Coronavirus has changed the way many are working around the globe. Businesses are using a variety of tactics to adjust to the remote work life, and the work day for many has turned on its head. We can sulk and see this only as a negative, an annoyance, and a major disruption-or we can take the opportunity to learn, reflect, and innovate. The saying ‘if it ain't broke, don’t fix it’ no longer applies here (and honestly should never apply-always improve!), and we should be proactive in answering the hard questions. How can we fix it? How can we turn this bad luck into something productive? Now is the time for outside the box thinkers-which leads me into the topic of this blog... the phrase, "overthinking".
I have held a variety of jobs in both industry, and seniority. These jobs did not follow the typical sequence like our parents and grandparents (who stayed with the same company for 100 years, walked to and from blocks and blocks in the snow, etc.) because the current job market is simply different. Students and recent graduates often ‘start over’ in companies numerous times whether through internships, industry changes, or the need to pick up an additional side gig in order to pay for their amazon prime membership. This new delineation in career succession occurred to me and brought up a concern that I believe needs to be addressed. Rant mode: ON.
Typically, the desire to do a job efficiently, purposefully, and with regard to company policy is viewed as admirable-and in past decades I believe this was the case. However, now those seeking to do just that, are often hit with the daggering statement of, “you’re overthinking it”. Lately it seems the act of wanting to learn, improve, and better your skills by consulting with your other employees has been deemed a flaw. When I have heard this phrase in the workplace my initial feeling is that of embarrassment, and worst of all- isolation.
Story time-school always came easy to me. I did well on tests and kept mostly under the radar. I was never the one to want to raise my hand to read out loud or give my answer to a math problem, and this was not only because I was shy, mostly it was the fear of being wrong and the shame, the laughing, the inevitability of all eyes being on me. The thought in what I’m sure would result in judgement from the class (flashback to college when I answered a question in my public economics course and the professor's response was a stern and simple, “wrong”).
When we become adults I feel some of this fear mentality still exists. We don’t want to raise our hand in a staff meeting to ask for clarification because this may make us look like we didn’t listen carefully enough the first time we were told. We are slow to speak up on our opinions of bettering internal processes because we don’t want to anger the ones who initially put them in place. Maybe it is my past love for assignments where following instructions led to a positive response that makes the workforce feel so scary sometimes
Going back to the times I have been told, “you’re overthinking it”. After awhile, I decided I no longer view this as something shameful. I will not apologize for being curious. I will not apologize for the desire to be a good employee. I seek to squash the negative association of this phrase.
We are told to think before we speak. ‘Thinking’ is innately a good action and 'achieving' is also a positive action-so why are the terms 'overachiever’ and ‘overthinking’ seem in a negative light?
I have a background in retail team management, and not once did I believe my team was ‘overthinking’ a task-positively or negatively. I welcomed questions. My employees who asked for guidance tended to do the job right, whereas the ones who claimed they ‘got it’ did not, indeed, ‘got it’! Thinking is a necessary and admirable trait in any human, and especially in an employee where your bottom line is at stake. This concept of overthinking was never a topic for discussion at meetings among fellow managers of the company. If an employee was up for discussion it was usually because they failed to complete a task-they failed to seek clarification-they failed to think.
The key to all of this rambling comes from WHO the individuals were in my sob story that told me I was ‘overthinking’ my job. The answer-my peers. My managers never scolded me for asking questions or coming to them for guidance. It was my trainers or my same level employees who have held the job longer than me that judged my curiosity and became annoyed by my desire to learn. I believe these people we encounter in life who seek to tear down our busy minds are simply envious that we have such ideas.
So, during this time of social unrest, routine changes, and the need to make big decisions whether personal or professional-I urge you to do what the others don’t want to do. Think. Think about ways you can improve your current situation. Think of new ideas for your completing work or budgeting your sector. Invent something. And don’t let the fear of speaking out, or going on a limb drag you down. Now is the time for reflecting, innovating, and thinking-for as long as you need to or want to.
I am an over-thinker and am proud to be one. Who’s with me?