“Kevin, you know you don’t just instant-message a director to ask her something right? And you address them by their appointments, not their first name okay? That’s the way we do things around here.”
So this did not happen to me, it happened to a friend who was in public service and I am appreciative of the very progressive work environments I’ve been in my career thus far. But the truth is, workplaces generally reward compliance before contribution. I’ve previously wrote something similar about the education system that we’ve been subject to and hence the behaviour of the workforce we have trained. Because ‘That’s the way we do things around here’ is more important in the day-to-day moments than ‘How do we make the things we do better?’
But here is an encouragement for everyone who agrees with that previous blog post of mine, and who wants to contribute and not just comply. And here’s for those who despise those who think ‘Doing less means less mistakes; doing nothing means no mistakes (少做少错，不做没错)’. When you are able to first comply, then demonstrate contribution, you can get rewarded with concession to not comply.
What am I talking about? Non-compliance? Not deviating from hard rules that are laid down, but from cultural norms that stops us from contributing. Once you’re accepted as a contributor, as someone concerned about making things better rather than just upholding legacy, you’ll find yourself being able to bend norms a little more. People would give you more lattitude to rearrange things a little and see how they like it.
So don’t be discouraged when you’re different, when you want to do the real work and get hammered down. And don’t lose that sense that you want to contribute and yet is unable because of the culture of conformity. If you can be rewarded in that way for your initial contributions, then you can start making a difference to the organisation you’re in.
Keep growing, and may your adventures ahead match your ambitions.