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When Your Job Is Your Identity, Professional Failure Hurts More – Harvard Business Review

Read more at When Your Job Is Your Identity, Professional Failure Hurts More by Timothy O’Brien, Harvard Business Review, June 18, 2019. Part of WiFi (What I Find Interesting) Wednesday.

Last summer, I found this article and it resonated with me again. With the sudden and largely unplanned shift in organizational roles, and from the posts I see online in my circle of friends and colleagues, I can imagine that the unending trouble-shooting can raise doubts in how we deal with change. Especially for people of color and other marginalized communities, who have to think globally of people like them when others may not.

“The role you fill belongs to your organization, institution, group, or family. Other role-holders have expectations of you in your role, and those expectations may be reasonable (that you perform your tasks well) or unreasonable (that you speak on behalf of all women, represent your minority group, or always be the person who takes meeting minutes).”

By Timothy O’Brien, Harvard Business Review, June 18, 2019

People of color working in student affairs report burnout within their roles, taking on these unreasonable expectations. What can we do to help refocus energy to meet the reasonable work and challenge the unreasonable? What have you done to change this in your own organizations?

“It is critical that we learn to distinguish and differentiate our roles from our self. We get into trouble when we lose ourselves in our role instead of thinking in a detached way about how the role is viewed by others. It can be very rewarding to throw all our education, training, talent, and passion into our work roles, but we forget that others in our organizations are reacting to the role we represent in their work lives, not necessarily the interesting and thoughtful people we think we are.” 

By Timothy O’Brien, Harvard Business Review, June 18, 2019

I wrote about how I got caught up in someone else’s expectations of my role and work in a student affairs organization. It can feel damaging when you do work that you believe will advance your professional goals but ultimately you learn that you’re expendable when you challenge the status quo. This isn’t the case for everyone but I think it’s a reality that people from marginalized communities face on a daily basis. Self-care is important to rejuvenate our spirit and energy when other jobs are not on the horizon.

Read more at When Your Job Is Your Identity, Professional Failure Hurts More by Timothy O’Brien, Harvard Business Review, June 18, 2019. Part of WiFi (What I Find Interesting) Wednesday.


Check out the following books to learn more about how to get out of your head, end your self-sabotage and move forward with your life!

Stop Doing That Sh*t and Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop. It’s about the most real, no-nonsense advice you can hear. Check them out!


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