By Alex Dogliotti
Have you ever thought, "A monkey could do my job"?
Usually you hear that from people who have very task oriented jobs - customer services representatives or order management specialists, for example. But the truth is that anybody can be a monkey at work. Even people with fancy job titles.
How I turned into a monkey
Turning into a monkey is easy and weirdly pleasant. A lot of people do it without even realizing it. That's what happened to me. Right after I started my very first Training and Development job, an idea popped in my mind. I asked the senior trainer: "Why don't we move the entire testing system from pen and paper to an online platform to save lots of time?" She said to me: "I don't see the need of changing a process that works perfectly." Then she added: "We're a nice tight group and you're part of this group. It's important you fit in." I had just joined and I was dying to fit in, so I said: "Oh, all right, just a suggestion."
And you know what? Right until I left the company, I never once proposed anything new. Incredibly, it appeared that the more I stuck with the old, the more recognition I got. Senior management started praising my work all the time, and I quickly built a pretty good reputation. After a few months, I thought I was great.
The truth is, I was fooling myself. It's difficult to realize that you are a monkey when everyone is praising your work. In the short-term, the praise is awesome, but it's not fulfilling in the long-term and probably won't get you where you want to go. So how can you tell if you're a monkey?
Here are three things you can do to test it:
1. Ask for a raise
Companies love monkeys because they conform to the status quo. But they don't give money to monkeys. Senior managers loved me because I quickly conformed to their old processes. However, when I asked for a salary increase the same managers denied it. Why? Because I was doing my job well, but I wasn't doing valuable work. Monkeys deserve pats on the back, not money. Salary increases are for those who do valuable work.
Note: If your manager says to you: "I can't give you a salary raise because you'll end up being paid more than others in your team who do the same job," you're a monkey for sure.
2. Ask to take on new tasks
Monkeys are good at their jobs. I was good because I ran the same training courses so many times that they became routine. Routines make you precise and efficient. Precision and efficiency are often praised by management. However, when I asked to take on new tasks (some really easy stuff), the same managers who praised me said: "We're not sure you're ready for it."
The thing to remember is, monkeys are never trusted with tasks outside their routine. If you ask for new tasks and your manager makes it clear you're not going to get them, it's safe to say you might be a monkey.
3. Count the hours you worry about not being up to the challenge
This is the number of hours I spent worrying about work stuff when I was a monkey: zero. My work was highly routinized and I knew that a certain number of hours in the office corresponded to a certain amount of work done. Zero problems to worry about.
Today my work is not routinized, so I spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to be successful in the tasks I take on. When things get tough I worry about not being up to the challenge. The tougher the thing, the more I worry. As bad as it sounds, that tells me I'm not a monkey.
Now you've got three things you can do to test whether you're a monkey at work. The interesting question is, what if you find out you are? How are you going to change things around?
Alex Dogliotti, PhD, is a corporate trainer and coach. He believes there's only one thing that really matters at work: being unique. He blogs about it on Stuckaholic. Also, you can follow him on Twitter or chat on Facebook.
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