Career Fails

I have been working for about fifty years. I am relatively intelligent, concientious and responsible. My employers, for the most part, have appreciated me. Unfortunately, even the best fall – and when I fall, I fall hard. If you are having a bad day at work, take a few minutes to read about a few of my less than stellar ones.

As a teenager, I worked at the local theatre. I sold entrance tickets and worked the canteen. During the movie, I would walk up and down the aisles making sure no one was smoking, drinking alcohol, making out, or pushing their knees against the seat ahead of them. I carried a BIG flashlight. If someone was out of line, I would shine my flashlight down on them. This was usually enough to get the offender to shape up. One night a classmate had his knees up against a seat. I shone my flashlight on his knees and he put his feet down. I walked to the front of the theatre, turned back, and as I passed my classmate, I noticed he had his knees back up. I reached out to gently tap his knee with my flashlight. The head flew off the flashlight and clattered to the floor. Lightbulb, spring, and batteries flew in all directions – shattering the silence of the moment – that moment when everyone is holding their breath in anticipation of the most terrifying scene of the year’s number one horror movie. That week my boss bought me a new flashlight. A really small flashlight.

After I graduated, I went to visit my sister and brother-in-law in Thompson, Manitoba – northern wilderness at its finest. I decided to stay a while. I applied for a position in a small construction company’s office. I agreed when my tentative employer asked if he could take me to lunch to discuss my possible employment. He offered to pick me up and I agreed to that as well. I did my long dark hair, fixed my make-up, dressed up in a pretty little dress and stepped to the top of the stairs – just as my sister opened the door. I had a good look at my boss- to-be as he stepped inside the house at the foot of the staircase. I took one step down, slipped on the top step and unceremoniously slid down the length of the staircase, body slammed the poor guy into the door and landed on top of him (with my pretty little dress wrapped around my throat). I found my resume months later. The note at the top of the page read “nice hair”.

My next adventure, was going to visit another sister and brother in law and their children. I became a nurse’s aide in their local hospital. I had a few bad days there but one that has remained particularly memorable. I was working the night shift. The head nurse sent me to change a patient’s colostomy bag. I had no idea what a colostomy bag was. I went to the store room and found a package marked ‘colostomy bag’. I cannot remember wondering what I would do with it. I proceeded to the patient’s room. As I stepped up to his bed, he said “I removed the old bag for you”. He lifted a towel off of his abdomen. I panicked, flipped the red emergency switch and ran into the hall, lights flashing, sirens wailing. Nurses, doctors and orderlies were rushing towards me. I rushed up to them and as calmly as possible said “My patient exploded – there is poop everywhere!”.

I finally decided that I should probably settle on office work and landed back in the construction industry, working for a millwork company. Amongst my many duties, I was in charge of getting shipments out. One month we had a large contract for cabinets to be shipped out to RNF in Prince Albert – several shipments, and I got them out without a hitch. Then my boss told me there was another trailer filled and ready to go. I grabbed labels, packing slips and bill of lading. Everything was filled out, the transport company was called, I had time to start working on the invoicing. Two days later, Logan Stevens from Yorkton called to ask where their cabinets were. Oh….

And today… I have been having a great week. It is only Tuesday, but so far so good. This afternoon, I got a call. A contractor called to tell me they wanted to proceed with an order that I had priced. It is a big order. I grabbed the file and started going through it. I had missed a major step in the pricing. My boss came back from site and I brought him the file. I had already figured out that I had also made one mistake in our favour, that there was one cost that had decreased and another that we could negotiate a better deal on. He offered a couple of additional suggestions. We will make it work, we will even make a profit. But…

Working is a part of life. We all have bad days. Through the years, I have found that when things go wrong taking responsibility is key. Finding a fix, if possible, is crucial. And, you cannot die of embarrassment even when you really want to.

Own It

I have been working for over five decades now and have decided to share some thoughts on problem resolution in the workplace (or in life in general). There seems to be a need these days🙂

The most successful and effective people I have known are the ones who recognize an issue, give it some serious consideration, and deal with it.

There are several ineffective ways to deal with an issue and I am pretty sure I have seen them all.

1. Blame someone else – This does nothing to address the issue and abdicates any power one has to deal with the issue. If you are absolutely responsible for causing an issue and you try to blame others, it will be obvious. 😐

2. Make excuses – Nobody cares and it does not resolve the issue. You may have to explain how the issue arose but that must be followed by a resolution or at least a commitment to find a resolution to the issue. 👍

3. Ignore the issue and expect it to go away. If it is your issue to address, it will not go away. It certainly will not go away without causing further damage. If there is truly nothing you can do to address an issue, you can still choose an effective way to react to it. 🙂

4. Allowing yourself to be the helpless victim. It is all there. Victims are helpless. Even if you were totally innocent and have been hurt deliberately in the worst possible way by someone, do not allow yourself to be victimized. Even if the only thing you can do is work on resolving your own pain and suffering, do that. If you wait for someone else to resolve a situation or repair the damage it has done to you, it will never happen.

Acting the helpless victim at work is particularly non-helpful. Employers, employees, co-workers, customers, suppliers and other business contacts are looking for you to be competent and effective. If you are looking to succeed in your position, that is the face you need to show. 🙂

5. Lie, cheat or steal. Any negative response to an issue is not going to have a positive result – ever! 🙁

6. Act oblivious and clueless. Seriously, is that how you want people to see you? If you want to be treated as a professional, act like one. 🤔

7. Scream, swear, throw things, kick things. None are mature. None are helpful. None are professional. 🤯

8. Avoid the issue. If there is work to be done, or an issue to be addressed just do it. This is not the time to take a week off.

One final thought. Accept that some situations are hopeless. If there are ongoing issues that you do not have the power or authority to deal with, work towards a viable exit plan. There are options but think them through and ensure you are not leaving one bad situation for another.