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  • Writer's pictureJacob Skorka

I Taught Myself, so You Should Too

Here, have a beer, and let's talk about the lack of support in the workplace.


I have had the sweet privilege to work in a few, vastly different spheres in my infant professional life. Everything from non-profit ministry roles to mid-level management for multimillion-dollar corporate companies. Now, let it be known that the "sweet privilege" is only me trying to be optimistic about my professional life. The reality is that I’ve had many jobs because I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, jah feel?


I digress.


There are more similarities in all the jobs I have had than one would think. Yes, they have been different in nature, and this is most obviously displayed in the day-to-day operations of each gig. Unfortunately, the similarities rear their head in lack of support from superiors, the unintentional establishment of expectations, the insertion of ego into leadership styles, and the overwhelming presence of the falsity that people are capable of simultaneously learning, teaching, and carrying out responsibility from the jump.


I’m writing this through the lens of someone who has been unfulfilled and disappointed at work for a long time. Through a lot of investigating and introspection, I have realized that this is my biggest qualm with the work culture in America. Okay, maybe not every job in the whole country of America, but certainly the work culture that I’ve been surrounded by.


Raise your glass if you’ve ever heard a person in leadership say something like, "well, nobody taught me when I started.” What about, "there's really only one way to learn." Maybe you’ve heard my personal favorite, “you’ll just have to figure it out.” My knee-jerk reaction when a boss says something like this is to punch them in the throat and tell them to figure out how to breathe. It’s taken quite a bit of self-control over the years to stay out of the HR office, so kudos to me. The less dramatic part of my thoughts typically steers me to thinking – okay, I’m sure you did [teach yourself] [learn in the "only" way there is to learn] [you have obviously figured some things out]. Now look at you, you’re the boss. Whoopty-FRICKING-doo! That doesn't mean that you have to inflict the same torture onto the people around you.


It seems like the majority of the times that statements like this are made is when I need help with something, and jefe doesn’t want to be bothered by it. In turn, their comments make me feel less-than and annoying. Then I feel like a failure because I’m a coddled little millennial boy who needs approval from every superior figure that I am forced to be subordinate to. When it’s all said and done, I find myself in a weird, depressive state sad about everything because I asked my boss – who has an “open-door policy” - a question that they didn’t want to answer at 2:15 on a Tuesday. Weeks later I muster up enough courage to ask another question, being sure to ask at a different time on a different day - because 2:15 on a Tuesday can suck-it - and am received by a sigh, an eye roll, and a “have you thought hard enough about your question” type answer.


Now we start to see a pattern that lacks the support of the human and establishes an expectation that everyone will do things on their own while coexisting in unison to beautifully execute the master plan of this business that we are a part of. Reality is perpetuating a cycle of feeling lost and alone. Feeling lost and alone can encourage hyper-independence. Hyper-independence is a slippery slope with disdain at the bottom. Specifically, disdain towards leadership.


I've had a couple of bosses who carried a posture of wanting things done in a very specific way that mirrors the way they would do it. They didn’t have the time to teach me how, so my only option was to do it. I would then get told that it's wrong. Then, there is no time in the day to explain how it was wrong, so I go do it again and have to figure out A) what was wrong the first time and B) how to do it correctly. Hence teaching, learning, and carrying out responsibility simultaneously. It seems like forcing someone to figure it out has become the default, but I think it’s a cop-out.


I understand that there is no harm in allowing people the space to figure some things out on their own. In a lot of spaces, it is extremely healthy. It encourages people to think critically and creatively while operating within the boundaries set before them. An example that we’re all familiar with is a toddler hanging out by a hot oven – you know how that one ends. Encouraging critical thought while providing support is the place where leadership thrives. Yes, it is hard to find common ground between the two. There are a lot of factors that play into recognizing the appropriate amount of leeway to support - factors such as personality type, strengths, skills, etc. - and I know that leadership is incredibly hard to do well. However, there is a basic understanding of human beings that plays a larger role than sifting through elements of leadership. Knowing that human beings want two, seemingly simple, very specific things can elevate a leader. Regardless of personality, strengths, skills, age, culture, enneagram type, Meyers-Briggs results, (insert BS raison d’ėtre here), people want to be seen and people want to be heard. Synonymously, people want to be known and people want to be loved.


This is no different in the context of the professional world - people deeply want to be seen by their leader and heard by everyone around them. By “people” I mean me. For God’s sake be nicer to me, I’m just a little boy.


Cheers to those who encourage some independence while offering the support needed. I’ll drink to those who do it well, to those who try to do it well, and to those who care about doing it well. If that’s not you, be better.


 

Raison d’ėtre means reason or justification

Enneagram is a popular personality test that identifies 9 different "types" and elaborates on tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, and modus operandi.

Meyers-Briggs is also a personality type that separates introvert from extrovert, sensing from intuition, feeling from thinking, and judging from perceiving.

Jah is synonymous with "you".

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