August 26, 2014 at 11:57 am #182912
A good question from our recent online training on “Advancing your government career” (check out our career resources page for more info)
“I have been with an agency for 16 years in the field but have recently took a potention in our agency’s HQ. I am somewhat disappointed on the operations (politics).
How do I maintain my passion with my agency?”
What tips do people have on maintaining their passion?
August 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm #182936
Timothy G. JohnsonParticipant
Politics plays a role in every office environment. Sit back observe before you make any move. Realize that this is part of getting along in the office. You may not like it but you may have to accept it. Volunteer, do good work, seek out a real mentor and learn to play the game…but never ever compromise your core values. A good reputation is valuable.
August 29, 2014 at 1:30 pm #182934
I work to stay focused on doing my own excellent work, all of the time. I am cautious not to get bogged down by politics or negative attitudes or poor work ethics of my coworkers. I can be the change that I want to see in my office and, if not, I can still do great work. My own self esteem and confidence is enhanced when I do my very best every day.
August 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm #182932
I have had many careers where I struggled with either the people or the work assigned. The struggle is never easy, but I look at it as a challenge rather than a detriment. What can I do? not what is messed up.
If I am struggling with the people, I work hard to learn a little more about them and what makes them the way they are. Often times, I will find that the people I thought were snobby, were just a little shy. I make it a point to say hi to them and gradually learn a little about them. I also find that many people who are rude are insecure and giving them sincere praise on small things makes a major difference. I try my best to steer clear of gossip, especially negative gossip. Sometimes when someone really makes me mad, it’s hard not to vent to others – so I make sure I have one or two “safe” people.
As for the work, I work everyday so that when I wake up in the mirror, I like who I see. I will not like me if I give up or don’t do my best (at least most days – we all have those days where we are just happy to get through it). I also try to connect with others who share my passion – or share my passion and encourage others to join me. If I am working on long projects, I make small tasks along the way that I can accomplish and check off. By accomplishing something, even small things, I am giving myself reinforcement to do more.
All of this said, give yourself a few years in a new agency or role. Often, the first year is the worst as you work to learn the politics and the new work. If after a few years, its still bad, look elsewhere. Never fully commit yourself to one place, one group, one agency. Keep doors open and always network. And as Timothy said – “never compromise your core values. A good reputation is valuable.”
August 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm #182930
I was able to maintain work motivation in the public field for over 20 years because I would seek other job opportunities and go for it. I usually would not stay on a job more than two years. Then I became a government employee and, like you, very disappointed in the politics. However, due to my previous experience, I am able to be more flexible to the adjustments or culture in government. Look for other opportunities while still focusing on doing a great job where you are, volunteer for opportunities, get to know other people in other departments. Networking is so important in any job. Rather than talk on the phone, I would go to the person at his/her desk, and meet them. That way you find out who are the nice people and those who are not. You usually can’t determine that on a phone conversation or email. Accept peple for who they are. Whatever issue they have, it’s their issue, not yours. Be responsible for your actions and don’t take it personal. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them (and don’t be afraid to let them know in a professional way), challenge something if you feel it is not correct. Never comprise your business ethics just to satisfy someone. Stand up to what you believe, or know what is right. In the long run, you will feel better about yourself, and others will eventually respect you. I served 20 years in the Army and I developed strong integrity, respect, and ethics there. This has stayed with me and what I use to keep myself motivated and encouraged on my job. (by the way, I add a little prayer in there, too)
August 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm #182928
The GovLoop administrators have removed a key part of the original commenter’s question when it was rephrased. Maintaining one’s passion is very different from maintaining one’s passion within an agency. If it was simply a question of maintaining one’s passion, I’d say that the commenter should look into opportunities at other agencies. So many agencies have overlapping missions and/or different missions requiring the same skill sets. Many people love the mission of their agencies and spend their career moving between offices trying to push the mission forward. Other people have a passion for using their skills and often change agencies, trying to sharpen their skills on different problems or in different mission environments. Since the commenter’s original question seems to limit the options, in all honesty I’d say that maybe he/she should go back to the field and pretend that the trip to HQ was just a bad dream. Timothy J’s answer is also a good one: be patient, learn the politics and the players, and think strategically about how to make things better over time. It’s very likely that when the stars align and the wind blows right, the commenter will see an opening and pursue their passion to great satisfaction.
