That Chip On Your Shoulder...


Like many people in the service industry, I grew up with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I wasn't all that great of a student growing up, nor did I particularly care to be. Nothing in school besides gym class really kept my interest for more than a couple of minutes. Instead, I was dreaming about what I was missing at "the shop" or something else that had nothing to do with what the Teacher was trying to teach me.

You see, I don't think that I'm all that different than many of the people that follow the articles that I write. And in many cases, that's what makes me so comfortable dealing with Techs on a daily basis… because I've been there. I've been disrespected and made aware that my opinion didn't matter. I've been looked down on because of my education (or lack thereof). It can be very frustrating when you don't feel like you've got the respect of your peers. I think this has happened to most people in a shop at some point and it can be terribly frustrating. But does it have to be? Are we truly being disrespected or are we bringing some of it on to ourselves?

Reflecting on a few of the personal encounters that I can recall, they either don't seem as bad in hindsight or I feel like I could have possibly overreacted at the time. It's easy to look back and say this now but getting a perspective from the Management side has helped me understand this a bit more. It's funny because I was pushed into more sales and management roles because I was such a bad Tech. Unlike most Techs, I wasn't good at fixing anything! So, on top of having the things that most Techs have working against them, I had one more…I sucked at it! Even worse, it took me a while to realize it. Luckily, I did finally come to terms with it and adjusted accordingly.

I did, however, keep a lot of things that I got while pretending to be a Tech. I've got a great tool set full of air tools that haven't been used in years to prove it! More importantly, I've still got the chip on my shoulder from my days spent in shops. I don't know that this is something that you can get rid of.

Even though a lot has changed with my roles over the years and I've now spent more time in an office than in a shop, that chip never seemed to leave my shoulder. It's been a driver for me to keep pushing forward through tough times and has kept me motivated when the wind has been at my back. While I wouldn't change anything about how I acquired that chip on my shoulder through years of experience, I would adjust the way that I use it.

Once I got to positions that had me overseeing people, it occurred to me that a lot of people are in the same spot that I was. It's kind of a lonely feeling in a shop because a shop setting isn't the greatest spot to share your feelings. If you're looking for sympathy, a shop is likely the last spot you would want to search! It does make you tougher but can also leave you feeling like there's no one to discuss your issues with. When that happens, you get the feeling that nobody will listen to you and that chip seems to grow.

I believe this is the point to where people can get themselves into a bit of trouble. This is where you feel misunderstood and fight back against "the man". Instead of having a constructive discussion, your sharing of issues gets to feel more like general gossip with co-workers. Once you turn that direction, it's a matter of time until you talk yourself into why you've got it so bad and talk yourself out of a job.

This is where I feel like a slight adjustment in the use of that chip on your shoulder can be powerful. Rather than rebel against Management, work with them to understand what it is that they are thinking. I know that once I started to manage people, I'd occasionally have people think that I was disrespecting them. I used to think, "if only they knew my past!". In some cases, I think this probably made me overcompensate to show the employee that I understood but it has always been important for me to ensure I don't look down on anybody, for any reason. In my opinion, everybody is fighting their own struggles and we should be empathetic of that.

A chip on your shoulder can be one of the more powerful motivating tools for people, including myself. I think the biggest thing that I've learned is that it can be powerful in a bad way as well. It can be mistaken for a bad attitude and immediately puts you in a negative light. Take some time to think about this. If you combine that chip on your shoulder with a great attitude and a positive outlook, how much could that impact your life? Not only your life at work but your home life (because that chip doesn't magically leave your shoulder when you clock out).

What would happen if you kept the motivation but shifted to a more positive energy? I think if you truly take a step back and evaluate this, you can drastically change your path. Be honest with yourself and talk to others about it. It took me a while to learn this and while I'll never get rid of this chip on my shoulder, I started to understand the need to direct it. That adjustment has had a huge impact on my life and my hope is that my story opens the eyes of others to show how powerful that chip can be when used the right way.

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