Although I wouldn’t say I was applying 100% of my work ethic in my teenage-years jobs, for all of my adult life, I have always applied at least 100% of it to each job I’ve had. The sense of a job well done and the feeling of accomplishment have been the highest factors in why I’ve done so, followed closely by the want of being able to be of help to, and to help grow, the business I’m working for.
For the past 20+ years, I can confidently say that I’ve performed, easily, at 125% or more. I became focused not on my own well-being and success, but on the company’s well-being and success. When working in sales, I understood that the success I brought to the business was measured by the number of dollars brought in. I always got super-excited when I brought a new customer to the business, and went out of my way to do things to help that customer become a loyal one!
In my last position before retiring from the hotel industry, I was asked to take the offered job because of my ability in sales plus my unique ideas of thinking out of the box to bring business to it. In the beginning, I was gung-ho, and in the first year, I was able to increase the business to the company by an easy 20%. I was thrilled! But after a few years, I began to understand that the owner of the business wanted more business to come in but wasn’t willing to invest a nickel into my many ideas that could do so. One year I was given a budget of $300.00 for the year. Trust me, that doesn’t go far! I used it to create a loyalty program to keep people coming back. It was semi-successful, but I was limited to only being able to engage people via email or postal mail. While I was doing this, I was also being demanded to put in at least 40 hours on property each week, do tasks that were for the sister property (taking time away from my own property) and being able to cover all of the jobs needed at a lodging property. So I was a housekeeper, a front desk clerk, an aide during breakfast while doing tasks for the sister property, with no budget and an almost immediate shoot-down of any sales ideas I had that might cost something up-front. In one of the 5 years I spent there, I got one raise, in the amount of $0.03 (yes, 3 cents!) per hour, based on a 40-hour work week. Let me help you with that math – – that meant I earned an additional $1.20 a week times 52 weeks for a grand total of $62.40 per year! Trust me, that didn’t change my tax bracket!
It took me a while to begin to understand that I was investing much more in time and effort to try and do the job for which I was hired, and to fully understand that I could never continue to grow the business because I was not being given the tools, money and time necessary to do so! It also took me a long time afterwards to understand that I wasn’t getting what I needed or wanted in order to give them what they needed or wanted. Eventually, I left.
Now, I’m in a similar situation. I have volunteered (no pay involved) my time and energy to help a small business grow. I’ve listened carefully to what the manager says he wants to happen for this company. Seven months in and I’ve begun to feel that same feeling that I had at my last paying job. I’ve invested a lot of time there, and I’ve come up with scads of ideas to help growth. My ideas are exactly in line with what the manager wants. The problem is, I can only come up with the ideas – I have no power to actually execute them. And what I hear when I present an idea is, “Oh, that’s a great idea!”, but there is minimal, if any, follow through!
The manager is paid according to the sales that are made, so I understand that paychecks will vary. I’ve made quite a few purchases from this business, intent solely on increasing the manager’s earnings and growing the business. I’ve even spent my own money buying little gifts for some of the regular customers as a way to thank them for the continued business.
On the plus side, the business is growing. Some weeks, it’s awesome, some not so much. And I’m happy to see that happening! But I’m at that same point where I feel like I’m doing so much more work, spending much more time, and spending my own money without feeling like I’m achieving enough to be truly appreciated. I mean, I get a pat on the back now and then. But if I make even the smallest mistake, I’m also taken aside and criticized in an rather abrupt way. In seven months, I’ve made two mistakes, and understanding afterwards, was eager to apologize and learn from them. What bothers me most is that things go on like before, and the ‘expectations’ of what I will do for the company never change, but I never get told that my apology is accepted.
My own stubbornness keeps me plodding along. But it has raised the question with which I titled this post: do I have “too much work ethic?” I don’t want to give up. I love sharing my “out-of-the-box” ideas and I do find joy in seeing the business growing. I just question whether that joy is enough?