Why do some people take the initiative to develop their careers, but other folks seem to be unable to move ahead job-wise unless someone else is urging them forward? This article examines three different approaches that people tend to take when it comes to the matter of getting the ball rolling in their work life.
TERMS: (These terms are gradually defined as you proceed through the article. They are listed here as a reference.)
- Self-Starter (SS) – A person who begins work or undertakes a project on his own initiative without needing to be told or encouraged to do so.
- Manager Dependent (MD) – A person who is generally unable or unwilling to work on a project unless someone else is telling him what to do or encouraging him. Being MD is a type of mind-based handicap.
- Symbiotic Manager-Dependent (SMD) – A manager dependent person who realizes and embraces his need for a manager. The SMD person welcomes encouragement and direction from his manager and will perceive the relationship as a win-win.
- Adversarial Manager-Dependent (AMD) – A manager dependent person who is unable or unwilling to fully accept his need for a manager. The AMD person may only begrudgingly accept direction from the manager and may perceive the relationship as a win-lose struggle in which the manager is making unkind or unnecessary intrusions.
- Self-Control-Ability Profile (SCP) – An individual’s self-starter-ness “setting” is usually a mixture between the SS/SMD/AMD extremes for any specific task. And the exact mixture tends to change for each of the different possible tasks that a person can face. So the SCP is a way of looking at a particular individual’s landscape of self-starter-ness settings for each of the tasks across the full spectrum of all possible tasks that he may face in life.
What is a Self-Starter?
I remember my first few experiences, many years ago, with looking for a job. I was fresh out of high school. I got a local newspaper and I turned to the Help-Wanted ads. I remember seeing the phrase “must be a self-starter” in some of the ads. That kind of scared me, because I thought to myself that I was probably not a self-starter. So what is a self-starter?
A Self-Starter (SS) is an informal term for a person who “begins work or undertakes a project on his own initiative without needing to be told or encouraged to do so.” People with this trait are generally successful when it comes to becoming self-supporting because they keep on looking for work and they keep on studying to improve their job skills.
So, is everyone a self-starter? Or just some people?
Not everyone is a self-starter. This is easy to demonstrate. The newspaper ads asked, specifically, for self-starters. Now, lets suppose for a minute that everybody was already equal in terms of their “self-starter-ness”. If that were the case, then why would the ads ask for that kind of a quality? Not everyone is a self-starter.
What is the opposite of being a Self-Starter?
A Manager Dependent (MD) person is someone who is not a Self-Starter. Being MD is a type of handicap. It is as if the self-direction instinct in the MD person’s mind is faulty. Ironically, a MD person might be successful at completing a certain project when his manager is telling him to do it – but un-successful at getting himself to do the same task when it is he, himself who is initiating the project.
In real life, an individual will never completely fit into one extreme or the other (i.e., being a SS or MD). Also, the answer will, most likely, change depending upon the specific task that is being considered. Since someone could be a SS in a task that they enjoy (like going to the ball game), but MD in a task that they don’t care for (like looking for a job).
Another way to look at this is to think of leaders and followers. The leader is closer to being a SS, while a follower is closer to being MD. These are well-known personality types.
Symbiotic or Adversarial?
There are two kinds of Manager Dependent people. The difference has to do with the degree to which the individual embraces or rejects their relationship with the manager.
A Symbiotic Manager Dependent (SMD) person is someone who recognizes and accepts the extent of their MD handicap, and looks for ways to constructively deal with it. Using the “constructive” approach means that the SMD person seeks out and welcomes (that is key) a manager. Of course this can be very difficult to do – partly because it requires on-going humility.
An Adversarial Manager Dependent (AMD) person is someone who is MD but who, for one reason or another, cannot constructively work together with a manager. The AMD may perceive the relationship with his manager as a boundary struggle in which the manager is unfairly encroaching on the AMD’s own decision making process and time-table.
There could be many different reasons that explain why a person’s Manager Dependence becomes Adversarial. We will take a look at two cases.
