Why don’t we learn? The evidence is overwhelming. Mattresses tied to roofs of moving vehicles are prone to blow off. On any given weekend it’s easy to spot mattresses on the side of the highways. No one is sleeping on them or even paying attention to them. The mattresses have blown off the roof of a car or out of the bed of the pickup, never to be retrieved. Laws of physics do apply when it comes to driving with a mattress on the roof.
When the mattress is overhead, the driver is clueless the front of the mattress is flapping like horses lips in the wind. Sometimes the driver and the passenger have their arms out the window as if they can hold onto the mattress while going 60 miles per hour. That probably won’t work. Any one sitting in the back seat is saying prayers.
Dead mattresses are a metaphor for what happens at work: If it seems like a bad idea, it probably is. If all the evidence is that you will regret the action, you probably will. If you know you shouldn’t do it, but you do it any way, what were you thinking?
Here are but a few examples that dead mattresses can teach us. All in the category of, you know better but you do it anyway.
- Badmouthing your boss or colleagues. Are you sure everyone hung up from the conference call? Or, did someone overhear your comments? The criticism always gets back to the person you don’t want to hear it.
- Telling a racist, sexist joke or spreading inappropriate emails or texts. People get fired for such actions.
- Blaming others for your errors or claiming credit when it is not due. Come on, bad form.
- Lying on your resume. The truth always comes out.
- Getting drunk with your boss. You will regret it later.
- Stealing office supplies. Stealing is stealing is stealing.
- Posing a danger to others at work. Ignoring safety and security protocols is reckless. So is sexual harassment or bullying or showing up with a contagious sickness. If you see something that could be a problem at work, change it or report it.
Jut like a mattress on the roof, when it comes to bad judgment at work; don’t try it. You might think you’ve developed that super-duper twine that will hold the mattress in place, but you’re bucking the trend that has been in place since the car was invented. You are not different. You may think you won’t get caught, but you will.
So the next time you see king size mattresses and box springs tied to the roof of a VW Jetta, don’t get behind it and ask yourself is there anything that can be learned from this spectacle.
At the very least, like mattresses lashed to roofs, at work remember the best indicator of future performance is past performance.
It’s not simple at the scary age of twenty-two. You have so much potential to grapple with. You have so many ideas. You have so many friends who are doing interesting things. You don’t want to hang around back on campus. You have parents who want you to be a teacher or accountant or lawyer. You are worried about that boy or girl you really like and it is getting serious. You see broken hearts coming. You are considering moving to Silicon Valley, the land of milk and honey. You are watching too much TV. You don’t know where to start. It all comes at once.
My advice? Quit as many jobs as you can. That means you need to find a job first. It may not be the perfect job but any job is formative and instructive. The job will help you wrestle with the options you are facing and may lead to a decision. The job will provide cash while you figure other things out. If you don’t like the job – quit. Then, repeat. Quit as many jobs as you need to before it becomes too difficult to quit. The time does come when quitting might be too hard given variables like family, finances and friends.
Words of caution:
- Never quit a job before you have another one lined up. It is easier to find a new job when you have one. And sometimes, as perfect as you are, it takes a while to find the next job. Leave one job on Friday and start the next one on Monday.
- Don’t get timed out. Pay attention to age as it relates to careers. At a certain age you are too old to become a Navy Seal or not worth the investment to go to medical school. Don’t miss the big opportunity while you might be quitting those first jobs.
- Advice from others may not help you. There is a difference between what is good for you and what is best for you. Parents want what is good for you. The burden is on you to decide what is best for you.
So go ahead and quit. The penalties for changing jobs are not nearly what they were just a few years ago. What was once a job hopper is now someone with varied experiences. (Depending on the number that you quit, there may be some finesse involved in that positioning.)
You will derive experience from every job you quit. In my career I have been a sewer worker, a lifeguard, a consultant, a house-mother and a track coach. I learned from each of them that make me who I am today. And you will develop relationships from the jobs you quit, some of them will last a lifetime.
And don’t worry; the people you love will always be loved, even if you don’t see them. Friends will always be your friends. You don’t need to quit them.
There will be disappointments but when you are 22 you are smart and happy, or you should be. Channel those smarts and happy feelings into the next thing with vigor, even if it means quitting a few things along the way.
The journey has begun and it’s a glorious journey. You are now dealing with decisions that can shape a life. Make them.
We all receive those emails that make your blood boil. You know the ones – they are the email equivalents of someone giving you the bird, flipping you off, kicking sand in your face, insulting your mother. What inspires people to send electronic venom? And why do they copy so many people? No doubt, this will show up on my performance review.
Flame mail is almost always very direct, “You committed to completing the project on time and you didn’t so I had to stay up all night for a week. I will never work with you again”. Or, “Your writing is like dog poop on a shoe, I can’t get rid of it but wish I could.”
Other flame mails are more subtle, but are still on fire because they imply incompetence, lack of ethics or are accusatory. On the subtle ones, the CC list is the thing to watch.
If you are the recipient of one of these emails you might feel defeated or start thinking about payback. You might start daydreaming of gouging someone’s eyes out or want to cry, because just one mean email can ruin a day. Maybe even a career. The blood boils and you are ready for immediate war. But wait. With flame mails you don’t have to respond in the moment. You can think about how you want to respond to the jerk and you have three options:
- You can ignore the flame mail. Your feelings may be hurt but to not engage may be smart. Even though you will keep going back to message and rereading it; each time it will get a little easier to ignore it. Create responses but don’t send them. Another variation on this option is to not respond and vow to get even later.
- You can blast back with the same venom as the sender. Go ahead be nasty. Use words like putrid and pond scum as necessary. Use veiled threats if need be. Chances are good you will regret this option when Human Resources calls.
- You can be professional, think about an appropriate response and send it a day or two later. Words and phrases like “sorry” or, “it is not necessary” can always help with this option.
It’s always best to take that minute before hitting the send button. Fast retaliation may feel good but usually only make things worse. Leave retaliation and escalation to others.
What is the worst flame mail to come across your screen?