After my first year at my first professional marketing job, I felt in control, wise beyond my years, like I was paving the way for an unprecedentedly successful rookie year. When I sat down at my first annual review, I radiated pride and enthusiasm. I expected my manager to tell me I blew through the criteria and exceeded all expectations. Instead, I was met with the kind of calm and deliberate voice used to explain things to a small child. My performance for the year had been adequate, however, co-workers and clients found me inaccessible, cold, or intimidating at work. While many of the ideas and innovations I presented to the group seemed like they could hook, my colleagues supported them reluctantly at best because I did not work well with the team. Most of them found it intimidating to ask me questions or present changes to me as I rebuffed them. I need to clarify that I believe I am a bit of a cream puff. While I took my career seriously that first year, I never considered myself a ballbuster or particularly tough in any way. I completed my work ably and on time. I supported my colleagues to the best of my abilities. I considered myself the ultimate team player. My jaw literally dropped open, like a cartoon character, and I fell speechless in front of my manager. I told him I didn't know how to fix this perception, because I felt like my co-workers were my family and that I would do anything to make business run smoothly. I did not want to be branded cold or unapproachable. In a work environment that relied heavily on collaboration to elevate creativity being shutoff from the herd meant death. My manager, still one of the best supervisors of my life, told me to take a week to evaluate my interactions with people. While I never raised my voice in anger or willfully manhandled anyone, I did notice that I often avoided more casual conversation. When running into people in the hall I averted my eyes or gave a half-hearted smile. I never asked questions, preferring instead to quietly research and fix problems on my own. I rarely said goodbye, and even avoided many of the team bonding moments like birthday cake in the breakroom or ping pong tournaments in the lobby. I thought that my actions proved that I was a diligent, self-sufficient, focused employee, but instead I inadvertently built walls between my co-workers and I. Resolved to do better in all areas, I quickly set in a plan of action to earn the brand of ultimate team player legitimately.
June 03, 2013