I had a conversation with my boss today. It revolved around impending budget cuts and how we need to ensure we’re showing, with quantifiable metrics, the value we provide to our organization. I’m in project management, so outside of metrics like completion dates or project budget, a lot of the value I provide is in making the jobs of others involved a little bit easier. I take ownership of administriva tasks. This document needs to be completed. That form needs to be submitted. Etcetera, etcetera.
As much as I can’t stand the over-use/misuse of the word in today’s workplace lexicon, my role is really one of collaboration. I team and partner with my peers to ensure projects are successfully implemented. I work with developers, program managers, architects, system administrators. In many ways, I am the common thread in the mosaic of what can be a cumbersome process.
Like most other corporate IT settings, our environment is fast-paced. We’re often acting on the knee-jerk reactions of upper management. We’re often asked to do more with less. We’re given new responsibilities and no additional resources. Executives call for new strategic initiatives, all the while forgetting we’re still struggling to implement the new initiatives they gave us last year. In the end, I can’t point to a number to show the value I provide. I can’t compare one project to the next in terms of, “Well, I had 47% less emails for this effort than the other one.” I guess there is some objective measure that can be used, but nothing that currently exists today.
The measure I use – informally – are the email and instant messages I receive from my peers. The notes of, “Thank you” or “I appreciate you taking care of this item for me” or “Your team makes it so much easier for us.” Responses like these make my workdays tolerable, and to a certain extent provide the only real satisfaction I get from what it is I do for a living.
In my faith journey, I’ve always struggled with the concept of ministry in the workplace. How can I be a reflection of Christ’s love at work? With as much stress and nonsense that we have to deal with – not to mention some of the most utterly clueless individuals I’ve ever known – I think it comes down to a quote one of my peers uses in his email footer: Be kinder than necessary.
If left to my own devices, I could be the king of sarcasm and the sultan of snark. I’ve read way too many flaming emails, and I’m guilty of having composed a few of my own. Yet nothing is really accomplished by putting someone down or ripping them a new one (especially when done with an audience (think Reply All)). Instead, I try to be the guy that asks for assistance and not mandates deliverables. I try to thank people individually for their contributions. I like being light-hearted and jovial on conference calls given I feel people are more effective at work when they have a smile on their face.
Be kinder than necessary. It really is that easy.
———————————————–As an aside, I struggled to confirm the exact source of the quote, “Be kinder than necessary.” In researching the quote, I came across this explanation by blogger David Perkins. It’s seems to make the most sense given the many differing attributions found when doing a Google search on the quote. In a little twist of fate, I stumbled across the website be-kinder.com when looking for an image to use for my post. What did I find there? Only a picture of my boss’s, boss’s, boss’s, boss’s, boss’s, boss holding bumper sticker that reads Be Kinder Than Necessary. Oh the irony.