Is it Smart to Allow Your Job to Involve a Lot of Things You Don’t Like Doing?
Marcus Buckingham gives a good answer to this question in The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success:
Some people will tell you that you need a little difficulty in your life, a little grit; that, as an oyster makes a pearl, this grit will strengthen you, round you out, and polish you into something fine and valuable. No grit, they say, no pearl.
Now, of course, there is a sense in which this is true. Especially in life in general, suffering and difficulty plays a critical role in our sanctification.
But this doesn’t mean we should seek it out for it’s own sake. And, more to the point here, Buckingham is talking specifically about career choices. When it comes to your career, it is not advisable (and, I would argue, it’s not biblical, either) to purposely take a job, or allow responsibilities in your current job to be added, which grate you down.
This can sound irresponsible at first. And, of course, there are times when we just need to do things we don’t prefer for the sake of the greater mission. When it is necessary for the sake of others, we should do whatever needs to be done to serve them and make things better.
But Buckingham is here responding to the idea that it will somehow make us more effective in our work if we intentionally seek out tasks that grate us down — or allow others to impose them on us out of the misguided notion that it will be good for us.
We should be skeptical of this notion, and here’s why:
When it comes to your career, grit will only grind you down. Every minute you invest in an activity that grates on you is a poorly invested minute. It is a minute in which you will learn little and that will leave you weaker and less resilient for the next minute. It is a minute you could have spent applying and refining your strengths, a minute in which you could have taken leaps of learning and that would strengthen you for the minutes to come.
In other words, the notion that taking on tasks that drain you will make you more effective in your work is actually another form of the fallacy that we will grow most by focusing on our weaknesses. For, as I’ve blogged before, your weaknesses aren’t ultimately what you are bad at, but what drains you.
To focus on your strengths means carving out your role such that you are doing on what you do best and what strengthens you most of the time. This is how you will be most effective in your role and for your organization. I think most recognize this; but what is hard for people to see is that this means, by definition, seeking to cut out of our roles the thing that drain us, at least to the greatest extent that we can.
This is not a country club approach to work. I’m not advocating that we slack of and not work hard. Quite the opposite. We ought to work hard, be diligent, and excel in what we do, taking great pains even to do this. And we will be more effective in doing this when we are working in our strengths — the things that energize us — rather than our weaknesses.