Dealing with Workplace Incidentals

Can you accomplish one or more of your objectives within this system? Keeping in mind that this system is not unique, but pervasive; and differs only in detail at other firms…

Last updated on January 2nd, 2019 at 06:56 pm

A series of statements recently posted on indicate an employee is trying to work through an understanding of his employment environment:

“I had told my wife I could try a dramatic approach, if needed, to try to get what I wanted (which included acting like I was quitting), but I told her the risk/reward potential of that approach wasn’t tilted in my favor in this situation.”

Nothing personal, and no hard feelings, but I suggest you act business-like. “Business-like” as if that next employer was watching. What image would you like him/her to see when you discuss your current behavior at that job interview? Let your preferred image guide your action.

Which brings us to another Harold S. Hook-ism: Two Tyrannies

There are two tyrannies in life: there will be change, and you will be judged by others.


What has changed?

Answer: nothing of substance. This is just an(other) incident; incidental to using this job to accomplish one or more of your career objectives. How will you use it?

“…the situation in general.”

Situation normal: others are less than perfect, but it remains an opportunity, as will the next firm; and the next; and the next; for the same reason. In fact, it is an opportunity to accomplish objectives precisely because others are less than perfect. Remember this: If anyone were up for this challenge, who would need you?

So, using your career plan as guidance, how does this incident affect accomplishment of the plan? Does this incident fall within one of your [pre-defined] Trigger Events?

Perspective (Yet Again…)

You get to deal with the immediate issues; every day.

You get to deal with those immediate issues at this firm, and any firm; every day. Only the details vary.

You get to decide whether your career will be driven by details, or by how your career plan guides your choices, and uses the details to advantage.

So the question is: how will you use this to advantage? For example, does it provide documentable experience under one or more of your profession-related objectives? (It certainly can provide documentable experience under management-related objectives.)

The View from nn,nnn Feet

Another respondent writes:

“When you have 3 out of 4 tell you basically the same thing, chances are that the majority are correct…”

Which is correct? The focus on this job? Or the focus on your career?

Or stating the question differently: which is correct? The view from 10,000 feet? Or, from 40,000 feet? Or, better yet: tactical action, or strategic action?

Which of the above needs to be jettisoned to get to zero sum?

Yup; that’s another trick question.

Another respondent writes:

“Do not take on any more responsibilities…unless it will lead to the acquisition of skills and job accomplishments…to propel you to the next level at another firm.”


Or, with this firm. (Why waste this opportunity?) Accomplishment of your career objectives being the rationale for engaging employment with this or any firm.

Translation: your career plan at 40,000 feet guides your actions at 10,000 feet, which are a series of engagements each of which add value as input to the next. The number of engagements is only incidental to accomplishing those career objectives. The important thing is that each is used to accomplish the objectives; else they are a resource sink, and waste your time.

The drama is only incidental to the accomplishments of those objectives; unless you allow otherwise.

You are fully engaged; now; today. Until that changes, how may you use this engagement to advantage?

Yet another respondent writes:

“But there is no hope for you to try to work within this system…”

Can you accomplish one or more of your objectives within this system? Keeping in mind that this system is not unique, but pervasive; and differs only in detail at other firms, as others herein have indicated in other threads. Two questions are pertinent in this latest episode: what can you accomplish here vis-s-vis career objectives; and if not here, where will you go to accomplish your career objectives?

Which brings me to…

Exit Strategy

Dr. North has recently written about exit strategies (addressed from the 10,000 foot view, in Harry’s perspective). Excellent; and kudos.

As important as the exit strategy is at 10,000 feet, ask yourself how the exit strategy fits within, or from, the 40,000 foot view. If it’s relevant (and it surely is), just exactly how does such a thing relate to one’s career plan?

Here’s additional perspective:

If you are not actively working a career plan from the 40,000 foot perspective, then you will not address exit strategies proactively; but, reactively when unanticipated events force you to decide to exit the current engagement. Saying this another way, it’ll be that last straw on the camel’s back that results in the formation of an exit strategy; rather than whether or not the camel is traveling in the correct direction, and arrives at the correct place on time. In Infantry parlance in this context, the exit strategy becomes what is known as a “breakout plan,” formulated when all goes wrong. From this perspective, the exit strategy is a tactical action.

If you are actively working a career plan from the 40,000 foot perspective, then you will address an exit strategy for each engagement before accepting that employment. In other words, you will formulate the how and when of your exit as part of the plan for the employment you are entering, as the conditions of completing it.

For example, an exit strategy could be related to serving as CFO n number of years within a $25MM firm. When accomplished, it’s time to go to the next level; perhaps elsewhere. That next level will be engaged based on its exit strategy. Should you come to the conclusion that objectives won’t be accomplished (i.e., the camel won’t arrive at the correct place on time), that can be a Trigger Event for an alternative course of action. From this perspective, Trigger Events result from objectives met or not; not from disappointment, not from disgust; and not from drama. (Decision criteria for alternative courses of action – Trigger Events – can include environmental factors, such as ethical or criminal aspects of extant behavior; or whatever.)

The exit strategy will be strategic tool, and will be proactively derived from your career objectives. In Infantry parlance in this context, the exit strategy becomes the “stand-down plan” (or relief plan) after “actions on the objective” are complete. It comes full circle, and becomes the Entrance Strategy to [next mission].

This view of an exit strategy as a strategic tool leads to another concept that we’ve not yet explored: the strategy of replacing oneself. I imagine we’ll get to that eventually; but not now.

“Where to Be?”

I suspect that all this talk about nn,nnn foot levels, and tactical and strategic, and models and framework, and goal and objectives, and plans and actions, and opportunities and advantage, is pretty confusing, and difficult to put into perspective. And you may wonder about the value of this information. But, in my opinion, the information is necessary if you’re to really take charge of your career at all levels, and develop a holistic view of that career.

You may be operating at the 5,000 foot level, which means advice focusing on the 10,000 foot level will seem pretty scary; and advice focused higher will seem just downright hypothetical and out-of-touch. But, that doesn’t make any of it inappropriate nor inapplicable; it just means you have further to grow than you imagined.

If you’re to really take charge of your career, you’ll have to deal with it all.


The requirement to operate at the 10,000 foot level is obvious; that requirement being reinforced every day in the workplace. And naturally, there’s a lot of turbulence there.

But it will be the concurrent operating at the 40,000 foot level which will help you stay out of the ditch and avoid the holes in the road during your very long trek; and allow you to put the turbulence occurring at 10,000 feet into perspective. That perspective also allows (or enables) use of the current engagement and individual future engagements to advantage.

And just to be clear: the view from 5,000 feet, 10,000 feet, and 40,000 feet are not part of a zero-sum game.

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