One of my core values is, and has always been Just- or Fairness (‘Rechtvaardigheid’ is the much broader Dutch word that suits me better). It’s what drives a lot of my behavior and it’s what has the most profound influence on the way I’m getting through my days. Obviously, since that’s pretty much why it’s a core value. But I digress (in the first paragraph already? Jeez, Zoë, get it together!).
Finding out what your core values are isn’t exactly the easiest of processes, and in my experience it was quite a grueling endeavor to get to the point where I can recognize AND maximize them to my advantage. I have my employer and line of work to thank for that opportunity, as my participation in several high potential and/or success programmes with intricate personal development courses allowed me to delve this deep into my being and reflect on the person my values make me. The company and this knowledge have helped me grow as a person over these past 5 years. Immensely so, even. Especially now that I know, acknowledge and accommodate my core values on a more daily basis. Actively, instead of passively.
Fairness as a core value isn’t too complicated when viewed on the whole. As long as the things happening around me are (perceived by me as) fair – life is good. And when they aren’t? I get itches that need to be scratched. A balance that has to be returned. A wrong that has to be made right. Which, overall, is quite doable because I have created a world around myself that feels ‘fair’ to me. As far as possible (with the chaos in the world etc.).
But when you look at it on a more detailed level – fairness isn’t exactly an easy feature in a world like ours, that is built on imbalance and unfairness. There’s a lot of scenario’s where this value comes into play (way more than you might at first consider) and a whole lot of them are outside of my realm of influence altogether, leaving me in the negatives when I perceive unfairness and can’t do anything about it.
In the past, I’ve had periods where things just ‘weren’t tying in‘ to how I needed them to be. Times where I saw injustice done (to me or others) or viewed the world around me as being set up to work against me instead of with/for me. Fight or flight situations, to me, that couldn’t be looked away from. Grinding into the core of my being and steering my moods and actions. Which, looking back, weren’t all handled in the best of ways (I’m definitely a ‘fight’ kinda person).
Those moments ranged from silly things to more important matters. From the intangible to the material and from physical to emotional. There was the time that my colleague (started at the company at the same time and performing less well than I was on all fronts) got almost double the salary increase that I did. A cringe of unfairness to me, not because I’m all that much concerned about salary but because the unfairness of that process struck a nerve way down deep.
Was it because he was a guy in a predominantly male environment? Or the fact that his supervisor saw him as a buddy instead of as an asset while mine perceived me as a chore? It didn’t matter – it was the injustice of that (albeit relatively small) difference that had me all worked up. It got fixed after I spoke up about it (still a proud moment) and showed me how ‘just taking it’ isn’t always the best course of action.
There were moments in relationships were boundaries were unfairly created and/or crossed, resulting in increasing unhappiness and ugly battles – withering, eventually, into breakups. And that time earlier this year, when I joined a (male) softball-team in which I can’t play several of the positions ‘because I’m a girl’ (as stated by the sports association, not the team-members, fyi). Lots and lots of small and bigger things that play up in my day to day life where I feel a twitch in ‘the justice department’ of my heart and soul. And something I have to manage and work on, to avoid having it taking over my thoughts and actions, resulting in losing control.
So when I first felt a twinge of injustice in my current job, I immediately jumped on the reflection train to see where that originated and if it was something I need to do something about. You see, as a bid manager I have a daily focus on putting together, writing and WINNING the best deals for the company I’m employed at. I have to meet standards and requirements, deliver quality and outperform the rest of the competition and win over the clients that will ‘grant’ us their contracts (which, due to that single word means that it is actually mostly a subjective matter, instead of an objective process). And now I sometimes wonder: ‘is this the job that I should be doing?’
Because yes. It plays into my competitive side, A LOT. It’s important deals, there’s a broad field of competition and I can really ‘shine’ when things go well. The work is fun and challenging and the rewards are awesome. But. There’s a but.
This job – however much it might suit me in some areas – is never going to be ‘fair’. There’s deals I will win based on politics and smart sales-speeches instead of content and quality. There’s deals I will lose even though we’re the stronger competitor on that same level. There’s moments the quality of my work, however outstanding, will not determine my results and moments I will be judged for those unfair results over my actual work, however unfair that might be.
And that chafes and aches sometimes because it feels like a lack of control over my position in this world. If it’s not my work and effort that determines my success (like WAS the case in my last position as a software tester), if I can’t be at the steering wheel of people’s perception – am I really in the right place?
This Monday I won my first (solo-managed) deal. It was a team effort, obviously (as are all our deals) – but it was ‘my’ first win as a bid manager. An important contract, a very visible deal within the company and something that will surely benefit me and my employers in the long run. It. Was. An Awesome. Feeling! Truly. Top of the world. Cheering. Happiness.
Same thing happened last month when we won another (way bigger) deal in which I did all of the actual writing. Ecstatic joy all-round. But the strange thing was: we had not expected to win that one based on the quality of our work. While I lost a deal earlier this year that had us going ‘THIS IS IN THE POCKET!’
And that just, somehow, feels wrong. It feels great when it’s all well and good – but at the same time there’s this invisible ax looming over my head that I feel might drop at any moment on any other deal I work on. Because frankly – I don’t think that I have (enough) control over outcomes to be fully confident in my own abilities.
Still. I’m on a winning streak now, and I feel like (considering the quality that I do put out) we’re currently giving ourselves the best possible chances of winning when we’re not counting in the effects of the politics and powerplays. But I do wonder – in the long run – can I really thrive in a job where the end verdict on your person(al success) is based on results that find a foundation in an uncontrollable unfairness? Can I find a way to soothe that part of my core that revolts against the process? Can I put simple results over that need for just- and fairness?