Everyone come to work to earn a living. In a working environment, there will be various mixture and variants of people- kind, nasty, naive, helpful, trustworthy, cannot be trusted, hardworking, lazy, reliable, responsible, self starter, etc.
It’s no good to label someone as being lazy or lack of initiative just because the person does not seems to exhibit a lot of zest and trying to look for extra work or projects to do. Even if you are a top performer who can’t seem to understand why others does not have the same working philosophy as you, try to find clues in the person’s family or personal life. To help you see from their perspective, let me share with you the story about a certain Mrs A:
As a young mother trying to raise her children up almost single handedly, Mrs A had to get up at 5.45am to cook and do some household chores before taking 1.5 hour commute to work via public transport. She does not get much support and due to financial constraints, she could not afford maids or expensive childcare for her young children. She worked very hard at home and when she is on leave from work, she actually lost weight because she was busy with household chores. Work in office was easier than the one at home- because it was not as labor intensive as the office. Still, Mrs A is not someone that you would call as lazy or inefficient. She does her job as required by the boss and perform as her responsibilities had specified. If the job says to do A, B, C & D, she will do ABCD the best she can. But she will not go looking for E, ….to Z to do. It makes her look very bad when working alongside with another younger person who goes looking for E to Z to do. But Mrs A know that her children meant more to her than career advancement- she is happy to let the younger person get ahead and to be in the spotlight. She had made her choice.
Because after getting finishing work, a whole new world of task awaits her. She had to take a bus to a market and buy vegetables, meat, fish, and fruits- then she carries back via her long commute home. From the bus, walk back home carrying the groceries. After that, she had to peel the prawns and clean the fish, etc. And there’s another big pail of clothes that need to be washed by hand.
You’ll probably be able to relate to people like Mrs A in your office. And if you are a self starter and strive on work pressure, you’ll probably make life for people like Mrs A difficult. Perhaps as a boss, you may mark down her appraisal as ‘below expectation’. But before you do that, remember, to you is just a stroke of the pen but to her, it’s her rice bowl.
She does her job ok and just because her life and priority does not revolve around the office (that means she has a life and responsibilities outside from office which an otherwise workaholic may not have), writing an unfavorable review will deny her of the much needed extra income for her kid’s schooling.
If you encounter people like Mrs A, please be more understanding and go more easy on them- so long as they do their work and do not give you consistent tardiness problem, don’t go all out to make their life miserable or go on a fault finding mission with them. Even if they give you a bit of tardiness problem, if you are able to show a bit of understanding, take her aside and talk it out with her, try to motivate and encourage her- you will be surprised that she will try her best to change- after all, the job is her rice bowl. Life is very tough for a young mother who does not get sufficient spousal or family support.
Every company needs a top performer, self starter- you know, the so-called fresh blood that seemed to be consistently running high on alrenaline. But the same company will also need people like Mrs A- for staff like this have financial commitment and will think 100 times before going for job hopping. After all, they do not favor living on the edge and have young mouths to feed and various other financial commitments.
You might be a top performer, but one day, your life’s priorities may change too. A friend of mine used to be very ambitious- she worked very hard to study her Masters, climb the corporate ladder, etc. She came from a poor family background and vowed not to live like that anymore. But the moment she got married and become a mother, and had to watch her father died painfully from cancer, her life priorities changed. She learned to take things easy, do what is required in her job the best she can. But she no longer competes with other people to be the best. Everyday, she goes back to clean the house and take care of her babies. She is not the only one- many of my friends had a change in priorities after experiencing major changes in their lives. Another friend of mine was never married, but she also stopped being a workaholic after going through a person battle with breast cancer.
We all learned to lead life the best we know how. Everyone’s trying the best they can with what they have- perhaps if you take the time to find out about another person’s life stories, you will often get clues as to why people behave the way they do.