Tuesday, April 8, 2014

To Be or Not To Be: How to Emulate Famous Literary Characters to Succeed


Many of us were forced to read classic literature while in high school, and even I can admit that it was rather slow and boring at times. However, now as I think back to those books, I realize that there are many tips that we can learn from our notorious literary friends, mainly through emulating (or not emulating) their main traits. So stay tuned for a travel through literary fiction to our modern day work place:
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett - Pride and Prejudice 
Oh, Jane Austin, you clever girl. Most people find P&P to be too romantic, but Miss Austin was able to write a story that would enchant her audience, while also including important social commentary. THIS is what makes her characters so unique: they have flaws that translate across social strata and time periods, making her story applicable to everyone and timeless. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett represent two people that develop opinions of one another that cause them to make poor choices. This is a frequent occurrence in the workplace, unfortunately: you hear that Tim in Marketing is a difficult person, and suddenly when you meet him, you feel on edge and do not speak your mind. Or worse, like Elizabeth, you accuse him of things that may or may not be factual in an effort to preempt his actions. You are now in conflict, and poor Tim may be left in the dark as to your feelings. Or worse, he feels defensive and attacked. Much like our Mr. Darcy, you are now left to prove yourself to Tim and make amends. By doing this, Mr. Darcy is able to show Elizabeth that he is better than she thinks.

Lessons Learned: First impressions or opinions from others can sometimes lead you astray. If this happens to you, work to make amends with your team mates. 

Jane Eyre - Jane Eyre
Another one of my favorites, this time from Charlotte Bronte. The character of Jane is sent to an orphanage and treated poorly, which causes her to question her lot in life. She is able to gain a governess position, but she still yearns for something more. Many of us can relate to this. We go to school, we find a job, and suddenly we begin to want more. This could be more money, more free time, more of a work-life balance. Jane was able to focus this feeling and create a tight relationship with Mr. Rochester. I'm not advocating that everyone form an intimate relationship with their employer. Not a good idea. Never a good idea. But instead, focus on gaining a mentor and working with them to advance your career or life goals. Doing so will give you the tools you need to succeed.

Lessons Learned: Decide what you want from life and go get it. Find a friend to help guide you, and you will be able to achieve your goals. 

Sydney Carton - A Tale of Two Cities
In this story by Charles Dickens, Sydney represents a very lecherous lifestyle: he drinks, he is generally out for his own good, and he is viewed as someone to look down upon. However, despite this, he too yearns for something more like our friend Jane. He helps his friend Darnay escape possible execution by tricking him, and Sydney is in turn executed. It's a beautiful redemption story, showing the arc that a character can take over time. And all of us have the opportunity to do this everyday. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that you die for someone else; however, sometimes it is best to make sacrifices for another person's benefit. As a manager, you will have an associate who will make a big mistake--this will happen to everyone--and when it does, you have a decision to make: do you allow the associate to come forward and receive full responsibility, or do you take the blow for them? If the associate does not often make mistakes and had good intentions, I will often take the blow for them. This allows me to protect the associate, while also giving them an important life lesson about how to deal with mistakes. Trust me: I allow them to feel the weight of their mistake (if a large one), but I do it between the associate and I privately, where they can learn their lesson in a safe environment.

Lessons Learned: Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the betterment of your team. Do so professionally, but provide open and honest feedback. 

There are many more characters that could be referenced, so if I receive positive feedback, I will definitely make another post. Or maybe a post about how to handle tough co-workers, while using literary/movie characters as examples. That sounds like fun!

As always, constructive criticism is welcome!

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1 comment:

  1. This is so clever!! "I'm not advocating that everyone form an intimate relationship with their employer. Not a good idea. Never a good idea." LOL! I would have never thought to take lessons from these women in succeeding in the workplace, especially given the time in which these stories were written. Very nicely done :)