Ever get the feeling that you don’t belong?
You come to work and do your job, but you can’t escape the suspicion that everyone else is different from you.
In a word, you’re a misfit.
Now, it could be that everyone else in your office is a misfit, and you’re the only normal person. Or it could be that everyone else is normal, and the misfit really is you.
(It could also be possible that Venusians have invaded the bodies of your co-workers, and you are the only one whose superior lack of intelligence lets you resist Venusian mind control. Don’t you hate it when this happens?)
Being a misfit does have its advantages. If you want to stand out from the madding crowd, being the unmatched argyle in the sock drawer will do the trick. But if you’d like to blend into the bland background of business, sticking out like a sore — and weird — thumb could be a problem.
Which brings us to Jennifer Romolini.
An “editor, writer, speaker and … author,” Romolini recently published “A Misfit’s Guide to Navigating the Office” in The New York Times. It’s a step-by-step and stumble-by-stumble tutorial well worth our attention.
Your first step? “Embrace Your Weird.”
“If you’re offbeat,” Romolini writes, “you’ve probably felt that the parts of your personality that seem out of sync are weaknesses you need to overcome.”
Ain’t necessarily so.
Companies don’t want cookie-cutter thinkers, she asserts. They want disruptors, “employees who are too odd to understand the ways things are ‘supposed to work.'”
If you’ve been waiting for an invitation to let your freak flag fly, this is it.
Of course, being odd does have its limitations. The way I see it, bringing your pet rabbit to work is good. Coming to work in a rabbit suit is better. Sending your rabbit into the office to sit at your desk is bad. This is especially true if Mr. Floppy Ears does your job better than you do.
“Don’t Fake It” is another step to leveraging your weird.
Romolini believes that “pretending to be something you’re not in a new job, faking skills or contorting yourself to gain recognition, is a short-sighted strategy with little return.”
In order to be a more genuine you, you should “identify what it is about work that makes you feel anxious,” and find ways to cope, either through “journaling, therapy, (or) confiding in friends.”
Unfortunately, no one wants to read your journal. No one wants to hear your problems, even at $200 an hour. Besides, the thing that makes you anxious about work is working, and you’ve already found the perfect way to cope with that. In the medical community, it’s called goofing-off.
Romolini’s insight that “Confidence Is Overrated” is also a non-starter for you.
“Confidence is actually fleeting,” she explains. This is true. You may feel supremely confident when making an important decision, like recommending the best doughnut shop in town, but when it comes to trivial matters — like presenting your plan to reorganize the marketing department and move production to Kiribati — you are faltering and full of self-doubt.
The author’s advice is to stop focusing on confidence and “set your mind to developing your competence.” It’s a lovely thought but clearly impossible. You have already maximized your competence by being able to find your way to work most mornings. To attempt to be competent once you’ve arrived is impossible.
(Your managers know this, of course. The only reason they keep you around is because you’re so good-looking. This will keep you employed until the bosses have improved their competence, which is going to happen — never.)
“Stop Overthinking” is another way a misfit can succeed. This will be easy. You can’t overthink if you never think in the first place.
The final piece of advice is the battle cry: “Misfits, Unite!”
“Finding a few smart, supportive people who understand you” is a good idea, though even the optimistic Romolini admits, it “won’t happen overnight.”
Find the workers who “don’t fit the mold,” and see if they’ll hang with someone who is covered in mold.
If nothing works and you still remain a misfit, there’s only answer: listen to Oprah.
“Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction,” she says, and, as always, Oprah is right. Your failure to fit in at work is indeed life trying to move you in another direction.
It’s a direction called unemployment.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California.