On entitlement, work and career
To my horror*, I have recently discovered that I have a sense of entitlement. If I examine where it comes from, I can see it’s premised on my education and being smart. I have several degrees, and when I work, I bring my education and my knowledge to the cubicle. I have to, because it’s in my DNA to perform well and take in new challenges. I always give my job 100% and I err on the side of doing the right thing for the organisation.
The organisation, of course, benefits from my knowledge, my ambition, my wanting to do a good job and doing the best for it in terms of outcomes. I am paid a wage (not high, but not low either) in order to ensure I keep the cogs turning. And there is always the dangling carrot of “promotion”, “status” and “more money” that also motivates me, because I know I am worth more than where I currently sit in the organisation’s structure. I always and invariably punch above my weight.
And that’s the hole I find myself in.
I have come to realise that my education and my default position of doing a good job gives me a peculiar sense of entitlement. I’m not a manager, but I believe I could be. I’m not in a leadership role, but I know I could do a better job than most people who are in leadership roles in the workplaces I find myself. I have the education, the experience, the ambition and drive to be an asset to the organisation. And the fact that I am frequently overlooked is disheartening. I ask myself time and again: why am I overlooked, and why is my career not further advanced? Why are other, less capable people, my boss?
And that’s where my sense of entitlement kicks in. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this sense of entitlement makes me difficult to work with. I judge, compare, berate and sneer because I want more from the workplace than it is prepared to give me. I am smart and educated and results driven, ergo I believe I am owed more than what I get. I am cranky because what I think should happen, doesn’t. I should be leading and being paid a whole lot more than I currently am to do so. I find myself in a entitlement trap where my expectations around work are just not met.
The only way out of this entitlement trap that I can see is to dilute the effects of working in just one workplace. For some time, I having been thinking about the benefits of portfolio work, that is, to have three or so part-time jobs and several income streams. In other words, I need to opt out of the whole notion of “having a career” that seems to go hand in hand with “having an education” and just focus on income.
So. In my permanent public service job, I am going to cut my hours back to 3 days a week. That will be my “bread and butter” wage. Then I will look around for other income streams. Maybe it’s freelance writing, editing or training. Maybe it’s working behind a bar a couple of nights a week. I’d be happy to do admin, or work in a cafe or bookshop. I’m not sure what my income stream will look like.
What I do know is that unless changes are made in how I approach work, my sense of entitlement will eat me alive.
* I thought I was immune. In fact, I only thought people in management positions had this malady. You know the ones: they feel that even though they have a six figure salary and a company car, they are still owed more.
I’ve had a rethink on my approach, after talking to a number of public servants who find themselves in a similar situation to me. The key is not to go into a job in a different agency blind – one needs to try before one buys (which is the case with most things). My other approach is to take short term contracts, at a higher level if I can, with my permanent, albeit lower paid, job as my back up plan. That way I will always have an escape route if the department I find myself in is Dodgey City.
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