That’s just how we do it here

11May10

How many times have you found yourself in training for a new job when your trainer tells you that the job must be done in a certain way? On querying the premise of this ‘certain way’, you’re met with, “that’s just how we do it here”.

Well, I have met with this response on numerous occasions. I heard it often when I worked in pensions administration. I learned processes that were entirely non-nonsensical and yet was told that it was imperative I carried out the task this way. When I asked why, “that’s just how we have to do it”. FSA rules, preparedness for audits; I heard a range of speculative guesses, but no-one at any level of management actually knew the reason. So, the legacy was passed on.

As a regular trainer at the bank, I felt utterly humiliated when having to train new starters. Bright eyed and eager, they turned to me and said, “Jen, why do I have to add this [utterly pointless and time-consuming] comment to the customer’s account?” and I’d say, weary-eyed and sapped of hope, “I don’t know [insert name here]. That’s just how we do it here.”

Banks are renowned  for this sort of thing, but I have to admit I was surprised to run into a similar problem when entering the world of digital marketing.

My first job as a content writer began with months of dreadful uncertainty. In a role where the end results can be so subjective in terms of quality, I remember my then manager feeding back on a piece of my writing by saying he didn’t like it. It wasn’t right. When I asked what he didn’t like, he couldn’t give me a single, constructive answer. Those first months were some of the most difficult of my career to date.

But being largely self-taught was an advantage, as I had the whole of the world wide web at my fingertips. As a fledgling copywriter I found infinite resources to refer to and learn from, a huge number of experts who were happy to share their knowledge and eventually, I found confidence in my writing and felt more secure in what I actually knew.

So, as you can imagine, starting a brand new job ushered in a new age of insecurity for me. I was starting a job where I wasn’t ‘established’ in the office yet, but I was expected to take a position of knowledge, having already had 2 years of experience. I felt pretty comfortable with that – until I started having my work checked over by other members of staff. There were differences found in the way ‘it’s done here’ and the work I had produced. I have to admit, I didn’t always agree that ‘the done thing’ best served our audience.

At what point do you become established enough not just to ask these questions, but to challenge the rules and assumptions your company is working on? If I have to train a new starter, I never again want to say the words, “that’s just how we do it here”.

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