Friday, 3 January 2014

Problems - and their solutions

In the sixth chapter of my employment biography, I had to state the challenges - or merely tasks - I face at work, and describe how I go about solving or overcoming them.

The first challenge, which I faced almost weekly in the job I've just left, relates to sale/marketing. I am a researcher and research is what I do best, but somebody has to finance my research. In most of my jobs I've been working with people that gathered more projects than they could carry out themselves. Thus, they gathered the finance and I did the work. Perfect division of labour. Of course I did some marketing once in a while, and in recent years I been involved in the project-gathering process around the time of the first meeting with the client. I think that I feel insecure about the 'selling myself' part, bragging about my skills etc. I never liked it, but I've become much better at it. I solve this task by means of merit. I gather knowledge and appear well prepared. I approach the sale process with a great focus on professionalism.

My second selected challenge is to convince somebody about something. I am not very determined to win an argument, for the sake of winning that is. I am easy to convince myself. But I have strong analytical skills, and they often bring me to the best conclusion. If somebody else disagree, it must be because they didn't understand my analysis, in which case I must analyse the topic from another angle. I believe I appear rather persisting in my argumentation... I approach this task by presenting my arguments, based on analysis, in different ways. So in fact convincing is about conveying an analysis! I often win these discussions because I am persistent (!), or in a more positive interpretation, because my arguments are better or more analytical while others often argue in an emotional manner.

The third task is data: analysis and perspective. I have a natural talent for this, and I love data. Often I just know what to do, and if I don't, I find out what others did (long live the internet!), or I construct an alternative way.

The fourth task/challenge is office politics. I approach this challenge by deciding whom to trust, then trust these people (blindly). For those I don't trust - or those that I later find out can't be trusted, I am a bit paranoid.

Fifthly, there's organisational work/being a shop steward. I approach this task with thoroughness and perspective. I use my gut feeling here. And, because this is not about me, I am quite good at it.

The sixth challenge is team work. My strategy is the famous ostrich-strategy: I try and avoid it. If it can't be avoided, I take full responsibility and do all the work, and if that is not possible, I hide in the corner and free-ride.

The seventh task is international work. This could be being part of an international team in a large research project, in which case all tasks are divided between participants and discussed once in while at long meetings. International work is also going to conferences and presenting my work. In both cases, the actual work is fine. International settings are often formal and structured. In the actual meeting or conference I use my professionalism and my analytical skills. I also enjoy speaking English, so for the work part the international tasks are wonderful. But unfortunately these international gatherings are not only work. There's breaks. And the conference dinner. And networking over cocktails or something. I have found a way to cope, but I truly dread this...

The eighth task is lecturing. I like lecturing. When I was teaching I got a lot of positive response, so I know that I am also quite good at it. I understand my stuff, I convey it. That's it. Professionalism and analysis, again. I have a small note regarding this task though. Like many other aspies, I hate being interrupted. But as a lecturer, interruption is part of the deal. And I don't mind really, as long as the interruptions stick to the topic. If they don't understand a certain word, if they want another example, or a new explanation. Fine. No problem. But less fine if they want to take a more off-topic discussion, like philosophy or ethics. I enjoy the discussion but I find it difficult to return to the topic. The worst interruptions are those that totally unrelated. The guy in the next auditorium asking to borrow a piece of chalk. Students being late for class. And the worst: people whispering. Why do people whisper? Nobody can hear what you are saying, but everybody can hear you are saying something. I don't get it. It makes so much noise and I get so irritated that I lose my focus. I wish they would just text each other or write on a piece of paper...

The last thing I listed is a central problem. I find it difficult to subordinate to my manager (or anyone else). I always want to discuss his or her decisions, in particular if I think I am smarter than him or her. With my last boss, I was in fact smarter, but he was stubborn so we discussed, almost fought, about everything. I couldn't accept that he was right just because he was the boss. I 'solved' this problem by finding another job and leaving...

Other observations about my way of working:
I take responsibility.
I do things myself then I know that they will be done (I know, I would be a horrible manager, monopolising all the work because I didn't trust anybody else to do it!)

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