Job Performance: A Lost Lesson

Bonnie Lowe

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I’m a fan of the hit TV show “Lost. " In case you’re not familiar with it (can you believe some folks don’t watch TV?), it’s about a bunch of plane crash survivors living on an island full of mysteries. I always find it to be entertaining. But a recent episode was also (probably unintentionally) educational.

In that episode, a character named Hurley was assigned the task of controlling a newly found stash of food. Although it’s obvious from his size that Hurley loves to eat, he wasn’t thrilled about being in charge of the food. Why? Because everyone liked Hurley, and that was very important to him.

"Everything’s going to change, " he lamented. He knew his fellow survivors would want the food, and they’d be mad at him when he did his “job" and kept it from them. The thought of losing their friendship stressed him out so much that he planned to destroy all the food rather than perform the difficult job he’d been assigned!

Like Hurley, many of us hesitate to tell our boss when we are feeling overwhelmed by a task we’ve been given. Bosses just don't want to hear it, right? Well, it depends.

In many situations, your boss may be so busy that he can’t keep track of the work you're doing or the problems you may be experiencing. Unless you speak up and tell your boss that you’re having difficulty with an assignment, he'll assume everything is fine.

While the boss is unaware of your dilemma, you’ll struggle on your own to find a way to get the job done, becoming more frustrated and stressed about the assignment. It may even affect your mood and judgment so much that you’ll make a big mistake.

If this happens, your boss will not appreciate hearing, “But I couldn’t handle it; I was overwhelmed!" Saying that after the fact will be much worse than telling your boss up front—before mistakes occur—that you're having trouble with your assignment.

If you’re tasked to do something a certain way, and you feel there’s a better alternative, speak up!

Hurley eventually came to his senses and did this. He went to his “boss" and suggested doing something completely different from the task he’d been assigned. To his amazement, the response was “Sure, go ahead. " Rather than controlling access, Hurley gave everyone food, they all remained friends, and the episode had a relatively happy ending.

Of course, real life doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes you’ll just have to deal with a difficult job (or difficult boss) the best you can, with no way around it. But instead of assuming that’s the case, find out. Do what Hurley did. Talk to your boss about it. Explain potential problems, and propose alternative courses of action.

Who knows? Maybe all is not “Lost!"

Bonnie Lowe is author of the popular Job Interview Success System and free information-packed ezine, “Career-Life Times. " Find those and other powerful career-building resources and tips at her website:


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