Sometimes an impostor

You probably know by now that I’ve been agitating for a pay rise and a promotion at work for a while. I was pretty well promised this until the pandemic hit, when all such plans went out the window. Typical. I haven’t forgotten though, and I tend to be persistent even when I don’t plan to be. It’s in the genes to take another step, and another, and so on, and it boils down generally to an unwillingness to accept defeat.

There have been conversations throughout and vague promises of things that might happen one day, and I’ve eased off a bit because it’s hard to make commitments when we’re all sitting at home in lockdown.

Then, on Thursday night, I got a message from my manager pitching an idea to me. Basically, he was saying that he was proposing that he take over a larger segment of the business and that I should step up and move into his current job. I didn’t respond at the time as I got the message late, but I was theoretically interested.

The following morning I caught up with more detail, then had a meeting with him in the afternoon. Apparently, the department was doing some forward planning and focussing on roles and individuals. As part of that, every person had to be rated on their importance to the business. Previously I’d been rated as important, but that was upgraded to essential, or vital, or whatever the terminology is – anyway, the top level. That was nice.

By the time I caught up with him, he’d been in a meeting with the powers to be and had mapped all this out. During the discussion, he’d told them – the department manager and the divisional head – that I was doing work far in advance of my job title and was entitled to a pay rise. That was very good of him, but not a great surprise – he’s a very supportive manager. What surprised me is that the departmental manager agreed with that, the result is that they’re now, supposedly, reviewing my remuneration. That’s very welcome.

The other part of their conversation was what role was best for me going forward. There was either a product owner/manager role, but working in another team, or the role identified within my existing team but heading it up. Which did I prefer? In the end, I plumped for the second option. It’s not the perfect job, but I’ve yet to come across that beast. The bonus for me is that I’d continue to work with my current manager, who I think is excellent. We have a good relationship and have implicit trust in each other. Our working styles mesh well, and I love how he gives me so much freedom. And he’s a top-notch performer.

Supposedly, the outcomes of this should be realised sometime between two weeks and two months. I’m a sceptic, but we’ll see.

This would address a lot of my concerns. Even if I only get a pay rise out of it, then I’d be happy, and that seems more likely than not. And if I were to be promoted to the new role, I’d expect a pay rise in the order of $30K – $40K. That would alleviate a lot of my financial considerations with retirement looming in the next 10-15 years.

There’s an undercurrent to all this which I felt as we were discussing it. I’ve been pushing hard for something, much from financial necessity, some from a sense of a fair go – I deserved more, and my ego had a big say in it also, as always it does. But, as I’ve articulated here before, I’m not sure if my heart is in it anymore.

I remember many years ago, my best mate at the time telling me that he wasn’t interested in taking on more responsibility. He was smart enough, but he was happy to mooch along. I couldn’t come at that. It seemed weird to me. Why wouldn’t you? It seemed me that all the interesting stuff happened when you took on more. I didn’t fear responsibility, I craved it. I was always on the march, inquisitive and creative and hungry. The bonus was that it led to better jobs and more money.

I’ve still got that hard-coded in me as a kind of universal aspiration: this is how you should be. And so, often, I still think that’s what I want – which goes against the evidence of what I actually feel, which I’m not about to repeat again now.

I discussed this with a mate the other day, and we both agreed that I had to push forward. As I said to him, the evidence is that despite what I actually feel and the occasional doubts I have that I always manage to get it done. And the proof is easy to see – my performance review was five stars across the board, and now I’m rated as essential. Plus what I do works.

There’s a disconnect, nonetheless. There’s like two of me, the one that does things and the other who watches and comments on it. The one who does things is clever and effective, though even his motivation wanes occasionally. When that happens, he reverts back to habit and experience and sheer smarts. It takes a bit more elbow grease than it used to, but it works.

Then there’s the me that looks on and wonders if this is really what I want to do. He recognises how effective his other self is. When the plaudits come in, he understands the reason and logic of it even if he doesn’t feel the glow of it. He has less confidence than he should because it feels almost fraudulent to take credit for something his other self achieved. And that’s a frequent sense. It’s probably a variation on the impostor syndrome, which is not something I’ve ever experienced before. And, even so, I only feel an ‘impostor’ because I don’t own, or feel in myself, the things I’ve done. In fact, I know I’m in the top percentile when it comes to actual capability, and I believe in that, but I don’t feel it. It doesn’t live in me.

I think part of that is that I’m just not as interested in that as I used to be. I’ve become divorced from that aspect and because of that it feels both more tenuous and phony. As if, almost, for all I’ve done before, I’m not sure I can keep doing it – even though I do. The outcome of all that is deep inside I don’t want the responsibility. The irony now is that I look like having it thrust upon me.

I’ll deal with it. I don’t think I’ll ever be as interested as I was before, or engaged, which is a more apt term, but I don’t know that I want that. I hope I can reintegrate those two selves though because it’ll make life easier, and because the hard reality of it is that I have to. I’ve still got years ahead of me working for the man. Have to make it pay.

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