Responsibility and Authority Belong Together

My son turned 16 years old a few months ago and has been asking about possible jobs he could pursue. His buddies have jobs and now also have money. I think he likes the idea of having cash flow in his life. My husband and I have been discussing with him all the possibilities, and the pros and cons of each.

We have explained that his current vocation is “Student.” And this means that his top priority is learning how to think and growing in wisdom. If he fails at this, it will be a big problem in his life. It would be very easy to let jobs and activities crowd out study time and thought time. He’s a pretty thoughtful teenager already and he recognizes this could be true, but he still wants a job.

Having been in the workplace since I was 16 years old, I have experienced all kinds of jobs under all types of management. I have worked in corporations, not-for-profits, health care, small business and consulting. Mostly, I have worked for Baby Boomers. I have listened and learned from some of them, but I also have been surprised by some of their “blindness.” As an example, many of them would share how they were hired for their “potential” and given tremendous amounts of training paid for by the company. How they were mentored by so-and-so and taught the ropes with a lot of hand-holding along the way. Yet, they saw their trajectory “up the ladder” as a result of their own hard work and talent.

When these same folks interviewed me, it was all about “What can you bring to the table? What skills do you already have that we can use?” And when I showed them I was willing to work hard, many of them dumped a lot of responsibility right onto my plate while giving me no additional authority or wage increase or promotion. Responsiblity without authority simply does not work. It is a nightmare to be in this type of disordered situation.  However, it was a beautiful thing for my supervisors. It freed them up to spend lots of face time with the important people, offering to work on special projects that helped their own supervisors look good. I never understood why those people at the top didn’t stop and consider that this person sure has a lot of spare time on their hands and wonder who was doing all of their work? It was this responsibility without authority that pushed me out of the employee mindset and into business for myself. I figured if I was going to carry that heavy of a load, I might as well be on my own. That way, if something went wrong, I only had myself to blame. I am okay with accountability.

The thought of my son working for people without integrity who use those around them for their own personal gain is a bit gut-wrenching. I would like to interview his future boss and see just what kind of person he is. Actually, I have been doing that without them knowing it. So far, I am liking what I see. Now, if only he will offer my son his first job!

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