16 January 2016

Hafiz Adewuyi

A reward for helping

Just before I took my current job, I got one of the most ridiculous sounding pieces of advice from a friend who's been in the industry for a quite a while ahead of me. "Don't let it be clear all that you can do, because you will tend to get saddled with too many responsibilities then". At the time, yes, I thought it was ridiculous. At the company where I was coming from, it was expected that you contribute all you can to the work. And when you show and share your capabilities, you get rewarded by the improved relationship between you and your colleagues. Help is a universally understood language, and people like people that make their lives better by contributing to it via help.

However, having spent the better part of twelve months at my current workplace, I can kind of relate better with that advice. You see, in a weird kind of way, around here, in contrast to what it was at my last place of work, people tend to want to do as little as they possibly can and escape from work at the slightest chance. So, of course, to be able to achieve this, in a place where there's actually a lot of work to be done, however weird it might sound, you have to either be generally inept, or at least, appear to be. Just present yourself as someone who is not very helpful apart from doing routine stuff and you'll be just fine. Even if it means you need to lie about having some required knowledge, just to escape being identified as useful.

It seems to be okay not to be very useful. People tend to understand. Like, you can help with the obvious stuff, but you're not expected to go out of your way to assist other people in solving their  work challenges.

Well. This sort of attitude is totally strange to me, cos' where I'm coming from, it's either you're achieving stuff or you're not even there. I totally cannot remember anytime at Appzone when I felt like someone was trying to push work to me, or more accurately, neglect challenging work, just so me in my low tolerance for laxity attitude will pick up the grind. People generally embraced being assigned extra/new responsibilities. Or so I think. At least, that's how I was. New projects always psyched me up. But here, I feel it very strongly on a daily basis. People don't love a challenge enough around here, and I am not sure it's the right kind of environment to be in at this point of my career.

I feel like I need an environment where the kind of heat I apply to my new colleagues is applied to me more often than I do to others. Heat, to do things  a little differently. To not shy away from unfamiliar/challenging tasks. To apply a little more pressure to getting things from people they depend on. To do important work in good time.

I realize how happy I get when I get the chance to attack a task at work that is not something I'm very familiar with. The knowledge gathering is usually really fulfilling. The downside to being this way in my current environment is that if you're too helpful, you stand the risk of being burdened with peripheral tasks to a point where it might impede your progress on your more important duties.

Well. Having seen both sides, I have chosen to stick to the helpful path. If not anything else, you get to score a lot of social points for being the go-to person when "you need to get any problem solved". Deji, my divisional head has apparently attained a lot of his charisma by being a willful problem solver in an unhealthy environment where people generally try to hide the crumbs of knowledge they have, for whatever reason they've so deemed fit. It stupefies me whenever I see him being so humble about how much he knows. And in some kind of way, I can relate with the fact that he's not trying to be humble to make people feel better. He's actually humble because he's fully aware of how much he does not know, even though his voraciousness with learning puts him way ahead of most other people in terms of knowledge.

Quite frequently, I have frustrated people come to me to ask if I can help them with some task I've never heard about. I must admit I'm sometimes tempted to lie about how much I actually know so they can just carry their wahala and move on. So I don't get a new addition to my current portfolio of random and unrecognized tasks. But now, henceforth, I will apply the Golden rule and my adoption of honestly as a primary core value. I remember mentioning 'honesty' at my job interview, when I was asked about what my most important value was.

Everyday, I know I will be faced with moments where I feel like turning my back on a person who needs my help. People do this to me quite frequently at work, and I know how bad it hurts. That someone that I expect to be able to help me is not forthcoming with help as much as I'd hoped. Or even that they're not as skilled/knowledgeable as they should be to help me and they don't show any willingness to go the extra mile to cover up the little gap between where they are and where they need to be to be able to help me.

I will apply the Golden rule to this. I will not like to make other people feel the same way I feel when I meet a brick wall in a colleague. So, I commit right at this moment, even though it was not exactly in the plan when I started to write this article, to embrace strange requests as opportunities to learn new things at work. To push my boundaries and be excited at work. Perhaps, I might get to the point of announcing one day that people can feel free come to me if they have any thing, especially technical that they need help with in the course of their daily work.

Anyway. I'll conclude this by sharing how yesterday (Friday: 15-01-2016) I got my first reward for being willfully helpful. I could easily have denied knowing a way to solve the problem when I was called in by a colleague to help with a task that usually should not involve me. But I offered my listening ears and soon found out how easy it was for me. I took the job and did it so well that a beneficiary of the output was so impressed (I guess), he brought me a little gift the next day.

Not in a long while have I felt as appreciated as I did on receiving that gift. Like, I wanted to give the person with one mighty big hug, but then, it might have appeared a little inappropriate in our rather homophobic environment. So, I didn't and just let him know how grateful I was. What made the gift so touching was it was something I actually needed. An article of clothing, of which, the one I'd been using for the past few weeks is tattered. People notice, I've learned.

Cheers to being helpful! Try to be more helpful than you were last week. Uproot a smile from the deepest bowels of your neighbor by helping them out in a most unanticipated way. I assure you, you will get very rewarded for it, whether it's the emotional satisfaction or in a more concrete way. Just go for it!

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