Flossie and the Work Grenade

Name of a new, super cool band? No, although if anyone wants to adopt it as a band name I’m copywriting it here.

What I’m actually referring to is the “Flossie” trap, a situation which many people find themselves in both in their work and home environments. I first heard about the concept when I undertook the Springboard Development Programme for women, an inspiring series of workshops for women who want to reach their potential in particular, or all, areas of their life. Although I found the workshops fascinating at the time, it’s only now, almost twelve months on, that I’m realising their benefit. Why? Because sometimes it can take a long time to really process your current situation and apply the tools fully. Yes, you’ll get some quick wins, but if you’re like me you need time to reflect. Sometimes, your path changes and what’s relevant at one time of your life, is less so at another, and vice versa.

So what or who is a Flossie? If you’re someone who always takes on extra work, works hard and hopes that you’ll be noticed, takes on the undervalued roles and makes yourself indispensable – then you’re probably a Flossie. If you stay in you comfort zone and don’t take risks – then you’re probably a Flossie, at least if you actually want something to change, if you want that promotion, if you want development.

A key element is that you’re probably beavering away, getting overlooked for promotion and possibly a quietly seething, simmering pot of resentment. When the situation arises when you can’t take on extra work, for example, you snap – or at least that’s people’s perception. What’s the matter with her/ him? She always does extra things for me/ stays late/ comes in ill? Why is she saying no now?

I sat in this particular workshop feeling quite proud of myself. I’m not a Flossie I thought smugly as looked back to all the achievements I’ve made in my career, the changes I’ve made, the risks I’ve taken, the appreciation I felt from colleagues and customers. If anything, I’m a Flossie at home I thought, and even then I felt I was clutching at straws. Lots of women around me were listening to this concept and nodding their heads in silent camaraderie.

But, a year later, the realisation has dawned on me that I am really a Flossie. I never used to be, so what’s changed? And what caused my epiphany?

One of the things that really gave me a kick up the proverbial butt is applying for promotions. Like many organisations, my employer uses a competency based model for all their recruitment, meaning that for each type of skill or behaviour they want, I have to describe a situation where I displayed them. The interesting thing is that none of my best examples were from my current role. That’s not because my role doesn’t have responsibility or elements of authority, but it is essentially based around supporting other people in doing theirs. Therefore, my contribution inevitably seems minimised. It’s been wonderful and a real confidence boost to remember all the great achievements I’ve made in my career, but it’s also made me realise that my career has stalled.

I’d recommend anyone do something similar – it doesn’t have to be an application form, but look at the competencies you need for the job you want, and then consider how and where you’ve applied them. Where are the gaps? Why are those gaps there? What plan can you put in place to close the gap? Even as an experienced careers advisor and coach, this was a learning experience for me. One of my development areas is clearly to do what I say, and not do as I do!

So what prompted the slow, spiralling descent into flossiedom? Economic times are tough and increasingly everyone has to do more for less. Fewer staff and diminishing resources means that everyone has to take on a little bit more. I often hear from people that they’re afraid to say no to more work, or feel pressured to take on more as they believe it will make their job safer. Of course, it’s not all bad. I’m a big advocate of self improvement and in an aging population we’re going to have to work harder and for longer at maintaining and improving our skills. This may mean a pressure from us, or from others, to focus on development, and if not planned and managed carefully, this can lead to both pressure and a lot of time wasting. If these things all collide, you have the perfect storm for flossiedom to flourish.

Indeed, something similar happened to me. I became so focussed on needing to develop, to find the job that I found myself saying yes to things with very little in the way of considered thought.

When I say you should say yes to opportunity, and grab it with both hands, I mean opportunity for YOU. Only you can determine what that is. You have to decide if it’s an opportunity for you, a step closer to your goal, or just an opportunity for someone to offload something on to you. Is the opportunity based on someone else’s perception of what you should or do want? In short, is it aligned to the plan you’ve created for yourself?

My flossiedom has led me to experience what I have lovingly termed the “work grenade.” Simply, put someone throws a piece of work at you and then runs away, leaving you with no other option than to pick it up and deal with it. This is most often done at the last minute when the person realises that something needs to be done and they pass it on to you on their way out of the door. Another favourite is doing this via email, copying in just about everyone you work with making it virtually impossible for you to decline. Of course, you can try to pass it over in passive aggressive terms but suggesting that you “could try to get it done if you have time”, but that’s generally seen as broad acceptance. Don’t expect anything back but a “Great”. You naturally feel frustrated at the delegator, but of course this is often a problem of your own creation. If you always say “yes” without any caveats, why would anyone expect you to say no?

These are real examples, ones which I’ve often experienced and one which I’ve inadvertently allowed to happen. As I’m not ashamed to admit my skills, ask for opportunities and I know am valued, it’s easy to misread the signs – how could someone like me possibly be a Flossie? Easy, as I always say yes, it’s now the norm. What’s “over and above” has now become “the job”.

So, if you’re in the situation what can you do? As I’ve said, I think it’s really important to identify what you want to achieve – otherwise all your activity and opportunity seizing will be diffuse and unrewarding. I’m grateful that by doing this over the last few months I’ve secured a great voluntary post which has given me the skills I need to apply for a couple of promotions (fingers crossed). I’ve also secured a mentor and developing opportunity for another area which interests me. Of course, I’ve still got all this other stuff which I need to sort out, and expectations which need to be managed. I’m therefore working with my line manager to work out exactly what my job is – after all how can you assess what’s “over and above” if you don’t know what the baseline for expectation is.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, and it’s definitely not just a female issue. So are you a Flossie, and how are you dealing with it? My dentist tells me I must floss at least twice a day, how about we all plan to de-Flossie every day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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