Case Study: Why She is Unproductive

We unpeeled the onion. Lessons were unearthed.

Posted Aug 30, 2015

Mr Sparkleson, DeviantArt CC 3.0
Source: Mr Sparkleson, DeviantArt CC 3.0

Dina has a 130 IQ, a degree from Tufts, and has been fired or "laid off" within a year from all three corporate fashion and cosmetic sales rep jobs she's had since graduating.1

She came in asserting that she was let go because her employers didn't provide enough structure or mentoring. But given her intelligence and ability to think strategically, that didn't smell right. It smelled of externalizing responsibility.

We explored whether the issue was that she didn't care sufficiently about the products she was selling. Yes, she doesn't care much about them but felt that wasn't the whole problem.

I asked if the problem is that she's just isn't a sales type. She agreed that she'd do better in a more strategic and/or an account-management, customer support role, as long as it wasn't too much about upselling. Alas, that is usually key in such jobs. So we agreed that part of the problem was that she needed to change to a less sales-centric position.

We explored whether her reluctance to look for another job stemmed from her fearing another failure. She agreed that was part of the problem and so we identified a few things she'd do differently next time so she'd have legitimate hope of being more successful.

  • She'd vet potential employers more carefully: read between the lines in the job description and ask probing questions during the interview and after being offered the job.
  • She'd try to get the job molded to her strengths and preferences, especially when she's offered but not yet accepted the job.
  • Especially on beginning an important task, she'd think strategically, like a CEO, and develop a thoughtful plan of attack. If she can't generate a good-enough one, she'd ask a respected colleague for help.
  • She'd create a checklist for difficult common tasks on the job.

But Dina felt that all of the above would be insufficient to ensure her success. It turned out that a missing ingredient is that she unconsciously would rationalize that any single task just wasn't that important and so, because she is not sufficiently motivated by accomplishment itself, she'd procrastinate those tasks or not do them with sufficient care.

That foundationally came from the notion that she's more pleasure-seeking than accomplishment-seeking. She concluded that won't change so she needs to, at least, make herself stay focused on important tasks.

Alas, she says that she's been unable to consistently suss out what is important. To that end, we agreed that she simply needs to periodically check in with her boss: "What would you like me to prioritize now?"

She then said that there is yet another factor that's mitigating against her success. She said that she suffers from depression. While it is largely blunted with medication, she feels it still demotivates her and makes her not resilient after a failure. She said that to keep the depression under control, she needs to keep exercising, stop naval-gazing, and do activities that keep her positive, like singing in the choir.

Dina concluded the session by saying that now, at age 28, she cares enough about success and not getting fired that she will also try to be more vigilant to being focused, to summoning that 130 IQ when doing tasks. She'll remind herself that not only will that be key to her not getting "laid off' again but may be the best anti-depressant.

We'll see if the session helps.

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.

1 Irrelevant details have been changed to protect my client's anonymity.