The Honeymoon is over, now what?
Oh! You thought I was talking about marriage?
Well, actually I am…sort of.
When an employer and a new employee reach an accord for that person to come to work for the employer, it really is a marriage of sorts.
Think about it.
There’s a selection process, or “courtship”, in which you dress yourself up and try to look brighter, smarter, more interesting and more handsome (or prettier) than you really are. And opposite you, your prospective employer is doing the exact same thing.
Your resume and references are smack dab full of achievements and praise for great work and just how awesome an employee you were. The employer’s job posting’s full of how great of workplace it is, and all the perks offered: Free food on Wednesdays, ping pong and scooters okay in the office!
Both (marriage & career) are heavy duty commitments, together accounting for the bulk of our time as well as a good deal of our pleasure and pain. For either partner to stay at all, similar stipulations apply.
To get started, a compatible choice has to be made by both parties. Next comes important things like compromise, mutual respect, and effort…Meaning, there has to be some on both sides. There’s paperwork you both sign, there is an agreement between both parties to work for and/or serve the other, and as long as both parties bring value to the other one, we have a peaceful, wonderful union.
Tada, a marriage! Or, ahem…
Tada, a career!
It’s so beautiful, I could just cry…I always cry at weddings. Don’t tell anyone!
First, you go through the “honeymoon stage”. This is when everyone is on his or her best behavior. The new employee is all smiles and when asked by others, speaks highly of his or her new employer, outlining why this was the best choice ever! The employer is excited at the potential this new hire brings and can’t wait to see what the future brings for the company.
…So, what does happen when the honeymoon is over and the new has worn off?
You know the scenario, a year has gone by and it’s evaluation time (Your 1st anniversary), and you thought you killed it this past year, so you’re expecting a nice raise, but it seems your employer thought the performance was “ho-hum” and so they’ve got a much lower number in mind, and when you see it, you just can’t believe it. “what were they thinking”?
Now you’re miffed! You’re ready to bum rush their office and give them the “business” and let them know the error in their ways!
But now wait a minute, you’ve been late to work a few times this year, and you did miss those 2 important deadlines since coming onboard. Then there’s that time you were late for the board meeting, and blamed it on a dead battery, when really you just forgot to set the alarm and overslept.
Hmmm? Maybe they’re right…
“Well, my employer’s had a few slip ups, too!” There’s that time when they forgot to register you on their insurance, so when you went to the doctor, you had to pay the whole bill. Or when your laptop and software were 2 months late, and you had to use your own computer to perform work on and they never compensated you for it. Oh yeah, that time you were sent out of town, but they forgot to book you a room, so you spent the evening looking for hotels. Yeah, that was not cool.
You think they are wrong, and you are worth more. They do not. How do you handle it?
Believe it or not, you actually handle it very similar to a marriage.
Pertaining to marriage, couples with a high risk of divorce all have the same negative problems in common. Disappointment, withdrawal, hostility, and contempt are the biggest and most common denominators in failed marriages.
It’s couples who are honest with themselves on their shortcomings, own their mistakes, accept their struggles and handle them, and even celebrate them as learning moments, that have the most successful and fulfilling marriages.
I think that’s what you have to do here.
The first thing to do is to stop thinking about only the negatives. At the helm of every company, no matter how big, are people. Real people who are human, who make human mistakes. And as fellow humans we sure as heck don’t want other people to ONLY remember the bad things, do we?
Look, you can’t avoid everything that comes your way as a negative, but you can balance them with the positives. It’s important to have a good balance of positive and negatives.
The key here is perspective, communication, and compromise. Does your employer have some merit for the so-so evaluation and corresponding less-than stellar raise?
Ask them the “why’s” and ask them the “what can I do’s”. Why was my evaluation so low? What can I do to improve my grade and obtain that big raise next time? In turn, you and your employer can talk about what they can do to “step up their game” in their commitment to you as an employee.
Some real talk needs to take place, as does an action plan for both sides. Just like a marriage, you both made a decision and commitment to work together, and the assumption, unless otherwise negotiated is perpetual, right?
There are, of course, a few differences: you don’t quit a marriage at 65 with a gold watch and a send-off party. Though, increasingly, you don’t quit a job this way either, as retirement is more and more becoming a luxury hardly anyone can afford.
The point is, just like marriage, it takes work to perpetuate the relationship. There is no cruise control for either situation by the way. Just like a marriage, you have to be constantly moderating and adjusting things, watching for cross-traffic and hazards, slowing down when you need to and swerving to miss those potholes in the road.
If both sides pay attention and adjust as needed, constantly communicate and work to contribute to the relationship every day, you now build a “marriage” that is strong and healthy. When the marriage is strong and healthy, the entire company (family) benefits.
“You can’t just give up on a relationship because the situation’s not ideal. Great relationships aren’t great because they have no problems. They are great because both sides care enough about the other to find a way to make it work.”