Are you a victim of your own success?

As a child, I was taught the value of a dollar.  I was taught that you aren’t just entitled to everything and that you would have to work to get what you wanted.  This started early on with getting an allowance and having to buy the “in” toys that I just had to have but didn’t really need to have–and surely my parents weren’t going to just buy them for me on a whim.  This continued on in my life until the time came to own a car.  I was not one of those privliged 16 year olds who was just handed a car when they turned 16, I had to share a car with my dad.  And sometimes that meant getting up at 5am to take him to work so I could take the car to school.  But in the end, when I look back on all of those times, I realize that I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Those times taught me what it was like to work for what I wanted and what a good work ethic was. 

Ok, you might be thinking, “where was she going with that?”.  Well, now that I am older and have a job, I realize that the great work ethic that I was taught has really just turned me into a victim- a victim of my own success.  Until yesterday, I wasn’t really sure how to phrase what I have been going through.  But after talking through some stuff with a friend, he turned me and said “you’re a victim of your own success” and smirked.  It hit me like a ton of bricks that that was it!  My good work ethic that I was taught as a child has not really helped me out in life, it has actually made my life much harder.  I am someone who really cares about the quality of the work that I put my name on.  But because I am quick to learn new things, ask a lot of questions, can multitask a multitude of projects, and am overly organized I end up getting more work than what someone in my role should get and often get more work than others in roles above me.  Why is this you ask? This is because I have a good work ethic.  I don’t pretend to work all day, I actually work.  And that leads to more people coming to me because they can depend on me and know that I will get the job done right.  Does this help me at all?  NOPE.  Sure it’s nice to know that you are someone who people depend on and that you have a good reputation at work, but it doesn’t get you promoted or recognized for your hard work- it just gets you more work.

Being in a situation like this, I can tell who those people are who hadn’t had to work for what they wanted as a child.  Those are the people who use phrases like:  “I’m too swamped to help” ,  “Sorry I’m just too busy” or my favorite “that’s not my job”. But I never see these people really doing anything.  Those people do feel as though they are entitled to everything and don’t expect to have to work to get anything.  That must be nice.  It must be nice to leave at the end of a work day and not once think about work or how you have lagged in your responsibilities. It’s the work that these people have lagged on that ends up in the laps of people like me.  Those who will do what is needed to get the job done- even if it’s “not my job” end up with responsibilities and tasks that really aren’t their job, but they do them anyways.  Why? Because they care.  Because they are a victim of their own success. 

So, you may be thinking, what can someone do if they are a victim of their own success?  That’s a great question- and sadly I don’t have an answer.  I struggle with this everyday.  I can’t even count the amount of times that I have said “I give up and I’m just not going to care anymore”, but 10 minutes later I am back to working hard and fulfilling responsibilities that are not my own.  It’s a conundrum all on its own.  If you say you don’t care and are only going to focus on YOUR job without taking on the responsibilities of others, then you watch as things fall apart around you (things you know could have been better if you would have helped) and feel as though you are losing your work ethic and not living up to the standards that you were taught.  But if you continue down the path you are on, you end up doing more work than the average person in your role should do and end up stressing yourself out.  Is there a happy medium somewhere? I’m not sure yet, but for my own sake I hope that I find it someday.

If you are a victim of your own success or know of any ways to help in the conundrum that those victims face, please let me know.

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4 Responses to Are you a victim of your own success?

  1. Hello Kim,

    Good to hear I am not alone. I also have a good work ethic or try to when i can. Unlike you, my parents were not strict on teaching responsibility. I did not do chores regularly, I helped out once in a while but I never got an allowance. I wish my parents would have and if they did I would have grown up faster. When it was time for me to drive, my parents paid for my drivers education and I was given a car by a friend of my parents who were looking to get rid of their old Nissan Pathfinder. My parents are not really wealthy, but paid for many of the things that I needed when I was younger. In some way I was spoiled. My parents paid for part of my College education. So there are some things that I just got and did not ‘earn’ it.

    Despite the way my parents raised me, I still have a good work ethic. I really try to follow rules and policies of places where I work. If there is a policy in place then its there for a reason and following it will make a better place to work. I am not working now but even in my job search, I have a good work ethic, I prepare for interviews, dress professionally, and make extra efforts to get a job, like going out to network, belonging to Toastmasters and serving as Vice President of Public Relations.
    I tend to be an overachiever and perfectionist. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it is not. It means more work gets done with higer quality of work. But on the downside it means putting extra time and effort into my work and sacrificing time that I could be relaxing or having fun. I guess you just have to know what your priorities are and act on those priorities. I think a lot of companies are trying ot move to a ‘pay for performance’ Compensation structure. Where employees compensation is based on their performance only. Maybe this type of compensation structure will lead to more recognition of work being completed. Proper recognition of employees and their hard work is not only for monetary rewards, but will also improve morale and keep employees happy. Hopefully one day, our good work ethic will pay off.

  2. Jan Wencel says:

    Good one, Kim.

    I used to get MAD @ folks who left early every day while I stayed late…and those who said I’m too busy, when I was saying, let me see what I can do. And then one day I decided to GET EVEN with them. To challenge myself to leave as early as them…to deflect new projects with similar prowess as them…to earn my keep, but not to give 120%.

    I’m eager to further the conversation over smoothies Monday. : )

  3. james says:

    Thanks for posting this.

    I’m not alone 🙂

  4. Hi Kim. Excellent read! It’s very true – the better you are, the more work you will be rewarded with. You must set boundaries to keep it under control. I believe most of these problems come from poor management at the head. One of the common problems I’ve seen is that of wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too. Pressures to do the impossible can destroy morale and lead to burnout, keeping hard working people stressed and chasing their tails.

    For example, in my WebDev role I’ve met with corporate culture pressures to produce rapidly and experimentally on a multitude of sites, combined with middle management pressures to maintain quality and stability. Well, that can’t be had both ways! The key is to identify these fallacies and call them out. I think getting away from work, taking a vacation, talking with counselors or friends is a great way to gain perspective on the problems we face in our roles.

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