Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crunch time..

There are times in your life when you are coasting along, thinking everything is hunky dory, when in reality, there are the great big swirling rapids of shit creek raging on beneath you and the first you are aware of it is when someone unexpected dunks you in headfirst. I think I am still struggling to catch my breath, let alone think about sinking or swimming.

I thought I was doing pretty well at work. Not brilliantly, that’s for sure, but decently for 5 months in anyway. Apparently not so. I have been giving them cause for concern. I have been acting unprofessionally; I have been making consistent mistakes. Now a lot of what I have been told came completely out of the blue for me. Especially regarding the unprofessional issue. I have been told the time it refers to. The Summer Intern was in the company and we were having a laugh together, nothing outrageous, just some subtle fun. But apparently it’s not how it’s done in the American workplace.

I have to say, this is one thing that I don’t like about this cultural exchange. The difference in the mannerisms and attitudes at work is highly diverse. To be seen as anything other than conscientious and understated in the workplace is almost a death knell for your career. I understand that things will be carried out differently in all countries, but I feel the emphasis on ‘extreme’ professionalism is going a bit too far.

No doubt that this observation suggests that I am far from ready to participate in the corporate world. I moved from an extremely open, communicative organisation to one where it almost seems taboo to connect at times. For all the ‘reach out’ and ‘touch base’ that is recommended, people don’t seem to be doing a lot of it. I can sit in my cubicle for an entire day, and no one will utter a word. I feel like I am harassing my supervisor if I go up to her desk to check in on some work.

This is not to say that I dislike my co-workers, far from it, I actually get on very well with them. My manager intimidates me due to my lack of experience, she is a very nice woman who treats us well, it’s just that I have to conquer the small quake of fear I get when I am called into her office. Another nugget of information I was offered was that the workplace was not the environment to make friends with your co-workers. They were just that. Don’t get chummy, don’t let your guard down, remember that they could be the key to your success. Now, while I admit that part of that may be true, I don’t like the fact that you have to keep the people you work with for 8 hours a day at arms length. But this again may be the Brit in me coming out. I just don’t understand it. I feel awkward if I try to act formally to someone that I know fairly well, it almost feels like you are being rude! So it seems that this is an issue that I will have to work carefully on.
The last thing I wanted was to be labelled ‘unprofessional’ when I have been praised in other employment for being efficient, proactive and ambitious. Gahhh!

Since receiving this bombshell, I have been attempting to raise my game. Now that I am the last remaining intern, all the duties fall to me, which I love. I now have more control over what happens, and I have all the information, rather than having to ask what parts haven’t been completed. In the last week I have been feeling slightly more confident and have been taking projects into my own hands, rather than waiting for them to come and find me. This means I don’t get caught on the hop anymore. I’ve also managed to limit my BBC News intake to 20 minutes a day!

The most upsetting thing about all these points is that it didn’t come from any of my managers. So I can’t even imagine the thoughts directed at my performance that they must be mulling over. And my 6-month review is coming up in 3 weeks.

I’ll get my coat shall I?

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