Does it sometimes feel like you work with royalty? Are some people in your office self-proclaimed princes and princesses?
You know that person, the one who has rules that apply only to her. The one who doesn't have to do all the things at work that you have to do, and seems clueless that she's the only one who doesn't do them? She's better than the rest (she thinks), and has an interesting perspective on what it means to work as a team.
Working with people who "just don't get it" can be incredibly frustrating.
Warren recently had a client call to pay for a webinar she had attended. She wanted to pay by VISA. Warren was naturally willing to help her, but let her know that we have a very simple payment process on our website which would be faster and easier than doing it over the phone. The response he received was, "I don't do that. That's not my job. That is why I called you."
Naturally Warren helped her out, but he felt insulted and degraded. What did she mean, she "doesn't do that?" Did she think she was better than Warren? What made her more special than anyone else?
You may be the one who is always making the new pot of coffee, unjamming the photocopier, replacing supplies, helping out in emergencies, always available (even when on vacation) and generally giving 100 per cent back to your organization and team. But there is always one princess who doesn't do any of that, doesn't feel even remotely guilty but seems to get the same rewards as you, even though you are constantly giving of yourself when she is not.
Princesses are great at justifying their own behaviour. They say things like:
- I didn't take the last cup of coffee, so why should I be the one to make another one?
- Whoever jammed the photocopier should fix it. I'll come back later when it's fixed.
- If the office calls me at home I just don't answer it. I'm not paid to do work from home.
- That's not in my job description.
- They don't need my help -- I'd just be in the way.
- Too bad the rest of you have to stay and work on project X but I'm going home because I've got things to do there.
- It's OK if I come to work a little late because I work hard all the time.
- It's OK if I leave early today because the boss isn't here.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think we should all be martyrs and give give give all the time either. I don't think you should be working involuntary overtime if you aren't being compensated for it. I think there's a happy medium.
But I do think we all need to give a little extra sometimes (especially to our teammates). We have to give before we should expect to get. If you can admit that you've said four of the above statements in the last month, you might be a princess.
Sometimes we're sending the message that we're a princess and don't even know it. Do you want people to think that you don't work as hard as others? Do want to be known as a slacker, or a bare-minimum employee? I certainly don't.
Here is a checklist to see if you are annoying others are work with your prince or princess behaviour:
- Do you smile and say good morning to others? Even if you aren't a morning person (you are just justifying your behaviour), it is still considered polite to acknowledge others. Do you know the name of the concierge or security guard in your building? Do you say hi to the receptionist when you pass? The danger of not doing this is the perception that you think you're better than they are. This feels condescending and disrespectful.
- Are you a team player? If someone needs help, do you offer to help them or wait to be asked? Do you even know what others are doing on your team, or are you too busy with your own stuff? Are you justifying your behaviour by saying it is a full-time job already and that you don't have time to help others? Sometimes help can be made in the form of verbal encouragement, or even just offering to help out. You could offer to get someone a coffee if you're on your way to get one. I don't even drink coffee, but I'll gladly make a pot of coffee if someone else is drinking it. If you live in your own little bubble, you might be a princess.
- Have you ever walked away from a task in the office because "it wasn't in your job description?" Have you left the coffee pot empty, the dishwasher full, the toilet paper roll un-replaced, the counter covered in water? If you noticed that the photocopier needed to be fixed but kept on going because it wasn't your job, you are in danger of being a princess. You're right, it's not "in your job description," but if you noticed it, why can't you do something about it? You may justify your behaviour by saying you don't get paid to do that or you don't have time but you are really saying "it is beneath me to do that."
- Are you socially involved with your workmates? I don't mean having them over for dinner on Saturday night, but are you socially there? Do you ask (and listen) to how their weekend was, or look at the new photos of the grandkids or new puppy? Or are you someone who works there, but is not involved on a personal level?
- If you're in the office lunchroom, is it OK if someone joins you for lunch? Do you ever join others? Don't use the excuse that you are introverted and shy. Introverted and shy people are still socially involved -- they're just afraid to be the instigator at times. If you are dismissive of your co-workers, not remotely interested in them as people, and socially an island unto yourself, you might be a princess.
- Do you consider your job beneath you? Do you think of it as your stepping-stone to bigger and better things and as soon as possible will remove it from your resume? That sends the message that you think you're better than others and they should be embarrassed for doing their job. Maybe they're proud of their job, consider their income to be adequate and don't have the same lofty aspirations as you do. Considering a job beneath you is insulting to anyone who actually does that job. That makes you a princess.
It's easy to see how sometimes we may send the wrong message. It's easy to act like a princess and not be aware of it.
You may be the nicest person in the world, but it doesn't mean I will want to work with you if you have a princess attitude.
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