. As part of your efforts to preserve your reputation, you tend to go overboard, which invariably creates a rupture in your mind. And the rupture leads to a lot of stress and anxiety.
Many people feel that corporate life is stressful. But how much stress you feel depends on your psychological disposition, and more importantly, how you perceive things.
When you work on some deliverables as part of a project, you put in your best efforts. You follow the process and ensure customer-centricity in your deliverables. But despite putting in your best efforts, the deliverables may fail to meet the expectations of the clients and stakeholders. Because perspectives and perceptions differ. You and your clients may not be on the same wavelength every time. After all, we are humans, and most of our perceptions are highly subjective. And your clients and stakeholders have every right to say that your work is not up to the mark and share their feedback as to what they need. This is, in fact, a part of the natural iterative process and you need to improve your deliverables in the next iteration. And any work passes through multiple iterations before it gets the so-called perfection.
But you know what? People are somewhat impatient. Sometimes you may even get criticism in the form of feedback, a long mail containing many items of improvement, which could be perceived as negative, and people who hitherto showered accolades may start suspecting our work. That is when you realize the hard truth of how difficult it is to preserve that aura that was created around you.
A couple of negative feedbacks are enough to make you feel concerned. People with weak psychological dispositions may even slip into a momentary depression.
You might be wondering, what could be the way out? Have you ever heard about being a ‘stitapragna’ as advocated by Bhagavad Gita? Being equipoised in the face of both success and failure is the best way to overcome this situation. Face both appreciation and adverse feedback with equanimity, and continue doing your work. You must realize that improvement is a life-long process, and as such, you need to engage yourself in lifelong learning.
Many people talk about ‘perfection’ and the need to achieve it. However, perfection is a subjective concept and, as such, always remains elusive. No human-built object on mother earth is perfect and, therefore, the pursuit of perfection is futile. Moreover, it also gives us a lot of stress and anxiety when we fail to achieve the elusive perfection. Therefore, what we need to pursue is constant and continuous improvement, not perfection.
The very thought that you are perfect induces a superman syndrome, which is hard to maintain. Therefore, you should neither feel like a superman nor should you demean yourself by having an inferiority complex. You must tread a middle path, a sweet spot between the two extremes.
And don’t take criticism or feedback negatively. It reminds you that though you are good at your profession, there is still room for improvement. It also makes you feel unburdened because you don’t have to maintain any reputation and come under stress. So, criticism is good. When you get criticized, take it in your stride and enjoy it.