I don’t really need a manager
When someone suffers from dementia, part of the patient’s “disability landscape” is that they also intermittently forget that they have dementia. Therefore, when the patient’s caregiver performs a legitimate act of care, the dementia patient may perceive the needed service as an aggressive and unnecessary intrusion.
Although dementia normally only strikes a person in old age, there are several early age illnesses (for example, alcoholism) which have a similar feature – in that the sufferer tends to forget that he has the condition in question. And this stage of “forgetting” can work out to be an important link in driving the downward spiral of the disease process.
Similarly, the handicap of Manager Dependence is sometimes aggravated by the sufferer’s inability to remember that he himself is someone who often fails to achieve satisfactory career results (satisfactory to himself) unless he is being served by a manager. Just as in the case of the elderly dementia patient, the result is going to be that the MD person may perceive the manager’s legitimate act of care (which is the management function) as an aggressive and unnecessary intrusion.
I need a manager – but this one is a jerk
In fairness to AMD people, managers do tend to make mistakes in the frequency and intensity of their feedback, encouragement and discipline. Part of these mistakes could be chalked up to human error. But part of these “mistakes” are also sometimes due to willful self-indulgence on the part of managers – just because they like to be bossy.
In any case, whether the origin of the AMD’s friction with his manager is accidental or willful (on the part of the manager) or willful (on the part of the AMD) the relationship is going to be strained. But since the AMD needs the relationship to work for him (in order to deal with his self-control handicap), that strain means that there will be a weaker than needed handicap-compensation. In the long-run that will mean that there will be a drop in the AMD’s overall well-being.
The dilemma of the Adversarial Manager Dependent
A person who is a SS will, most likely, be fine in the long run. He will continue to keep looking for ways to become self-supporting. Generally speaking, people who keep on trying will become successful in their endeavors.
And a person who is SMD will also probably be fine. He knows that he has a serious handicap in the area of keeping-himself-on-track with his career efforts, so he will actively look for a boss or a friend or a family member to provide him with the encouragement and direction that he needs. Because he is self-aware of his weakness in the area of self-direction, he will welcome (and that is key) the encouragement and direction when it comes, rather than rejecting it as an unnecessary intrusion.
But what about the AMD fellow? He has a real problem. He will find it very difficult to work under a manager, because he does not recognize and fully embrace the implications of his need for the manager. But he will recognize the unpleasant pushiness of the manager. Because of this dilemma, an AMD person will probably find himself at a significant long-term disadvantage when it comes to his career and finances.
So how can we tell if a person is a Self-Starter or not? And if someone is not a SS, then how can we tell if they are closer to SMD or AMD?
Also, the answer will probably vary depending upon the specific area of life that is being considered. So, for example, someone might be a SS in the area of “going to the gym”, but SMD in the area of “working at a job” (which they already have), and AMD in the area of “studying to improve work skills” (in order to follow their dream to get a better job.)
An individual’s Self-Control-Ability Profile (SCP) is a way of describing the self-perception that there is a variation between the SS and SMD and AMD extremes which also depends on the area of life-task in question. (Exploring the idea of the SCP will be the subject of a future article.)
In any case, as far as Get Help Get Active is concerned, we skip this problem (of trying to decide who is a SS versus who is MD) and just invite each person to decide for themselves where they fit in.
Get Help and Get Active
Are you a Self-Starter? If so, then you will most likely become successful in your education and career. That is because you are able to motivate yourself to keep on keeping on.
But what if you find yourself closer to the Manager Dependent category? Being MD is similar to having a mind-based handicap. When a person has a handicap it makes sense to recognize it for what it is and to look for a constructive work-around.
For a MD person, the “constructive work-around” is to seek out and welcome the services of a manager. That kind of a win-win approach describes the SMD person. Alternatively, the AMD’s approach is to reject the manager’s direction as an unnecessary intrusion.
Are you AMD? Free and confidential help is available. You will never have to pay anything. You can even get some cash just for trying out our service.
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