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I’m a peacock!!! (what to do when your boss won’t let you flap your wings and fly)

22 Aug

Development.  Growth.  Character building.  Resume expansion.  Skillz.

As employees, we are looking for more than a paycheck when we come to work.  We  hope the job is some sort of means to an end, whether it’s fulfilling our lifelong dream of being a CEO, or simply a chance to “pay our dues” or “learn something new” on the way to that mythical “perfect” job out there.

So when our manager keeps us from growing on the job, it gets us miffed.  Some might even say snippy. Or, in extreme cases, terribly vexed.

There’s data that support the general annoyance felt by employees whose growth has been stymied.  Engagement studies continue to indicate that career development is a key engagement factor for most employees.  In fact, less than half of all employees believe they have career opportunities with their current employer.  Interestingly enough, another key engagement factor is trust in leadership…so if you have a manager who lied about the development opportunities your position offers, you’re probably not terribly engaged at the moment.   And now we’re backed to being terribly vexed.

The good news is that you don’t need 100% buy-in from your manager in order to grow.  I happen to subscribe to the belief that employees should own their own development, and as such, it is up to us to find ways to demand a chance to flap our wings and fly.  (It’s a reference to The Other Guys.  You’re welcome.)

See?  He's not flying.  And he's sad.

See? He’s not flying. And he’s sad.

Without further ado, here are some suggestions on how you can “encourage” an uncooperative boss into helping you grow and develop:

  • Be specific about your requests: This is slightly more than just “ask for it” (which is still good advice, but may not work with this type of boss).  You need to know what it is you want to accomplish with your development.  If you say to me, “I want to develop.  Develop me.”, I wouldn’t want to help you either.  It’s too vague!  Get some specificity.  If you are looking for more budgeting experience, ask your boss if you can sit in on a financial review meeting.  If you want eventually to be a manager, volunteer to lead a few projects.  Just mapping out some specific development goals for yourself will help move you in the right direction.
  • Help your coworkers on projects outside of your skill set: This is an awesome way to grow…and to get brownie points for “teamwork”.  Yes, you’ll have to figure out the best way to prioritize your time so you still get your work done if your boss isn’t fully on board, but you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from your teammates.  Each of us brings unique skills and experience to the table, and there is no cost to learning from each other.
  • Seek out a mentor in another department: Let’s face it – sometimes you take a job that isn’t the greatest because of the opportunity to work for a certain company.  But now you’re stuck in that department because your boss doesn’t care about your career development.  Unless you are physically chained to the desk, you can move about the office, building relationships in different departments and asking for advice and guidance from others.  (If you ARE physically chained to a desk, you may want to call HR.)  Seek out the people who already are what you want to be when you grow up and learn from them.
  • Volunteer with a local industry-specialized membership chapter: An excellent way to build your network within your industry is to belong to and volunteer with a local chapter of that industry’s organization (e.g., SHRM).  This will allow you to stay current in the latest and greatest within your chosen profession, you’ll meet lots of amazing people, make some great friends, and build your brand.  And you get to brag about the fact you volunteered.
  • Read: And that means more than just browsing the headlines on Yahoo! or glancing at your Twitter feed.  Pick a topic you’re interested in, that’s relevant to your development goals, and hunt down some great books…and commit to reading them!  (Here’s a list to get you started.)  I LOVE to read, so this one seems like a no brainer to me…but I know some folks would rather gouge their eyes out then sit still and read a book.  I get that.  So try an audio book (you can get them from libraries, iTunes, whatever).  If they make a movie from it, watch that (worked for Freakonomics).  Subscribe to some industry magazines.  Just find a way to stay up to date in a meaningful way that makes you think.

This is just a short list of things you can do to keep you growing and learning even if your boss seems determined to keep you stagnant.   Hopefully you see that it doesn’t take much to overcome the perceived obstacle of an uncooperative manager – each of us makes a choice about our own engagement.  Don’t settle for whining about your lack of growth – flap your own damn wings and fly!

Have a suggestion on how to harness your inner peacock?  Share in the comments!

 

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