Frequently you can hear that the only constant in the modern world is change. And probably this is true when it comes to circumstances around us, living and working environment, technology… The trouble is our characters and personalities can’t follow the pace.
We can change and adjust our behavior but there is a fat chance that we will be unhappy and deeply unsatisfied. We will be frustrated.
I meet from time to time people who claim that they have changed for better and that by investing a lot of time, effort, thought and money – they managed to build their new personalities that fit better into modern living and challenges around them. Every time I hear such a story I remember this hilarious video from Saturday Night Live.
In business context, we are pushed to change all the time. Sometimes there’s a realistic need for a changing market landscape, sometimes your company paid expensive consultants and they said to the board that you should all change. And don’t get me wrong – I fully embrace changes. I was many times a “change management champion”. But the trouble is, that even when you participate in a change and you support it 100% it might happen that the outcome of the process is not a place that you feel good about. It might be a totally new universe that you don’t belong to.
I will tell you about two situations in my career where positive business change went against my character and caused significant frustration in my career and life.
A few years ago, I worked for a fantastic small company – a media start-up with 25 people employed. Great boss, great fun at work, fantastic colleagues, very posh office space, a lot of champagne and caviar. We had a relaxed working atmosphere, open communication, plenty of jokes, almost zero politics. After a year or so, we acquired company that was 4 times bigger than us. It was a good business decision since we evolved into a market leader, but we got a toxic environment where everything become more important than doing business. I was promoted. But a major part of my job was focused on making this acquisition work, playing political games and finding ways to say goodbye to the people who were destructive and who caused troubles in this new setup.
I can say I have learned a lot during this process. And I’m for sure a much more competent professional due to this experience. But instead of creating media content, developing business, developing people and bringing new ideas (things I enjoy the most), I was spending most of my time solving ridiculous interpersonal challenges and playing politics to maintain peace in the company. I felt very frustrated.
The second example is when I moved to a job where I really had to be careful about what I’m going to say/write in public. By public I mean social media. The job itself was very good. Well paid, intellectually stimulating content, many new things to learn… I’m still benefiting a lot from that experience. And to be clear – no one asked from me to be silent or to censor my writing. But you would have to be pretty stupid not to figure out that that was the only way.
As you can see, if you are reading my blog, I have tons of opinions. About many things. Also, about many people. And I like to express my opinion. Live, in a smaller circle, but also in the digital world where anyone can see it and read it. Yes, I know. I have offended some people in the past by expressing my opinions. Every time my argumentation was not strong enough I apologized and did my best not to repeat it. I’m not the type of person that can talk or write under a fake name or anonymously. I want to say it as Stevan. I highly disrespect people who are sending messengers or hiding behind others instead of saying things loud and clear.
The level of frustration due to the fact that I’m unable to express my opinion inside of the organization I work for, but also outside of it, was enormous! So enormous that I had to stop it no matter what.
What I’ve learned about myself from those experiences?
I’m capable of change and adapting. And of being fully functional. Even very good at what I’m doing. And that’s good and important to know. But frustration remains. In the long run this is an unacceptable situation and the “real me” starts screaming out loud.
Be open to changes. But don’t force yourself into things that are against your nature or that may take you too far from the things you enjoy and you love. Even under difficult labor market conditions, some options still exist (find some in my post about career changes).
Bonus learning about business: If you do acquisition, say one big “thank you” to all top managers of the acquired company and give them nice packages to take away. I know that this is a well-known thing and I’m not saying anything new. But, if someone has doubts I just want to confirm from a real-life experience – it’s a good call. For everyone – you, them, the new company, all employees…
Cheers to freedom of writing and deciding. And cheers to Mondays. It’s good when you are approaching them with a smile! That’s a good change.