Friday Blues

As I stated last night, I’ve been pretty busy and this week has been rougher than most concerning my day job. The video shoots are still going along relatively smoothly, but since one of the members of the production team (if you can even call it that) is off to oversee a tradeshow in Canada. So that more or less leaves me in charge of the setup, which isn’t too big of a deal, but it still eats into productivity on my regular duties.

Regular Duties

Revealing your abilities in the workplace is always a delicate matter. As I was telling my manager the other day, once the company knows you can do something, they expect you to always do it and for the same amount of money they’re paying you. It’s like having any kind of artistic ability in grade school. Remember those little arts and crafts projects you had to do as a kid? Certainly, some art pieces looked better than others. Sally might be able to draw a photorealistic sketch of something while all Jimmy could do was draw stick figures. They both got A’s. Sally’s A wasn’t worth any more than Jimmy’s. The problem here is that if Sally suddenly decided to draw stick figures on her next project, she’d be marked with a lower grade, while Jimmy would still get his A. That’s because it was an “A for effort” and nothing else. What teaches don’t understand is that when Sally and Jimmy perform at their individual potentials, they are not outputting the same effort. The fact is that Sally simply has the ability to put out more effort than Jimmy. Perhaps this isn’t true on any one individual drawing, but certainly over the scope of their artistic careers. Jimmy may labor over his stick figure artwork just as long as Sally does over her lifelike portraits, but what about all of the nights Sally spent honing her ability – learning light and shadow, poring over art books, understanding three dimensions – in order to be able to draw at the level she does? Surely, that must count for something. Surely, there are special rewards for such dedication other than a greater workload.

Fast forward to post-education life. Somewhere along the line, Sally will learn to do the bare minimum to eke out her A’s, but then she will enter the workforce where – barring any kinds of glass ceilings – rewards go beyond letters and enter the infinite realm of numbers. In a fair world, employees who performed exceptionally or displayed versatility would be valued and compensated accordingly. Unfortunately, only the first part tends to be the rule. At least not where I work. So, in reality, it’s good practice to withhold your ability in the workforce…if it just weren’t for that carrot dangling from a stick: raises.

Obviously, you want to demonstrate your value and showing off your utility in various roles is one way to do that. The problems here are that first, there’s no certainty that your employer will pay one cent more and that second, it is certain your employer will expect you to perform those roles whenever the company needs you to. Usually, this is when you’re busy performing the normal duties the company hired you to do. Then when your employer sees that you’re not doing these extra duties, your job gets threatened.

I’m the sole copywriter at the company I work for. I have a background in search engine optimization (SEO). I’m not certified, mind you. As a courtesy to the company and as one of many arguments for giving me a raise, I volunteered to apply my knowledge to the company Web site and try to bump up our rankings while bumping negative sites down. I enjoy being the sole architect of the SEO campaign where I work and it looks good on a résumé. What I don’t like is being held to the same standards as an SEO-certified professional who does nothing but SEO as his or her full-time job. Unfortunately, this is the case where I work, and because I have been focusing on my regular duties, the owner of the company decided he needed to threaten my employment.

The lesson I hope readers take away from my cautionary tale is: Be careful with what abilities you share at the workplace. It may be the noose you hang yourself with.

Parting Shot

Despite that unfortunate incident, I was very much looking forward to tonight. I had planned a long writing session of movie reviews, blogging and article writing. The mood was perfect, too. A storm was blowing through and it had been drizzling steadily. I had also been smoking and for whatever reason, smoking and rain always jell for me. But when I left, I passed by one of the owners sitting in his truck, waiting for another truck to be let through a gate by a guard. I guess the guard took too long, because the owner got out and started screaming vile things at the man. Seeing this employee humiliated so and realizing how pervasive this culture of fear and kowtowing is at my company really killed my mood.

I have to get out of this place.