Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some thoughts about "stepping up" when on the job, and someone else drops the ball

How often does it happen that we have to step up in the workplace, and take over when someone else has dropped the ball.

We can’t always. But there are times when we have to. Doing so can make or break a career or at least a future career.

It happens. People write systems and don’t document how they work too well. Someone in support gets a call ticket, has to take it from scratch.

Or a substitute teacher fills in for several classes, all of different levels of maturity, but the regular teacher has left the same lesson plan for all. The sub has to get in there and take over, and wonder what he signed up for. He has to be able to afford to look foolish.

What you need to step up for does depend on my background. In the substitute teaching example, I did have a background in piano, so I probably should have been able to play conductor for some sixth graders.

There’s another aspect of this in what we sometimes call “sales culture” or “hucksterism”. If you made a living off an industry (say, life insurance) as a programmer, you ought to be able to go out and sell what you made a living off of. You’re supposed to be the smart one to advise people how to take care of themselves, or you can “sort of” take care of them. In the past, that’s what social status meant. But now, this seems like going in and annoying people. In a technological society, people can do things for themselves; they don’t need salesmen. Or do they? We seem to have destroyed our need not just for person-to-person selling but for expertise altogether.

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