We all know them. People who can’t do it and just don’t seem to get it. Something as simple as handling email, logging on and off a computer or even using a messaging system are tasks that they can never seem to master. Instead, they do things their way and seem blissfully ignorant of the frustration that they bring to the workplace.
People like that remind me of some of the characters that inevitably ended up in one or more of my classes during High School. They were the screw-ups, clowns or egomaniacs that provided an occasional distraction during a long class day. The guy who always came late. The girl that didn’t know that the bathroom was the correct place for hair styling. The smelly guy who forgot to bathe. The comedian that told jokes to get attention. The debater who always argued with the teacher. They were all different, but the one thing that they all had in common was an ability to bring things to a grinding halt.
Most of us are kind enough to extend some wiggle room to incompetent or eccentric people. Especially if they manage to fill some need on the job. But are we really doing them a favor? At some point the clueless, careless or incompetent person becomes a frustration that can turn any workplace into a sluggish and frustrating nightmare.
My first real job was working in a hospital kitchen. As the new guy, I was stuck at the pot sink. I had to wash out huge pots, pans and scrub off big metal cooking trays. I quickly learned that there was a right and wrong way to do things, even at the pot sink. The right way meant plenty of clean pots and pans for the cooks and an easier job for me. The wrong way meant working twice as hard, getting all wet and making the cooks angry.
There is a difference between thinking out of the box and swimming against the current. Most people agree that no system at work is likely to be perfect, but those using it can find their own shortcuts and make it work for them. People that ignore the system altogether get nowhere fast and take everyone else along for the ride.
If capitulation is the tool of the competent, justification is the tool of the clueless. People who make no real attempt to fit into the system at their workplace always have excuses and never take responsibility for their actions. They just can’t be bothered and marvel at how others get angry when their refusal to assimilate costs their co-workers’ time, effort or even money.
Most people who find themselves unable to fit in are using the same thoughts to fail that they could be using to succeed. It’s all about removing the excuses and any support structure that is holding you back. Let’s take technology for example. If you’re having a problem with computers or office systems, you are not the only one. That is why hardware and software people are constantly being called to update, repair or modify systems.
Instead of trying to sidestep technology, try making friends with it. I recall how astonished people were back in the late 1980s when I bought my first portable cellular car phone. And little wonder. It took the salesperson almost an hour just to program the thing. Then there was the size. The unit weighed almost ten pounds between the battery and phone. But I was living in New York City and every time I didn’t have to stand in a long line for a pay phone it was well worth it. I couldn’t believe the amount of time I was saving each day and how much more I was able to get done.
Computers and office systems are designed to do the same thing. They are there to save time and increase productivity. It’s estimated that for every ten seconds spent writing an email, a person saves five to ten minutes of phone time. That adds up quickly and eliminates the “I didn’t get that memo (or message)” excuse. While you may never get to the point of carrying around a blackberry or checking your emails using a cell phone, you will be able to function in a world where email and some knowledge of computers had become essential.
For others, some mental housekeeping may be in order. Being unable to fit in or function as others around you do usually means that you’re stuck in a rut. If that’s the case, your only way out is change. Being unable to change or make adjustments that will allow you to meet the minimum expectations of a workplace is unacceptable. It’s also selfish. Your inability to do your job correctly has as snowball effect. People around you are forced to adjust their routine to accommodate you.
Learning to overcome mental obstacles can open up a whole new world to those who find themselves in a rut. The key is turning the desire you have to stay where you are into a desire to move forward. It’s YOU taking charge of YOU and not accepting excuses or objections that will hold you back. It’s realizing that failing to fit in will cost you more time, effort and money than moving your life forward. In the process you will go from being a workplace frustration to a productive inspiration for everyone around you.