No matter how powerless you feel at work. No matter how little power you actually wield. You always have control over how you show up.
You can wield this “power” in a childish manner. Resentfully drag your feet and do the bare minimum at the last minute and only when asked for the umpteenth time. In other words, barely show up at all. As powerful as it feels to “stick it to the man” in this way, you end up diminished as a result as well. In other words, you’re only hurting yourself.
Do yourself a favor and choose to show up engaged no matter what’s going on at work. Even for the most ungrateful supervisor, show up engaged. Even for the most uncooperative team members, show up engaged. Even for the most toxic of work cultures, show up engaged.
You don’t have to keep working here—in fact, you should probably be looking for a change if you’re in an unhealthy situation—but while you are here, show up engaged.
There are three components to “showing up engaged” that will save your life as well as make your work as meaningful and rewarding as possible.
Show Up Interested
Fulfilling the bare minimum of your job description is a form of walking death. Find something to show interest in. Something to care about. It might be an issue of quality. It might be a particular project. It might be a person who needs help. Be interested. Act interested. Show interest.
Show Up Initiating
Waiting around for instructions is self-inflicted torture. Take the initiative. Make suggestions. Fix things without being asked. Take care of problems before they are noticed. Reject complacency and passivity out of hand. Refuse to treat yourself with so little respect. Show initiative.
Show Up Interactive
Working in isolation is the worst sort of prison. Ask questions. Collaborate with others. Share information. Offer to help. Step away from the myth of loner competence at one end of the spectrum and I-don’t-care indifference at the other. Give, need, cooperate, communicate and enjoy those with whom you work. Interact.
No matter how little power you have. No matter how distasteful your job. You can choose to do these three things: show interest, show initiative, and interact.
Doing so will bring meaning to your work even if your job description itself doesn’t. Doing so will keep you alive, engaged and growing as a professional even if the opportunities for advancement are limited. And, in the worst case, doing so will undergird your sense of dignity while you look for something else if you decide to leave.
Whatever else you do, show up. Show up engaged. You owe it to yourself.
On your side,
- Karl Edwards