Is your work an obligation or an opportunity?

Jul 03 2008 by Dan Bobinski Print This Article

Your natural drive, personal life situation and your coworkers will all have an influence on how you view your work. Yet in most cases, people tend to see work either as an obligation, overbearing, or an opportunity.

The average worker is often inclined to view work as an obligation. It's an agreement to be at a certain location at a certain time and perform certain tasks. In exchange for that commitment the person receives suitable compensation in the form of adequate wages and other benefits.

Others see their work as overbearing, in which the environment places unrealistic and burdensome demands on them. It's an oppressive atmosphere the pushes and presses people beyond the norm to the point that it drains them of any desire to give more voluntarily.

Those who view their work as an opportunity are often viewed as "movers and shakers." Work gives them the chance to make a difference in the world, whether it be for themselves, their company, or society in general.

Many of these workers have entrepreneurial attitudes, and if they don't branch out to start their own company, they'll often rise up into management.

Because of this, it helps to see how an entrepreneur may think, and how it can affect expectations in the workplace. David Gumpert, writing a while back in BusinessWeek, provides us some insight on what one can expect when working for an entrepreneur.

Just being aware of potential conflicts can give you an edge that makes your workweek more enjoyable, even if it feels oppressive.

First things first: treat company resources like your own. This is true in all companies, but especially so in privately-owned company. Everything the boss owns is invested in his/her business.

So try fixing things yourself before calling a technician. If you travel, take a few minutes to look for less-expensive hotels and compare prices on rental cars (you'd be surprised at how much difference can exist in various cities).

On occasion, let the boss know about all the extra steps you took to save the company money - it makes the boss happy.

Second, be results-focused, not a clock-watcher. Entrepreneurs can't stand people who are consistently worried about what time they're going to be off work, including those that show up exactly at nine and leave right at five. They love people who are concerned about results.

And yes, sometimes a little extra time might be needed. For example, if quitting time is normally five o'clock and at the end of the day you're working a job on can be completed with just five or ten more minutes or work, stay and get it done.

Third, no matter what you position in the company, be on the lookout for new customers. Entrepreneurs love new customers, as they are the lifeblood of the company.

This may seem a bit strange if you aren't a sales person, but nothing will give an entrepreneur more pleasure than employees coming in with the names of new prospects, or at least ideas for finding new customers.

Fourth, in addition to looking for new customers, be on the lookout for other ideas to grow the business. This doesn't have to be complicated. Perhaps you're online surfing the news in the evening and see an article that addresses a problem you've been having at work. Forward it to your boss with a quick note on how you think it will help solve the problem. Most entrepreneurs love it when they know you are thinking about solving company problems.

Besides, the problem you help solve will likely make your job easier, too!

Fifth, respond to email and voice mail as soon as possible. As we've pointed out, entrepreneurs are very results-oriented, so when they have to wait for replies, it sends the message that you just don't care.

Even if your reply is an acknowledgment that you received their message and you'll get back to them by "x" date or time with an answer, it shows you care about opportunities and results.

Finally, the first day of the workweek can be a particularly unique day, because generally speaking, most entrepreneurs have spent time during their weekend thinking about new opportunities and how to solve certain workplace problems.

This isn't necessarily true of those who view work as an obligation, and rarely true for those who see their work as oppressive.

Accordingly, when these three styles meet at work after a few days off, the potential for conflicts and "attitudes" is higher than normal. All three styles benefit by being aware of this - especially the entrepreneurs, who, if they're thinking like good managers, won't bombard their staff as they walk in the door.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Daniel Bobinski teaches teams and individuals how to use emotional intelligence and how to create high impact training. Heís also a best-selling author, a popular speaker, and he loves helping teams and individuals achieve workplace excellence

Older Comments

Dan your article reminds me of one of the 3 components of personal spirit...outlook on life. Sometimes making the shift is simply a matter of replacing the lens of 'everything is hard' to a lens of 'everything is an opportunity to learn'. Other times, it requires changing how someone sees themselves: as a victim, a survivor, or a creator/inventor of their life's experience. Either way unless you can see it and be can't choose...only loose.

Dawna Jones Vancouver, B.C.


Nicely put. That's a great way to describe that!

Dan B.

I haven`t worked for ten years, i`m a single parent (father) and now my son and daughter are at college I`m looking for a job/training. I claimed job seekers four months ago and have had a tough time with the advisors at the job centre. I`m sorry but they don`t have a clue, I`m now stuck with a training provider(cad centre) and have spent the last nine weeks trying to finish NVQ level 2 in IT. It`s a joke i`m ignored and when i ask for help there to busy. I have not yet so far found any one that has a clue as to help someone of my age back to work. The job centre treats me like a down and out and i have lost my temper on one occassion when i was being treated this way. This country sucks its on its way down the pan if i had some money i`d be gone. The rich get richer and the unemployed get shafted.

Robert Nichols Rhymney Valleys