What to do when you live in constant fear of being fired.
Like most of us, I rely on my job to keep me fed and housed and I don’t really have a backup plan should I ever run out of a constant stream of income. That’s why the fact that I suck at my job is a middle to severe tragedy. Unfortunately I lack the charm and personality to keep a job for other reasons than skill and right now I lack that too. Great (-_-). But if there are people who can send robots to Mars, surely I can figure out how not to suck at my job?!
First of all, let’s have a look at what the problem exactly is. It amounts to something like this:
“I’m freaking out because I’m completely useless. I keep forgetting minor details, but so obvious ones and my co-workers think I’m a complete idiot! If I don’t improve soon I’m going to get fired and my CV will be ruined!”
Trying really hard and still failing
It’s ironic that the more you obsess about being the go-getter, the star pupil, the successful one, the more likely you’re to screw up. Obsessing with every pore of your being about doing something right is bound to make everything go wrong. Like when you’re typing while someone is watching you, suddenly the same fingers that can manage to type “Do penguins have toes?” at 3 a.m. in the dark, don’t know where which key is anymore. The surest way of making every dumb mistake out there, is to be scared of making mistakes. Now all you need is for everyone to notice those mistakes and self-confidence has just left the building – vowed to never return until you get a new job, in a new city. But since you actually want to keep your job, you in turn vow to do better. Meaning: the checklists, the re-checking yourself, the task reminders, the to-do lists, the list to keep track of your to-do-lists. All of it to make sure you don’t have to come up with another excuse why you couldn’t do something, you’ve in fact forgotten to do. And yet, despite all this you’re still forgetful, easily confused, misunderstand things, completely blank on things you should know… rinse repeat = you still suck at your job. So in order not to suck, just stop. Stop obsessing and panicking and stop beating yourself up.
Here’s the deal: You have to work to your strengths
There is no point in replaying your own failures over and over again. There might be lots of things you struggle with, so you have to try to do the things you’re good at really well to make up for it. There’s always something you screw up. Sometimes you’re lucky and it’s just that you printed the mailing labels upside down and even luckier – no one saw it. Other times it’s more severe and on those occasions everyone is present to witness that moment in time. Don’t beat yourself up about it, shrug off the feeling of incompetence and then fix it. ASAP. If you beat yourself up about every little mistake you make, others will start noticing those mistakes much more too, because you’re drawing attention to them. This endless pursuit of trying and trying and running yourself further into the ground until you need a shovel to get back out, it’s not getting you anywhere. You are what you are. Develop your strengths so you can sell them to a prospective employer.
Dealing with judgement and human megaphones
Often what causes us to make mistakes in the first place is that we get flustered because we feel watched and judged all the time. Especially when you have co-workers who announce every piece of paper that’s been printed to the rest of the office. People who don’t overlook details and who are real life twitter feeds filled with posts about your incompetence. Noticed, shared, and probably stored somewhere in the NSA Database for future use against you. Work can be a battlefield sometimes. But being scared of judgement is not making you any better at your job. We’re at our best when we feel confident enough to tell others: “Back off, this is how I do my work so stop telling me how I should answer the phone.” How can you do your job well if you feel like an incompetent nuisance every time you ask a question? What you need to figure out is, how much of this lack of confidence is due to your co-worker’s behaviour and how much because you’re being a bit of a wuss? Self- Confidence makes all the difference between being good at your job and sucking at it. It makes more of a difference than actual skill does, because so much of work life is about handling people rather than tasks. The first thing you need to do is stop being scared of the people around you. This takes some time and a lot of testing out. You need to get a feel for who the people around you are. How do they work? What are things they aren’t good at? Instead of fighting them, try to adapt to them. That doesn’t mean always meekly giving into what others are saying, but rather understanding why they see things the way they do. Whether you agree with them or not is an entirely different thing. Once you stop feeling terrified of your boss and your new (or old) co-workers and understand that they too are humans, thrown into the uncertainty of work life, you’ll start getting along with people better. Instead of only noticing your own weaknesses, notice those of the people around you too. This doesn’t mean, under no circumstances does this mean, pointing those weaknesses out to them all the time. But it’s good to know that people might react the way they do, because they feel they’ve screwed up or because they’re trying to avoid having to do something they’re not good at themselves. The best way to stop being scared of something is to get to know it. This way, you can build the confidence to stand by your own opinion and work techniques. The confidence to tell people, who constantly correct you, in a nice and polite way – to fuck off.
Taking criticism like a pro
Be open to correction, sometimes even the most obnoxious smart-ass has a point. But don’t naively believe every critic out there to know what he’s talking about, because most don’t. Be critical of criticism and only take the kind to heart, that helps you improve. Often people criticize us for things we can’t change and some of it we really don’t want to change. This is who we are. And there’s no reason to change something about yourself just because a co-worker thinks you should. For example: People keep telling me to not be so shy or reserved. “Speak up” I keep hearing. This used to bother me a lot. The people, who told me so, always made it seem like there was something wrong with me. But now, I feel it’s one of the dumbest criticisms I’ve ever received. There’s so much to criticize about me (for instance the fact that I use other people’s fancy shampoos if they leave them close to the shower) why hammer in on something that’s actually beneficial to people around me? I almost always take the role of the listener, yet I never bore others with my tale of yesterday’s train delays. The trick when dealing with criticism is to always treat it like a potential lie you have to spot. Carefully fact check if there’s some ground for it and when in doubt, assume it’s a lot of bullshit. You have to or our overly critical world will suck the spirit right out of you.
In order not to suck at your job, you have to have the confidence not to be terrified of failing. If you can’t accept yourself the way you are and forgive yourself for your shortcomings, no one else will. You’ve got to believe in yourself. Until you do, everything will be a struggle.