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Downtrodden and demotivated

#1 Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 10:58

Mr Downtrodden

Hiya guys! Contrary to my sparky online personality, I am Mr Downtrodden and Demotivated himself.

I try hard to be a positive contributor to things. When other people are whining or criticising, I try to find solutions and focus on outcomes. I don't get involved in office politics, I'm not a backstabber, I'm not a freeloader... I just want to do an honest day's work and get on with my life. However, lately I have had a problem.

My problem is that, no matter what I do, certain people (whom I cannot avoid) ALWAYS focus on the negatives. I could put together a fantastic report overnight, work really hard on it and 'go the extra mile' - and next thing I know I'm being heavily criticised by the project team for missing out a comma on page 74 and my 'accuracy skills' are being called into question. And what do they contribute in return? Just a load of hot air, meetings and criticism of my work, but no real client-facing output.

Another example? I'll set up a meeting with a potential client and what happens? Answer: the boss replies to it saying "I'd be surprised if this came to anything, we've no experience of doing this kind of thing before" (the project being discussed was well within our capabilities but my boss couldn't think of a time when we did exactly the same thing for someone else and was being extremely narrow minded). Great, talk about a motivator.

I came up with some ideas/suggestions a while back about something I'd rather not get into the detail of here. They were good suggestions, put forward so that we could talk about them and maybe they might develop into something more. What happens? Answer: I end up sitting through a 1.5 hour meeting whilst they get picked to shreds and criticised in micro detail. Not in a constructive kind of way, where people are saying "well that wouldn't work because XYZ but perhaps instead we could ABC", but rather the comments were more like "this hasn't been thought through" or "we don't want to get into that". Just really unhelpful, unproductive stuff. Everything I came up with just got shot down. And forget defending it - this just makes these people aggressive or they deal with it by dumping more work on me (e.g. "go and find out more about it then report back to us" and then the cycle continues...).

After being on the back foot for so long and constantly having to defend myself, my ideas and suggestions against a continual tirade of unhelpful and cynical criticism, it changes the mood to one of "this is rubbish" when in fact I'm trying to do something constructive and these people just aren't open to it in the slightest.

Now I'm no over-enthusiastic do-gooder who is stepping out of line by trying to do things that aren't in my job description. Nor am I a jobsworth. Everything I'm doing is legitimate - it's not an over-keen effort to impress the boss or to try and get a promotion. It really is just trying to make a positive contribution. Yet I keep hitting a brick wall of criticism, lack of support, requests for further detail/information (to the deliberate extent that I just have to drop it otherwise I can't do other things), and cynical feedback.

You don't even want to know how my appraisal went. No action points or learnings, just a stream of bitter criticism.

Here's another one: Every once in a while I might send an e-mail asking for some support or input to a project. Or even just asking for people's opinions on something. What do I get? Absolute silence. Or occasionally an e-mail in return which completely misses the point (e.g. I'll ask a question and get a response back like "Thanks, good point"). Or I just get referred to someone else. I know it's human nature to try and avoid work, but I'm usually not asking for much - sometimes no more than 3 minutes of their time!

What am I to do?

I've thought about getting a new job and have my eye on the market. But I'd rather fix the situation than walk away from it, if I can. I have also had good times with the company but lately the mood has just changed (I don't know why). Also, despite the continual criticism, I'm relatively secure where I am... I don't want the risk and stress of having to take on a new job if I can help it.

Thank you

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#2 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 11:42

A Mars A Day to Mr Downtrodden (#1)

Where do you work Mr Downtrodden?

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#3 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 12:03

Mr Downtrodden to A Mars A Day (#2)

It's a small-ish boutique firm, not one of the big brands or anything like that.

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#4 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 12:16

Newbie to Mr Downtrodden (#1)

Surely it's time for a frank chat with your manager. Perhaps explain to him how you're feeling? Point out how you've noticed that the mood has changed and probe for why that might be the case. Is there anything that can be done?

Ultimately though your boss / colleagues need to understand how this is making you feel...

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#5 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 12:36

Mr Downtrodden to Newbie (#4)

People have had frank discussions with my manager in the past, about other things. They always regret it. He is one to bear grudges, and has an incredible ability to re-frame problems (mainly using his position in the company and ability to have the 'final say' as a source of power) such that the problem is you, not him.

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#6 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 12:44

A Mars A Day to Mr Downtrodden (#5)

Mr Downtrodden - leave the company! The consulting marketplace is pretty bouyant at the moment (although there are localised dips eg in parts of CapGemini, parts of PA and things are looking shaky at Atos for example).

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#7 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 19:42

Big Consultant to A Mars A Day (#6)

Here is how I will do it:

Approach one of their rivals with your proposal that was shot down.

Apply for employment with the same rival. If your proposals are any good the rival should be happy to take you on as you will be a good source of revenue generation.

Once you secure an offer of a job somewhere else(ideally 2 or 3), have a blunt (note I did not say frank) conversation with you manager and leave the firm.

