“I get paid regardless, so I just do what I am told.”
That was an answer I got the other day from a co-worker when we were talking about a
project he was working on and which seemed kinda duplicating existing work and not
going very well. Earlier that day he was telling me that he wanted to make the
presentation flow like already existing material and herein seemed to lie some of the
struggles he had with creating the presentation material. I told him to make it flow
like he thinks it should, not other people. Only then could it become his work and
become good work. If we try to make great work and in the process try to copy others,
it usually fails. The work you produce can only be as good as you are. If you try to
copy somebody who does better work, how can you all over sudden be better than you were
5 minutes ago? The same works in the other direction. If you try to copy work that’s
below your level you basically lower your own standards. Either way, it doesn’t work.
It’s as simple as that.
What struck me even more was the above statement. “I get paid regardless, so I just do
what I am told.” If that is the case, why do you think you should do the work in the
first place? What makes you so different from other people who could do exactly the same,
but maybe at a lower rate? Maybe even faster? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to take a
different approach? Yes, it may make some people feel uncomfortable if you’d question
exactly what you’ve been told but in the long run will probably serve you and your manager
better. After all if you don’t question it, and maybe come up with either a better way to
do things, or do something else more important instead, wouldn’t be a huge waste of time,
energy and also money?
I realize that in certain industries it does make sense. If you’re working in a factory
and are supposed to sort the red from the green boxes, then there probably is not much room
for different thinking. And also nobody really would expect you to do something else. But
in that case, you’d already be working in a position where people are simply replaceable.
So the next time you say to someone else or even to yourself that you’re just doing what
you’re told to do without thinking about it, really think about if that really is the thing
you should do and what you could do instead to achieve the end goal in a better way which
would make you more happy about the work and also show your manager that you’re not just a
machine doing a specific task. That’s where the real value lies.