Thursday, December 19, 2013

Other People’s Burdens

Simultaneously the same issue came up between my wife and I and the media: Someone lost their job over something that was said.

Every morning my wife and I like to sit on the bed and chat about things over coffee. By the time she’s on her first cup I’ve been up for a while since I get up sometimes an hour or two before she does since I often do my best work while everyone is still asleep. Since I’ve been up since 4 or 5AM I’ll fill her in on what’s gone on in the world since we went to bed or I’ll update her on my project. Yesterday morning we had a really deep conversation about my wife’s concerned about someone else in our circle of friends and how he’s having a hard time with our mutual occupation; since s/he’s having a specific problem now will I have the same problem in the future? Will I run into the same issues that our friend ran into, or am I destined to skip over these tribulations because of my experience and knowledge of not only knowing how to avoid the professional landmines but also knowing where they are in the first place?

I have a suspicion that one of the reasons why our friend can’t hold down a job for very long is because they are opinionated and this friend says exactly what he thinks sans self-editing. At the same time, one of the men on a popular reality TV show was released from his contract from something he said in an interview with a magazine – an interview with a man known for his strong opinions caused him to be fired from a show that features his strong opinions. As a side note this seems more like a publicity stunt or someone with an ax to grind was just looking for any excuse to let this show go because of its politically incorrect nature.

Nobody cares what you think at the workplace what you think about the project you and your fellow Adobetrons (employees who use Adobe for a living…) are working on. Employers and fellow employees could not care less about what you think about topics that have nothing to do with the company, the companies realm in the business world, or how the business makes money. The only thing an employer cares about – as far as your opinions are concerned – are your thoughts about how you’re going to get the job done.

You, my fellow graphic designers, are Abodetrons – worker bees who function in the realm of the Adobe Creative Suite. It’s your job to put your equivalent of the Sistine Chapel one whatever product package or procure they need you to work on, in the least amount of time and money.

Fact is, nobody wants to be burdened with my opinions at the workplace. Wherever I work nobody cares about my political and religious affiliation, whatever non-existent problems my wife and I are having and our sex habits, where we want to go on our vacations or what we did on our honeymoon. Nobody cares about my favorite TV shows (unless they are “Mad Men” and “The Pitch,” two TV shows that tie directly into graphic design, advertising and marketing…) or if I follow any teams.

I do have my favorite teams, maybe you have heard of them? Adobe, Wacom, HP… just to name a few, but my all-time favorite “team” is the one I’m working for now because they literally pay me to follow them and participate with them. Period.

The problem with many people at the work place is that you MUST know many things about them. You MUST know where they stand on specific issues. You MUST know where they take a stand on political candidates and how they are voting to the point that their cubes look like that specific candidate’s campaign headquarters. You must know everything about them from their sexual ordination and how their lifestyle defines how they vote. Then there are the people who are just so proud of their children or grandchildren – or worse… their special “animal children” and you have to know everything they have done, they are doing, and what they are going to do.

Nobody wants to hear it. Those who act like they do are either being polite or are just too weak to tell you to keep it to yourself.

In short, there are certain people who use the workplace to evangelize, either literally or figuratively. These are the people who see their coworkers as an untapped, unexploited resource and it’s up to these individuals to go on their crusade, jihad, vision quest, or recruitment drive to suck you in. They even have leaders outside the workplace that encourage them to go after you – their fellow coworkers. Some of these people are specially trained to go after some of us, the polite people who will listen only out of courtesy and are avoiding rudeness, as the low-hanging fruit.

Then it’s your manager, your supervisor, and human resources job to find a way to get rid of you in a tactful way to make sure you’re not a legal liability and to make sure you know that the reason why you’re getting “laid off” has nothing to do with your political or social views. Sharing your political and social views created a hostile working environment is what caused your termination!

Bottom line - like surgeons, athletes, pop music performers – nobody cares about you, people care if you can do the job. Nobody cares who you vote for, what your hobbies are, and your ordinations or habits, they only care about your ability to do the work well and on time. It should be of no surprise that if we become a problem at work we would find ourselves having a problem to find a box to put our things in before we turnover our employee ID card and work computer.

Don’t burden people with your thoughts and beliefs that do not belong at work for the simple fact that you will eventually alienate fellow coworkers and employers. If someone wants to know my opinion on a controversial opinion then cross my palm with silver – pay me. Make it worth my while to tell you what I really think about any given subject that does not have anything to do with work.

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