To round it up, when your idea is implemented by the rival company you joined, then send a credential (that includes the revenue generated) to the top dogs in your company, cc'ing your manager and a few colleagues by email so everyone would know that senior management is composed of arses.

Sorry if this is harsh, it is just my personal style.

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#8 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 21:02

Friday to Big Consultant (#7)

Dear Mr Downtrodden,

I can totally relate with you because I feel exactly the same way as you do. I work at a Big 4. I really think we should get together and try to do something.

You know what one of the worst things for me is? To be a one-man-party. I'd so love to work together with a team of like-minded people and create something useful. In the end, I do it all by myself.

Something that you didnt mention that has actually happened to me is: Say you send an idea to someone who replies "hey, you know what, this looks good, let me get back to you". He never does. You email him and get no reply. Basically one has an idea which is good but not implemented, because no one really cares.

I recently had the chance of discovering the fine line between a 'good' idea and a 'dangerous' idea.

It all sucks because, as you know, one puts more than hard work into it. I put enthusiasm. My heart pumps faster. I get totally absorbed in drawing it all on a paper.

Dude, we really should get together and talk.

I would not get bitter about it. It only makes it worse for you. Plus you would became cynical (cynics nowadays are mistaken to be 'intelligent'). I would not hit back at the people who shoot your ideas down. I see it in the following way: If a lion attacks you, would you be angry with the lion? No. Why? Because its in their nature.

These people are just that way. They are that narrow and being comfortably numb gives them safety. Try to find your way, clashing with office politics and comments like "Sometimes you are too proactive".

Oh, another "hilarious" situation is when people think you are doing this because you have too much time for yourself. I actually sat with one senior manager in my firm telling him (half jokingly, since in my opinion, using humor is the best way to get through): "My girlfriend is all annoyed at me jumping out of bed at midnight and scribbling ideas on a notepad!"

About applying your ideas somewhere else... if your ideas are like mine that might be hard. Many of these ideas, at least in my case, are applicable within a context. This context is the firm we work in, so going to another firm to apply them, doesnt really make that much sense (If they were applicable from an industry perspective, things would be different, but I'm not an expert in anything -yet-). Plus many times, rather than "pure" ideas, they are hybrids or twists made up of many other ideas or tools used in your firm. Hence, they are not that easily transferable.

Anyhow, I wont ramble forward. Do drop me a line if you feel like trying to team and trying to do something! Its exciting to meet people who have 'that' thirst!

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#9 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
24/05/2007 22:44

Jim to Friday (#8)

I'd shoot the lion. I wish I could shoot my project manager.

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#10 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
28/05/2007 20:19

anon to Jim (#9)

In line with Friday's comments, I believe that humor is one of the best ways of handling Mr. Downtrodden's problem.

You see, by using humor you can (midly) criticise your boss without him getting defensive. You can also use it to disagree with someone who doesn't like someone contradicting him. It often happens that bosses are high up not because they know more than you (since this business keeps changing), but because they have been around for longer than you and they know the right people. Therefore, something which they perceive as a change can be viewed negatively not due to the quality of the idea, but due to the 'originality' of the idea (original ideas tend to be radical and new).

Furthermore, humor might help you not become bitter.

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#11 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
29/05/2007 05:55

remember... to anon (#10)

You should always try to fix the problem. Give the guy a chance to listen to you. Remember, the MD is probably under a hell of a lot of pressure if this is a small firm. Maybe it is not in great shape. Realistically it is irresponsible to advise you to move on without understanding your profile/level of experience. Perhaps you have only been there a short while, your ideas are rubbish and what you actually need to do is listen/learn from the people around you. I am sure that if you were a high level/experienced consultant, you would put your ideas across in such a way as to ensure that your boss would be impressed. It sounds liek they are frustrated with you - presumably because you are focussing more effort in telling them how to do things than in getting on with your job.

A lot of assumptions here, which may be off the mark but reading between the lines, my guess is that you do not know as much as you think you do and are making large numbers of suggestions without the necessary knowledge to back them up. Any boss in their right mind will listen to a well put together proposal from a reliable source. Head down, keep quiet, listen and learn...

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#12 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
29/05/2007 10:44

bingobango to remember... (#11)

Sometimes your face just doesn't fit, you can't help this nor can you do anything about it.

Take your experience and your positive outlook and leave. You will be snapped up and may find yourself working for a firm who appreciate your outlook and drive.

You're only here once and they are wasting your precious time.

Good luck!

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#13 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
29/05/2007 14:10

Eric Cantona to bingobango (#12)

When a male elephant finds the herd he may be welcomed or he may not. If he is not he does not try to impress by wasting his energy pushing over ever larger trees, he saves it for his continuing search.

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#14 RE: Downtrodden and demotivated
06/06/2007 17:36

Mars A Day to Eric Cantona (#13)

Not sure how talking cr@p helps.

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