Pick Your Battles

Whether I’m discussing the relationships between myself and my wife, boss, mother, or friends, picking my battles is one of the most important things I’ve learned since I graduated college (a lesson that I really began developing back in the first semester of my junior year).

Some things aren’t worth fighting over. And some things aren’t to be fought over. I don’t go to work and say what I won’t do (as long as it’s ethical and not degrading). I have a responsibility to do my job. I don’t tell Desirée that I’m not washing the dishes when it’s my night to wash. There are some battles that aren’t worth it (and that I probably won’t win).

Conversely, there are some that must be fought. When something isn’t that big of a deal, let it slide. Because, eventually, you’re going to have something that you have to speak up against and you don’t want to be pegged as someone whose always pushing every envelope you can.

Your pride is important. But know when you need to put it to the side and when you need to say “This is something I won’t budge on.” You cannot not budge on everything and everything cannot go your way. That is juvenile.


Make professional development a priority.


Watch What You Say

… and who you say it to.

You’re in the office every day.  You develop opinions about your coworkers.   Cool.  That’s human.  “John is a smart guy but he’s not the most motivated.”  “Linda is articulate but she likes the sound of her own voice.”  Those observations are fine to make but try your best to keep them in your head while at the office.  Even if the person you tell your opinion to doesn’t tell anyone else in the office, you are impacting their ability to develop their own opinions.

The exception to this rule is if you are discussing someone’s flaws with someone else who can help them improve upon those flaws.  At that point it’s alright to say to a manager “Hey Nick, John has a lot of great ideas but he’s having trouble implementing them.  Maybe you could have a talk with him about it so that we can be a more impressive work unit.”


Make professional development a priority.

Policies Are In Place For A Reason

Folks, if someone at work pulls a policy on you and you have violated it, make it right if you can.  Most people won’t take you to court.  But, if the violation of the policy is egregious enough (or if the employee is grossly underpaid), the likelihood that you will be sued goes up exponentially.  Just a bit of advice from yours truly.


Make professional development a priority.

The Unremovable Stain

In an organization/company, favoritism bleeds through like a permanent marker on wide-ruled notebook paper from the Dollar Tree.

I’m not saying don’t be compassionate as a leader.  I actually advise that you are.  But be compassionate across the board.

I’m not saying be compassionate as a leader.  I don’t advise that you lack compassion.  But be cold hearted across the board.

Showing one favor without granting it to another is the best way to build resentment among the ranks.  And people who resent you will not do their best work for you.


Make professional development a priority.

How’s It Goin’ Down?

“What types of games are being played?  How’s it going down?” — DMX

X is one of my favorite rappers.  Those are lines from his classic song “How’s It Goin’ Down?”.  On his most recent album, Drake “borrows” those lyrics for the song “U With Me.”

The song has nothing to do with professional development.  But the lyrics do have something to do with office politics.  Games ought not be played in the office but they are. Politics are going to have a place in the office place for as long as emotions do.  So, until we automate offices, we are going to have, for lack of a better word, pettiness.

My issue with this is, just let me know from the jump.  Take an honest inventory of things.  What types of games are being played?  How’s upward mobility going down?  Because, answering that will let me know if I want to play the game or collect the check.


Make professional development a priority.

Stop Assuming They Care

“Look scrapper, I got nephews to look after… Y’all don’t know my expenses.  I gotta buy bigger plates.”  — Shawn “Jay Z” Carter

How many times have you had someone come around your office building taking up money for this and that?  And, when you say you don’t have any cash on hand, they automatically either point you in the direction of an ATM (as if you don’t both work there) say they’ll come back around tomorrow.

Well, let me be the first to say I will not be bullied into giving.  Do I wish I could support every cause that a coworker is raising money for?  Yes.  But do I have bills, family, friends, and other responsibilities that require that I budget my money?  Yes.  So, sure, if I have a few extra dollars and am able to give to a cause that I deem worthy of my hard earned money, sure I’ll give.  But if not, coming back around in 24 hours isn’t going to change my answer.

The problem with me is I don’t waste people’s time and, for some reason, they are offended by that.  I don’t say “Let me think about it,” or “Come back tomorrow and maybe I’ll have it.”  Why would I do that if a) I know my mind isn’t going to change  and b) if my mind does change, I can easily come to your office?  So I just say “I’m not able to participate.”  Guess I should find a way to sugarcoat my versions of “No.”

Eric Thomas once said “It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to believe in and fund your dreams.”  So, don’t take it personally.  I just don’t see where x, y, or z adds value to things that I see as valuable.

Oh yeah… And I may be petty for this but, being that I’m in the fundraising business, if I don’t see your name on any of the staff giving lists (even the $1 campaign to increase participation numbers), don’t expect me to place money toward your cause unless I REALLY see it as beneficial to the greater community.  Long way of saying “If you scratch my back, there’s a better chance that I’ll scratch yours.”


Make professional development a priority.

People Notice

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been in and out of the faculty break rooms at work and, though I rarely eat there (mainly because I prefer to be in the gym during lunch and eat at my desk afterward), the times that I do stumble in to fill up my water bottle, I hear employees talking about other employees.  And, as we all know, folks are much more likely to speak of the bad than the good.  “He is always late.”  “Can you believe she wore that?”  “That is NOT in my job description.”

I say that to say this: be mindful of how you are perceived.  You can never please everyone but what you can do is be aware of what you are doing and how it can be taken by the parties who view it.  Whereas your boss may never be at work on time (because maybe she doesn’t have to be), your coworkers who are likely notice that you aren’t.  And, if you are the person who just can’t be early (an excuse to me but whatever, some people say it with a straight face), you need to be the person who either skips lunch or stays late.

Like I said, people notice.  If you don’t put your best foot forward, you will be the one people are talking about in the break room.  And it won’t be long until that discussion finds its way to the ears of upper management.  Then what?