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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chasing Cars

Love this song. It, actually, was what got me to stop and watch my first episode of Grey's Anatomy... I had left the TV on in my bedroom back in what.. 2007? Went in my room to turn the TV off and this song was on in the background while Izzy's boyfriend was dying (1)... it just gave me chills. Not the show; the song. And I fell in love.

Now, forget the fact that at the time this thing was playing like every 5 minutes and doesn't really have a distinctive sound. Forget that it was covered by every bland lounge band in the world, I think. Forget that it didn't really FIT my musical inclinations at that time.. I. STILL. LOVED. IT. Kind of ironic, really; since the song is about an ill-fitted relationship.

How many times do we do that with our careers, or our dating relationships? We take a job or date someone that is completely wrong for us; but, we're so caught up in the perceived benefits that we ignore the bad fit? We tell ourselves that their self-absorption is just because they're not used to being part of a pair; or that the lack of warm-fuzzies from our boss is just because they haven't had a chance to know us long enough to see how cool we are - not because they just won't give them. Or the 18-hour workdays isn't REALLY the culture; it's just because we're new & they'll totally appreciate how dedicated we are! It's just US and OUR NEW RELATIONSHIP/OUR NEW JOB against the world.

"we'll do it all, everything; on our own... we don't need, anything... or anyone..."

Except, of course, we do. We do have needs and as we ignore them over time in service of trying to have that 'perfect moment that will change everything' (2) and make something work that maybe shouldn't? It changes who we are, I think. And the other party in the dysfunctional relationship? Knows it. Sees it happening. Senses the often subtle shift as your 'spark' fades away, deflated. At work, depending on the culture it'll either be ignored altogether or the employee might be labeled 'the bad egg' rather than just saying, "You know, maybe this isn't the mutual fit we thought it was." In the romantic relationship, the band-aid most often used is "I Love You."

Those three words, are said too much... They're not enough.

Because they're just words. You can tell an employee you appreciate them; but unless you show it through a well-thought out employee engagement program or a culture of meritocratic recognition? There's a good chance those words of "We're glad you are here" or "You're a great employee" are going to eventually ring hollow.

When I'm working with a candidate during the interview process, the 3rd question I prep them to ask about in an interview is actually related to performance & recognition. "You are hired to do a good job." I tell them, "So consider that a baseline of employment and let them know you realize that. But ask them, 'What happens when I really go above and beyond and knock the skin clean off the ball and out of the park?' How do you, as an employer, recognize excellence in your employees?" And I prep every candidate to make sure that they know the answers can be all over the map & there's not a WRONG answer (3) - just have to make sure it syncs with the way we need to receive appreciation/recognition.

Let's Waste Time... Chasing Cars... Around Our Head

30% of women, post-divorce, say they KNEW they were marrying the wrong guy before they even said "I Do." They knew there was an ill-fit; they knew there were problems that weren't addressed, they knew they weren't seeing the changes that their significant other promised they'd make. But they stayed anyway. In our dating relationships, we'll often let the "I love you" serve as an apology or a 'reset' post bad-behavior & that's never going to ultimately be enough. Because even though you can extend what at times are considered to be an absolutely unreal amount of grace to the relationships that matter to us, or to the employer we give our loyalty to? At the end of the day, what's needed? Is change.

I need your grace... To Remind Me... To FIND MY OWN.

Change. We are really responsible for being our own agents for change. When you're in a situation where you realize your relationship is ill-fated or dysfunctional; or you recognize that things aren't clicking the way you'd hoped or need at work... you have 2 options: You can ignore it or you can do something about it. I've worked with many an employer that will talk about the employee that took the initiative to proactively go to their leadership ... not to gripe, but to raise awareness and offer solutions. They partner with their employer to attempt to find a "win-win" situation. When I was running HR, I did this with our company through 'development plans.' When things weren't working, we would draft a mutual expectations plan so it wasn't one-sided on the employee - because relationships? Are not one-sided and don't work that way. Same thing in a romantic relationship... it can't be one-sided. So, have a conversation (4) and work together & be open to reasonable compromises.

I don't know where...
Confused about 'how' as well...
Just know that these things will never change for us at all....

Without that commitment to modifying behaviors or a willingness in both parties to accept responsibility for the things that each are doing that aren't 'fitting' in the relationship - whether it's work, friendship, dating, or marriage - things will never change. And sometimes, we have to accept that no matter how much WE might be willing; the other half of our relationship may not. I dated a guy that -and I'll remember the scene for as long as I live - that told me "I really, really love you; but I like things the way they are... and I mean, I can try to put your needs first some times but I'm just not good at that. I can say I'll make a point of showing you that I love you - but, I probably won't." (5) He said that with the same tone that you'd expect someone to use when they ask if you want to go get a slurpee from 7-11. What he was REALLY saying is, "I love you in my life; but I love me way more." I was never going to get the 'fit' I needed in a relationship regardless of the effort I put in; not because he was a bad guy or what I did wasn't enough... but, because he was never open to compromise or change. There's no win in that, folks - if you find yourself in that same situation where there's no room for a mutual satisfaction of needs? Then it's time to STOP wasting time chasing cars and find a change of scenery.

(1) or something like that - they're all the same basic plot line, anyway - guy and girl are in angst over something set to some rockin' music.

(2) come on, admit it... we've all done it. How many times in your life have you had a friendship, romantic relationship, or job where you felt totally beat down; but thought, "If I could just make "X" happen; the whole game will change??" I'll admit it, I'm totally guilty of that - I hate giving up, so I've been known to stick it out WAY past when I should have shown someone the door just so -I- can feel like -I- did everything I could and didn't give up.

(3) Unless there's NO answer; and my best advice for those candidates? Run. If a company doesn't know how they show appreciation to their employees or recognize superior performance? There's probably a problem there. I'd seriously ask about their attrition rates and how much of it's 'natural attrition' (people leaving on their own vs. being fired).

(4) Women: Word to the wise.. don't use "Feeling" words in this conversation. It's rare a guy is going to respond to "I feel like" - they tend to be less emotional and will likely respond better to "I think" and/or "I see" backed with three or four examples (not a dozen reasons why they suck). And screaming, crying constantly, or throwing a fit? Will not get you what you want. For a dozen years, I had a rule that if I was angry enough to yell? I needed to leave the room & come back when I was calm. Don't see the point of arguing.

(5). I didn't know whether to give him kudos for at least being aware of his default nature or a "peace-out" as I was leaving over the sheer audacity of his speech (which was condensed for the purpose of this blog post; but yes, he did say that!). In the end, I think it was so stunning that I did nothing; it totally freaked me out that someone could KNOW they were being negligent with someone they loved; but, just didn't care. With time & some research, I learned he probably did care but the psychological discomfort that accompanies changing negative patterns was likely more than he was able/comfortable with handling; so he settled into a "this is just who I am" mentality. You see this often in business, too; miserable employees will stay in positions they hate, with teams they can't stand because it's psychologically easier to deal with than the fear & discomfort that goes along with changing roles/jobs... Even if it'd ultimately make their lives better! The devil we know, I guess....

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