It’s not personal

I don’t know if it’s more common for folks working in the nonprofit sector or not, but I know that I have a really hard time keeping work and personal life separate. And I don’t mean the work-life balance like not checking email at night or talking about work with friends. I mean more like taking your work personally.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever written something that you think is awesome and then someone else (whether or not they know what they’re doing) completely rewrites it, with no context. Cough if you’ve busted your butt to launch a website on time, and as soon as it goes live, requests for changes come in. Maybe you’ve put together the best freaking statistics report the world has ever seen, and you are told it needs a few more numbers. Nod your head if you do everything you’re asked to do — and sometimes, it’s just not enough.

I think we’ve all been there, whether we work for a nonprofit, a corporation, you name it. And when you’re doing something you like/love/are passionate about, be it the issue, or the work itself, it’s even harder to separate yourself from the everyday doldrums and frustrations that come with a job.

It’s really hard to step back and acknowledge that you don’t have control over everything. And boy, do I know about the need for control.

Some days, I have to remind myself that my work is good and that I’m valuable and doing a great job, and that the needs and wants of others are not a reflection of me and my efforts. Some days, I have to remember that I don’t have the title of President or Executive Director or CEO next to my name, and even if I think my advice and strategy are the most awesome things to have ever been uttered, that I may not get my way, and that’s how things go.

Sometimes, I need my boss telling me I’m amazing but that I need to not take everything on myself — that it’s not personal, and I can only do what I can do. Sometimes, I need more than one boss telling me that.

The bottom line is that when you care about what you’re striving toward, and you have dreams and goals and ideas of how you would run the world, it’s easy to take the daily office challenges and hiccups to heart — because we care so darn much. But the bottom line is that it’s also a job. And in every job, and every office, this stuff happens. If you want to avoid it, go live alone in a forest by yourself. And unless you’re just a really big jerk, it’s not personal. It’s not personal. It’s not personal.

 

Taking the high road

How many moments a week, or even in a day sometimes, does someone or something make you want to explode and run out of the room screaming? Depending on where you work or who you live with, this could be more often than you’d like, or you could be lucky and those moments are rare.

Someone says something harsh, tries to accuse you of something, or you can’t get your idea across. Someone keeps making stupid mistakes and not learning from them. Someone doesn’t appreciate you for what you do or who you are.

We have options.

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Want something? Ask for it!

There are hundreds of books and audio tapes and sermons and suggestions out there on how to get what you really want…how to succeed in business…how to get the love you want, etc. Pretty much anything you want or need, there is something out there for you on how to get there. Except maybe more time. Because we can’t ever get more time – time is what it is.

But without reading all the books and sermons and pamphlets and attending all the conferences and seminars, the bottom line is that to get what you want, YOU NEED TO ASK FOR IT. This applies to all facets of your life. Some examples:

Work

  • If you think you deserve a raise, title change, promotion, or more benefits, you won’t always be lucky enough to have it handed to you. You might have to make a case for it. And even if you don’t get it, it will be noticed that you went for it, and that might make a difference to start.
  • If something is missing at your office, whether it’s a team dynamic that needs to change, an HR issue, or you think there isn’t enough budget for office supplies, put in the request. Do the research, put together a one-page memo, and pitch it to the boss. You might be surprised at how quickly the answer is yes.

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When it feels like it should be Friday

Who here walks into the office on some Monday mornings and wishes it were Friday already? (Raised hand) And who no longer thinks happy hours are only for Thursdays and Fridays but should be arranged earlier and more frequently as soon as the sun starts shining on a regular basis? (other hand raised)

No matter how much you love your job, there are those days when you dread every new meeting request, every time the phone rings, every email that pops into your inbox. So when the extra strong coffee no longer works and you’ve already taken your walk around the block to get the daily dose of exercise and vitamin D, what do you do to get through the day, and the week for that matter?

  • Remind yourself of why you’re there. Whether you are a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a cook, or writer, or you work for a non-profit, there is a reason you signed up in the first place. Think about that and charge forward.
  • Get to the bottom of what’s bogging you down. If it’s issues with a coworker, figure out how to come to a truce. If you’re falling behind on a project, ask for help. If it’s just been a busy week, month, or year so far, see if you can adjust your priorities, or delegate some of your tasks. Or, make sure you get to bed earlier so you have a full night’s sleep.

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Full disclosure: plugs for my work & colleagues

Wow. A kickoff to an annual day of recognition for one campaign, a dedicated fundraising effort on a primetime TV show watched by nearly 40 million people, and the beginnings of a new flagship campaign — all in one week — all the combined efforts of the wonderful people I work with.

My About page says it: that anything I say on this blog is from me and by me only, and not endorsed by my employer – and that’s true. Usually I am subtle when giving kudos to the issues I work on, and use banners or buried links to show what I’m focused on 9-10 hours every day, but today is different. Today – it deserves a real mention.

This is a shoutout to the great work of the United Nations Foundation. To the great work of my teammates and my department, Public Affairs, and all of the other staff involved in these amazing and impactful projects. This is to say that even on the days when we want to tear our hair out, go hide in the corner, close out our emails, and say “no,” that the power of  saying “yes” to inspirational and innovative ideas is so worth it in the end. It’s so worth reading emails or tweets from our supporters, giving us props for our shoutout on American Idol, for pledging to end malaria, for empowering girls around the world. It’s worth the emails that our team shares immediately after a win, full of pride and virtual pats on the back and sighs of relief that the hard part is done.

Sometimes in our daily work, we get caught up in the negative moments and the frustrating times – but in the last three days, I can truly say that I have been able to come home and still say that I feel so honored and fortunate to work at a place like the UN Foundation, and with such amazing, passionate, hard-working people.

And with that:

-Sign up to Sleep Out to End Malaria on April 24, the Eve of World Malaria Day at www.nothingbutnets.net/sleepout.

-Visit www.unfoundation.org/idol to donate to help the UN help Haiti rebuild and recover.