August 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm #182926
LINDA FOX, M.S.,CRCParticipant
You are so right, as a CRC, ethics and core values are what give me an identity that I value! People are fickle, but only I can control my behaviors and sometimes it feels like a battle zone when people want what I can’t give or do, but it works out if I feel good about me, and that is all that is important in the big scheme of things. Play the game can be difficult if the rules keep changing, but I understand what you are saying, never rock the boat too much, or be too easy to find fault or state your views with all the other “opinions” in the mix, it only exacerbates issues. I often just choose not to engage and go ahead and do what I know is right, seldom get in trouble doing what is right and it runs it’s course. Madness finds something else to worry with quite frequently…LOL New ideas sometimes are great, sometimes just crazy, but doesn’t pay to be too “I told you so’. LOL
August 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm #182924
LINDA FOX, M.S.,CRCParticipant
Focus on the good things and just let go of any really nasty bad things. Forgive the ones who have to exercise power, control, or other needs that often result in bad relationships on the job. I worked with a lady once and we butted heads for a long while, then I started valuing her good traits, accepting our differences, laughing at our power struggles and we are best friends now! Different is not always bad in a team setting because a team can learn to rely on the other member’s strengths! I love that lady and a job that was misery became fun and exciting when we let go and accepted each other’s perspectives. She was process orientated to the letter, I am outcome orientated totally and can change horses mid-stream, no problem. It always surprised me when people think I am flighty, not so, just quick to accept new things or change. I love adventure, and new things do not scare me. But some people have a lot of fears concerning change. The strengths we blended made the job flow smoothly and we were happy, happy, happy together for many years after the intial give it up about whose way was better phase let us go forward. Someone has to let go and be approachable in most situations or it becomes a battle and unhealthy. All agencies have thier unique personalities and people are all valuable, look for the good and let the rest go. Be nice, not nasty or contentious about little things!
August 29, 2014 at 3:53 pm #182922
Gerry La Londe-BergParticipant
Very wise. You covered a number of ways to see the situation and keep a productive attitude. Thank you.
August 30, 2014 at 1:54 am #182920
Martha (Austin) WilsonParticipant
The most important piece is to stay connected to YOU. And the Unique Contribution that you bring to the world. Passion is not something outside of you, rather it is something that comes from inside. When you focus your attention outside…politics, organizational hiccups, behaviors of others, etc, you disconnect from you and your Gifts and passion dies. Remember, what you focus on grows stronger in your life. What is your attention focused on?
September 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm #182918
Timothy G. JohnsonParticipant
Wrong is Wrong, even if everyone is doing it and Right is Right even if no one is doing it! I have taken many hits over my career because I would not do a wrong thing. But even those wrong folks talk to others about my ethics. Your reputation is all that you have be wise enough to walk away from the nonsense around you.
September 3, 2014 at 1:28 pm #182916
For “renewing or maintaining passion”, I refer people to the “Coolidge effect” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolidge_effect ), a principle which seems to have broader application than roosters or sex.
How much novelty and excitement do people need to maintain motivation, and interest in, a given activity and work context? Some, I would imagine, are more tenacious and patient than others. We likely all know some people who have been at the same job in the same place for 30+ years, and others who grow restless for other pastures after 18 months. Obviously, there is an age element, since you can’t be a 23 year-old recent grad, and have been at the same job for 20 years. But even for those under 30, some are more easily contented than others, and some demand more daily (or at least weekly) enchantment in their work than others. A recent meta-analysis study (Costanza, et al., 2012) suggests that the much talked-about generational differences tend not to exist, or are minimal at best, so my money is on individual differences mediating rate of passion-loss.
On the other side, we have the degree of frustration experienced within any job. Much like Lazarus & Folkman’s hassles & uplifts scale (as a measure of daily stress), if the enchantments outnumber or otherwise outweigh the frustrations and doldrums, then it becomes easier to maintain interest in the work and what some call “engagement”. If the enchantments are few, far between, and have little sticking power (or long comet tails, if you want to use that metaphor), then motivation and interest will be difficult to maintain.
My wife regularly advises me to “Let go of the caring” (accompanied by a big yoga-like exhale). It’s a cynical comment, but there is a certain degree of wisdom in it, if one reframes work motivation in terms of the frustration-to-enchantment ratio. That is, if one minimizes the frustrations, by caring less, then maybe you can get more mileage out of the enchantments that do exist.
Finally, from another perspective, how much do people work to find what is fascinating or enchanting about what they do, and their organization? How much of the history of the file do they know? To what extent do they take steps to connect to new knowledge that is just outside the perimeter of their file, but connectable to it? We often talk a good game here about “innovation”. What can a person do within the context of their job to make it new and fresh and enchanting – to make it a “different hen”, in the language of the Grace Coolidge.
September 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm #182914
In order to keep my ‘passion’ (or as I like to call it, ‘purpose’) up in my office and my work, I’ve found like-minded people in the office and started to create a NextGen Employee Resource Group. Check out if your office has a Diversity and Inclusion’ish office, and see if creating something similiar would work for you. What are your passions or purpose at your office? What motivates you to work for your agency/office? Find that out for yourself, then seek out others that might share that same purpose. Our NextGen ERG will be a problem-solving and leadership-development group for individuals not only at HQ’s but also in the field. We intend to hack the beaurocracy that is inherent in any office, and seek out like-minded individuals that just want to get things done and make impactful change. Contact me directly if you want more info and best of luck – we’re all doing the same service at the end of the day and it does mean something.
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