Investment v involvement

July 15, 2008

Two of the people I admire most in the workplace are my two most recent exes, both of whom I worked with before I dated them.

I admire the first because of his professional judgment, which is impeccable. He would come home and say ‘those two teams are going to merge’, or ‘A is going to leave and B will get his job’. No inside knowledge – just instinct. And he was always right, every single time. If I’d opened a book on his words of wisdom, I’d have made a fortune.

This is an amazing gift (and a damn useful one), but all I can do is to admire it from afar. There is no point in trying to develop my ability in this space.

I admire the second for something rather different – his ability to detach. He works hard, but at the end of the day he leaves work in the office where it belongs. And, if things are not going the way he thinks they should go, he does not get wound up. He is mildly frustrated on occasion, but he does not take it personally and he does not obsess about it and he does not think it is his job to make the world the way he wants it to be. He does his bit and that’s it. Done. Move along now, nothing to see.

This is something that I could aim for, and I am doing so. It’s number one on my list of what I want to do differently when I go back into the workplace.

SJ and I had an interesting conversation about control, but I was never convinced that we had nailed the source of our difference – or, indeed, nailed whether we actually disagree. Then, this morning, I got something in my mail box that gave me a different take on it – this newsletter, which draws a distinction between investment and involvement. And I think it highlights what I was trying to say, but does a much better job.

My problem has been that I’ve invested myself in the wrong things. Other people’s approval is a good example. Actually, there’s almost nothing I can do about what others think of me, other than being polite. I can’t control their opinions of me. I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy trying – time and energy I could have spent doing project work, or singing and dancing and swimming.

Another example is trying to make the outcome of a project go my way. I can do my job, but I can’t make others do theirs in the way I would like. When I worked for Megabank Corp, I spent my life trying to get others to do what I wanted. Of course, none of it worked. because we are powerless over others. They kept on doing their thing in their way, and all I ever managed to do was to tire myself out and cause myself and those around me a great deal of angst.

My ex involves himself without investing himself. And I want to learn to do that. It’s why I’m seeking the wisdom to figure out what I can change and what I can’t – so that I don’t invest myself in the things I can’t change. Which is almost everything.

Doesn’t mean that I won’t be involved. But I won’t be invested.

And, as I keep re-learning and re-learning, the one thing I can change is me. And that, I’m both involved and invested in. Very much so.

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7 Responses to “Investment v involvement”

  1. Sarah Jane Says:

    That’s an interesting read – thank you for the link. It chimes in with a lot of what I’ve been thinking about my work situation recently. It’s fairly obvious even to me that I have far too much invested in my career, but I don’t seem to be able to reduce that investment; when I try I only end up reducing my involvement, and feeling miserable and guilty that I’m not putting enough effort in. Hence the rollercoaster ride of the last year or so.

    (OTOH, I think that when I talk about “control” I mean involvement more than investment; it’s about having a (flexible) plan, rather than needing to achieve a definite outcome.)

  2. Francesca Says:

    Yes, I think so. And that’s where we were missing each other last time.

  3. Sarah Jane Says:

    *Sigh* I really do seem to be struggling to communicate effectively in writing at the moment. This is why I’m reading more instead.

  4. Francesca Says:

    I think it’s a function of communicating in writing, rather than a dysfunction on your (or indeed my) part.

  5. Alithea Says:

    That’s a really interesting read and helps me clarify my thoughts about work – I see academia as a career that really requires a high investment & high involvement but it didn’t suit me because the goal I was invested in was making a difference *not* achieving the work to a high standard, and I had very little control over whether my work really had a impact on the policy makers. Reducing my investment however, reduced my desire for involvement, thus the motivation problems. The new direction I’m hoping for will *fingers crossed* be a better fit because I will have more control over whether I’m making a difference, and also because it should leave me more able to be invested and involved in the things outside work which I care about.

  6. Francesca Says:

    Yes, I find it helpful too. I don’t necessarily think that (one? I?) shouldn’t be invested in work, but I like the idea of being able to make the distinction and decide to be involved without being invested.

    And I certainly think that if I’m going to be invested in work, it should be intentional rather than automatic.

  7. Alithea Says:

    Yes, I think making a conscious decision and having the knowledge to make that decision is definately the key factor. Having recognised the goals I am invested in, I can choose to persue a career where that investment is healthier because I know the goals are achievable. And if it doesn’t work out, I can invest myself in something outside of work and choose to be only involved in the work place.
    I think most people need to be invested in something to get satisfaction from their lives, but I can see that for a lot of people/jobs it is much healthier to be invested outside of work.


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