Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When Opportunity Knocks....Don't Answer

There is a funny little phrase I’ve come across over my career that has caused me much grief and frustration. The phrase being “I have an opportunity for you…” This phrase is used often by bosses looking to divert or unload work onto employees in the guise of an “opportunity”.

If you are not a Turtle you probably will jump at the “opportunity” as you boss will follow up with much exuberance on the benefits the “opportunity” will have for you and your career. Your boss will explain to you that this “opportunity” is a chance to “prove yourself” to the company. He may also quip “if you take this on there could be bigger things ahead for you.”

You leave the “opportunity” discussion with you boss sky high, with thoughts of more pay, higher position, etc. You go home and tell you friends about the exciting “opportunity” that was just presented to you, almost bragging about how important to the company you are. As a naive high performer your thoughts are on taking this “opportunity” and giving it your all because you know you are destined to succeed and conquer more.

You work tirelessly on the “opportunity” given to you and complete your work ahead of schedule. You are a high performer and your work is applauded by your boss. Your boss showers you will praise such as “I knew you were the guy for this” and “with work like this your future is bright”. You again leave the meeting with your boss with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. You’ve taken the “opportunity” and more than satisfied your boss. Hell, you exceeded his expectations.

A few weeks later another “opportunity” is presented to you. Eager to please you are ready and willing to take it head on. Just as with the first “opportunity” you exceed expectations and are feeling great. But your first inkling of reality sets it. Where is the payoff to my efforts?

Soon more “opportunities” come your way, but after each one you notice something. There’s no real reward! You have taken on more work and exceeded expectations each time, yet what have you gotten in return. There has been no action in the form of advancement and no monetary reward given.

Then you try and calm yourself down. “They’ll take care of me during my performance review next month.” You follow up with more soothing thoughts. During my review my boss will unveil the entire plan for me. That’s when I’ll get my rewards and my advancement.

The moment of truth finally arrives as you meet with your boss for your performance review. You receive the highest scores in each category and almost can’t wait to get to the end. This is the part where you boss will layout your reward. He speaks and it comes to you almost in slow motion “your efforts were outstanding and your increase for the upcoming year is…….. 2.5%.” What?? There must be a mistake, so you ask your boss to repeat the increase. Nope, you heard it correctly, 2.5%. There is no mention of you advancement or career path as part of our conversation.

You are professional, so you try to maintain poise. You ask questions trying to find out what happened. This is when your boss pulls out the BS. You try to get “real” answers, but your boss is skilled at BS and short on time. He uses the “I have another person waiting” and ends your performance review.

The final straw comes when the benefit enrollment period begins following the performance review period. It's announced that the benefit payments for insurance, dental, etc will go up by 10%. So now for all that extra effort taking on "opportunities" you realize you will now be making less this year than last year.

You have just learned what every Turtle already knows. When opportunity knocks, don’t answer. Unless your company and your boss can clearly layout in writing what you will get in return for the “opportunity” presented to you, retreat within the shell. Otherwise you’ll be destined to be the department lackey. Don’t make the mistake again, there is safety within the shell!!



I saw one of your recent comments on monster.com. website. I really like your advice here and will be coming back often. Just to return the favor, I would definitely recommend you check outwww.thejobplanet.com. It's like Monster, but with a few little twists. See what you think!


I saw one of your recent comments on monster.com. website. I really like your advice here and will be coming back often. Just to return the favor, I would definitely recommend you check outwww.thejobplanet.com. It's like Monster, but with a few little twists. See what you think!


Were you a fly on the wall in my review today? Have you been spying on me all year???? Well, your story sounds so much like the one I experienced but here's the twist- MY INCREASE WAS A FRACKIN GOOSE EGG!!! Oh yes, I'm a "great employee, dedicated, professional, takes what ever challenges we present, provides great customer service, yada, yada,....oh, by the way, the account we lost last year ...well crap rolls down hill and so you are going to feel a bit of our pain since we had legal fees to protect us after your team breached security(and no I wasn't the Project Manager) since you were the lead tech, but we really didn't want that kind of business anyway."
Yeah right, so here I am the only person on the team who passed the certification class after the lead tech quit 2 weeks ago leaving them without an installer and I thought I had them by the you know what. WRONG. From now on, I going to make sure I say no to ANYTHING they want to give me that smacks a smigen of "OPPORTUNITY". So now I'll be going into stealth mode, sucking up all the experience I can get for this new position I'm in(which they put me in with no salary increase) and when I feel I will get the right salary for my experience I got while working for this unfair, international major copy machine corporation that starts with a CA,I'm going ELSEWHERE..ADIOS, SIANARA, ARIVA DERCHI, see ya suckers!!!

But how do you say no without consequences? I was asked to work on Xmas to finish a task that a collegue left incomplete. I did and was actually punished for it in my next review. The coworker blamed me for all of the mistakes he made. When I defended myself, I was told that nobody took the comments seriously, but I was still made to sign the review and it is in my HR file. I got no raise.

So when I was given the 'opportunity' to work with him again I declined. The boss said he understood, but later he and middle management made a big deal about it and reassigned me to a team that is doing work that they know I don't enjoy.

So what could I have done differently?

Anonymous #2,

There are always consequences to saying no. But let's look at your situation. You said yes, took on the assignment and got nailed for it with no raise. Then you say no to the next situation and they stick you with something you don't like doing.

Either way you are going to get screwed with no reward. If you don't answer an opportunity you may have issues, but isn't it worse actually doing something and taking an opportunity only to see it backfire with no raise, promotion, etc.

You have to learn to "blend in" when assigned to teams or projects. Let others take the lead and be an active bystander. Let them come to conclusions/solutions, then just pitch in with an "I agree" to make it look like you were involved. I totally understand your situation and frustation. The other option is to start job searching because your company, like mine, doesn't seem to swift.

Feel free to drop me a line anytime and thank you for the comment.

Turtle King

Thank, you. You are so wise. The new assignment wasn't fun, but having to work with that backstabber full time would have been a fate worse than death. What kills me was that these three days of selflessness totally negated the raves that I received from my actual team-mates for the remainder of the year.

Oh, well, live and learn. I'm going to do as you said from now on.

I would like to thank the Turtle King for all his infinite wisdom. 'Blending in' is very hard for me to do. I always swear I will be that person that just does what is in the job description and no more. Come in on time and leave on time with no worries. Do my best not to stand out. It never happens though. I'm that idiot in the office slaving away, constantly being asked to do more than I'm required because they know I will do a good job; and always doing it because I just can't stop myself.

It's absolutely true that the more work you do (well), the more will be expected of you. The reward for all your hard work will always be more hard work. And once you start, if you decline, you will be reprimanded for it. Once you get that ball rolling, they stop seeing what you do and start seeing what you don't do even when it's technically not required of you. No good deed goes unpunished in anything, especially in the workplace.

Learn from my mistakes and seek the solace of the shell. Teach me Obi Wan, I have many things to learn.

Thanks for your comments Dr. Keep reading for more teachings! LOL.

Turtle King

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