A few days ago a pretty cool memory popped up in my Facebook timeline— a post from last year when I announced I was accepting a full time position as a marketing manager. Of course I had jobs before that point. (I’ve worked since I was 16, sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time, depending on how many credits I was taking.) But this wasn’t just a new job, it was the first job for what I went to school for, a sign that I was on my way to a real career.
Cut to a year later, and saying that it’s been quite a ride would be an understatement.
In the last 12 months I’ve dealt with a coworker from hell, 14 hour days, and missed deadlines. I’ve also met so many great people at industry events, learned about new passions and strengths, and successfully project managed new marketing initiatives along with a minor company re-brand. Throughout the year, with all of its highs and lows, there is one thing I wish I would have known before starting out...
Are you ready?
- It’s pretty easy to earn respect.
- It’s super easy to lose it.
- It’s 3x harder to earn it back.
- And there’s nothing objective about it.
Okay, maybe that’s 4 things. But the concept stands.
Confession time, I really lost the plot a few months ago. I was far too arrogant and refused to acknowledge I was in over my head with work responsibilities. I was given big and important responsibilities because I had won my boss’s respect and trust. But, when I accepted those responsibilities, I didn’t have a clear picture of what it all involved or what it truly meant.
Over the course of a single lunch, I went from having everything under control to spinning plates and putting out fires. But I was fine. Except, I wasn’t. The more I realized what I had to do, the more stressed I became.
I got quiet and became easily frustrated; not exactly a pleasure to work with.This meant my communication with my team was hindered, I was so focused on minor tasks that I could address individually, I lost sight of larger team projects and was less available for them.
I stopped reaching out to connect with my team, and they stopped reaching out to connect with me. So, when the day came to review a cornerstone project for the year, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that there was no way we were going to meet the deadline.
Shouldn’t is the keyword.
But, because I was so wrapped up in my own projects that this miss hit me like a ton of bricks. Which, hit my boss like a mack-truck. (And, if I can add in a special bonus lesson, it’s this—you never want your boss negatively surprised. Ever. )
It wasn’t a good moment for me. Or my team. Or my boss.
I wish I could write about how I’ve risen from the ashes and everything is good.
But it’s not.
I mean, I still have my job, I wasn’t even put on a performance plan or given a written warning. (Let’s just be sure to note I had a lot of social capital built up.)
Things just aren’t the same.
The foundation that our small team was building has shifted, and we all have to find our footing again. There’s a dance that happens when someone misses a deadline; you want to move on and not be resentful while still taking the past performance into account when considering other assignments and timelines with this person.
And here's the thing, this lesson doesn’t just apply to individuals. Over the course of the last six months, the company I work with has been in a state of rebuilding ever since my boss fired someone who did not fit the team, and who did so much damage, we’re still learning about the ramifications. She burnt bridges with clients in such a way they don’t even want to interact with us at all.
As soon as this person left, it was time for the team to step up and show our clients that we were better than what they had experienced; which we did and are doing. But they were still nervous. We’re coming up on a year since this person started working with us, and have about 6 months left until we hit a full year without her influence.
We’re just now starting to be respected by folks in the industry again; after countless events, e-mails, phone calls, and hours of relationship repair. And that’s just earning back respect, not sales or lost clients. The monetary piece will take even longer; we’re all willing to engage with people on a surface level in a professional setting, but significantly more hesitant to enter into business with them. This is as true for individual clients as it is for corporate clients.
I’m sure you’re wondering what she did that was so bad.
Legally, I can’t say. If you’re just dying to know so you don’t do the same things, then remember this—be professional, and be respectful. If you do those two things with clients or coworkers, you’ll be okay in the long run.
Notice, I didn’t say be superhuman and perfect, or anything like that. Sometimes, being professional means knowing your limits, and being respectful means working through interpersonal conflicts that come up instead of building resentments. Understanding those two pieces means you won’t even need the first piece of advice I opened with because you won’t put yourself in a situation where you’d lose your boss’ respect.