Personal Power

Feb 14th, 2010 | By | Category: Career advice, career challenges, office problems, personality

We often think we have very little power in challenging situations, but perhaps a change of perspective could improve our position.

There is a joke making the rounds on the Internet about girls at a private school putting on lipstick after they got to school and testing it on the girl’s restroom mirror leaving scores of lip prints.  The teachers brought the problem up in class and threatened extra homework if the girls did not quit leaving lipstick prints on the mirror. The number of prints increased.  The Principal tried to stop the girls from leaving lipstick prints on the mirror by threatening to expel anyone she caught testing their lipstick. There were even more lipstick prints on the mirror. Finally the janitor, who was frustrated with management’s inability to put a stop to the lipstick prints on the mirror, asked the principal to assemble all the girls in the restroom.  As the girls stood smirking at their handy work of a mirror covered with lipstick prints, the janitor addressed them.  “Ladies I am the one who has to clean this mirror every day, and I just want to show how difficult it is to remove lipstick prints. “ The girls giggled at causing the janitor extra work.  The giggles turned to gasps as the janitor dipped his squeegee into the toilet and swiped it across the mirror.  There were no more lipstick prints on the mirror from that day forward.

Like the janitor you may have more personal power than you realize. By properly analyzing situations and developing strategies you may be able to accomplish your goals more readily than you think.  For example, I worked in an office that was a short drive from the nearest shopping center and coffee shop.  The boss had developed a habit of sending the office assistant, Debbie, for breakfast every morning.  She felt it was demeaning and not part of her job.  To make matters worse the staff would give her orders like she was a waitress.  Then there was always the matter of being shortchanged when she collected the money from everyone. Debbie needed her job and tolerated the situation for sometime.  Then one day she was delayed on her way back to the office, and the coffee and food was cold when she arrived.  Although everyone was a bit upset they knew they couldn’t complain.  It would mean trouble for everyone if Debbie reported her situation to HR.   Debbie was sharp and observant. Starting the next day, when Debbie would make the office coffee run she would take her time getting back to the office.  Not only was the food and coffee cold, but also someone had to cover the phones while she was gone.  After a few days Debbie wasn’t going for coffee anymore.

There may be downsides to strategies like Debbie’s.  This was a government office with legally established employment rules and regulations.  Perhaps in a private business, part of the office assistant’s job may be to run errands.  Then Debbie’s strategy may not have been successful, and may even have been detrimental to her career.   There is no one size fits all solution to career challenges.   Each individual must develop strategies and solutions to fit their individual circumstances and personality.  One goal of the PracticaL Mentor is to provide the analytical skills to apply in building career strategies. Observing a situation from different viewpoints enhances perspective.  In the words of Yogi Berra “You can observe a lot just by watching” …..   Leave a comment; tell a friend.

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