How an over-developed sense of responsibility and a pinch of arrogance kept me off-track professionally…

by | Aug 2, 2016 | Blog, Business/ Career, Mindset | 0 comments

In which I explain how an over-developed sense of responsibility and a pinch of arrogance kept me off-track professionally on two occasions (actually I just discuss two…there are.. unfortunately ..lots of occasions)!

1996-1997 – I scored a job as an admin for a family-owned plumbing company. I was their first “office” hire. I was totally proud of myself because I asked for the top end of the stated wage of $7-$10 an hour. (By the way – my grandmother told me I was crazy for doing that and that they would think I was too big for my britches. She said I wouldn’t get hired.  She was wrong. This is not where the arrogance comes in. I totally got the job and the top wage. My God – always ask for the top wage).

At first the job was great. The family: mom, dad, and adult kid were so happy to have the help. I took care of answering the phones, farming out service and warranty tickets, filing, and checking invoices for mistakes (Printed because, yeah, no internet…. That’s how ancient this story is). It was great at first. I felt appreciated. I was learning lots – plumbing is kinda interesting, especially in new construction. Plus I got to giggle at terms like Ball-Cock and P-Trap while I checked invoices for overcharges.

BUT, about three months in, I realized that the family screaming battles would not be as infrequent as the mom had promised after the first one. If anything they got worse. It turns out that there is only about three months worth of learning new things when working for a plumbing company as an admin. The humor of the word ball-cock wore off surprisingly quickly. BUT, the family was so appreciative of my work. Everyone went on and on about how they really could never do without me. So even though I knew that the job was not so good, I didn’t take any steps to change my situation. I felt like looking for a new job would be a betrayal.  This is where the arrogance comes in. I truly believed that no one else could do the job as well as me and that my leaving would hurt the business.

Nope. When I finally did leave, they replaced me the same day I resigned. Turns out just about anyone can do that job. My responsibility for the position was actually zero and I let my arrogance convince me that I was irreplaceable (to my own detriment).

I volunteered in 2013 to do the website for the University Women’s caucus because I thought it would be no big thing to post updates once in a while.  It turned out to be sort of a big thing when I was also having a baby and in my last year of working towards tenure. I did a TERRIBLE job. I mean I would promise to post things and then forget about it for weeks on end.

The president of the organization had to send me one of “those” emails  asking if there was anything they could do to help me get the work done.  I received the email more than once in 2014 and still I did not give up the responsibility in 2014 because I felt like I needed to be contributing more to the organization that had supported me through the tenure process. Also I didn’t think anyone else could do as good a job as I did – YUP read that again: I was doing a terrible job. I knew I was doing a terrible job and yet I told myself a story about how I HAD to be the webmaster to give back to my awesome community of women (overdeveloped sense of responsibility) and I didn’t think anyone could do the job as well as I could (hello, arrogance).

In 2015, I came to my senses and retired as webmaster.  I announced I was doing so because I had done a terrible job. Yay.

I do want to give back to our caucus, but now I do it in a way that is actually helpful. I volunteer for discrete tasks that I actually have time for and that use my actual skills. The best part is that I volunteer for tasks that will serve both the caucus AND that will help me level-up.

Tl;dr – If you are feeling guilty about quitting a job or a task that isn’t helping you level up and reach your goal,  ask yourself the following hard questions:

  • Am I allowing an over-developed sense of responsibility to hold me back from reaching my goals?
  • When I think that no one else can do the job as well as I can, am I being arrogant?
  • Am I letting my ego get in the way of reaching my goals?

What’s your story? Tell us below in the comments section.


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