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My Martyr Complex (And Why It Really Is My Fault)

June 24, 2016

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a control freak, or a perfectionist. Maybe I have trust issues. 

I have a family reunion this week. Most of my family lives in Washington and California. They decided to come to Utah for the reunion. It started yesterday. So, as any sane person would do, I took the day off. And today too. 

But, that’s where my sanity seemed to end. I ended up putting out several work “fires” and answering tons of email yesterday. I was even in two different online meetings. 

Even I ask myself, why? It’s a complex question and it’s a simple question. The simple part is because I’m not willing to hand off control of my account to someone else. I’m the sole technical point of contact for my client. If there’s a problem, they call me. 

Everyone has times they are not available, including me. During those times, someone else has to cover for me. It often doesn’t go well. Or actually, it doesn’t go as well as it would if I did it myself. It’s why I’ve taken support calls 8000 feet up the side of a mountain. It’s why I have extra battery packs for my cell phone and leave it turned on when I’m camping overnight. It’s why I can tell you where the dead spots are between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas and whyYouShouldTalkReallyFastBeforeYouHitADeadSpo. . .  .

I often live my life with a “What’s the worst that can happen” attitude. It’s not quite a “YOLO: You Only Live Once” approach. It’s more looking at a situation and deciding how much to care. If I want to paint the bathroom blue and my wife wants it pink, what’s the worst that can happen if we do it her way? 

The problem is that when I apply that attitude to my job, I come up with some kind of scary scenarios. If I hand off control of my account for a couple of days, what’s the worst that can happen? Well, the system could break and my agents can no longer take calls and it costs us thousands of dollars. . .But probably not. Or, the minor crisis on Thursday will fester for four days and be a full blown crisis on Monday. 

I’d rather take an hour and solve it on Thursday than take my entire day Monday to clean up the mess. 

I got a call yesterday from my contact at our client. He was asking for perfectly reasonable things, but I was thinking about my time off. I was thinking about how my job is designed in such a way that I am on call 24×7. I was thinking about how we’ve talked for two years about hiring a backup for me, and it hasn’t happened. That was a lot to pile on Mark, for calling me to ask about the status of the new accounts we are setting up. 

I snapped at him some retort that while civil, expressed my displeasure. Mark’s a smart guy. He picked up on the fact that I was annoyed. 

Is something wrong, Rodney?

And I realized what I had done. I apologized to Mark. (Badly, I think, so I sent a follow up email) and considered my response. It wasn’t the fault of my company that I was working on my day off. It wasn’t the fault of my manager, or the client or really anyone else. It was my fault. It was a choice that I made. And since it was my own choice, I should stop blaming other people for bothering me on my personal time. 

I had decided I didn’t want to pay the price for letting others manage my account for a couple of days. That’s a perfectly rational choice. I’m a project manager. I did the risk/reward analysis and decided that I would rather take the risk of getting a call than the greater risk of having to deal with issues on Monday. 

So, rather than feel like a martyr, I needed to straighten up and do my job in a professional manner. If I sign up to run a marathon, no one wants to hear me complain about how much my feet hurt. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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