You Use High School Chemistry At Work Everyday


Think back to those days in high school in your Chemistry class…for some of you that’s a very long time ago, and for others, maybe a year or so ago. Remember that teacher who combined a couple of seemingly harmless ingredients together to see what might happen? Oh for the first couple of beakers, the two solutions separated – big deal. But eventually; and you knew it was coming, the last beaker would erupt just after you were all told to put on your fancy protective eyewear. It was so cool even the bad kids in the back sat up and watched.

Well in your job, I bet you’ve experienced first hand the kind of chemistry experiments only the ingredients being mixed are people themselves. Some people happily co-exist right from day one, they gel and the combination of the two results in more cohesive programs and a better result is forthcoming than would otherwise be possible.

With others however, there’s a problem where the relationship is volatile and fireworks routinely go off. “I’ve never liked working with him! He’s just so…agh! Irritating!” And yet that guy that one person finds impossible to work with seems to work just fine with other people because somehow the chemistry is good between them.

And I bet I don’t even have to tell you about the couple who can’t keep their eyes off each other and who go out of their way to see each other at breaks, lunch, and even volunteer to work on things in the same groups; principles of grade nine chemistry heating up again.

Now a really astute Manager when selecting people from a group of applicants, is not only evaluating the people being interviewed for their skills and their experience, but is also trying to judge which person would be the best fit for the team chemistry equation. Some Manager’s want to shake things up and add a little volatility, while others have a pretty good mix and don’t want to upset the balance by adding a stick of dynamite into a calm but productive team.

And for the applicant, this may be the piece of the puzzle that puts you over the top and gives you the one missing piece of information you need to set yourself apart from the other applicants. So prior to the interview, what can you determine about the existing chemistry of the team you may be considered for, and what direction is the Hiring Manager looking for with the latest addition. If you know this, you’ll know right off the bat if you’ll be a good fit overall, or if you will even be able to make the necessary adjustment if the position were offered to you and required you to behave and think differently than you are accustomed to.

Some folks are adaptable; they can be assertive or aggressive depending on the situation, passive and flat-out disinterested from project to project or assignment to assignment. Others however can’t adapt; they are always working with their ‘A’ personality for example, and it’s one speed only and in one direction until the next assignment comes along and then it’s more of the same.

When being interviewed, if you haven’t been able to ascertain the needs of the employer, this could be the subject of a few probing questions of your own nearing the end of the interview. So you might ask about the chemistry of the team you are being considered for, the present and emerging needs of that Manager in order to best position the group to move collectively to the next desired tier. However, if you are going to ask these kinds of questions, it is imperative that you be prepared then to demonstrate, not just say the words, how you are the desired piece needed to put that plan into action.

Think a person can’t adapt and really change? Think again. Some Managers themselves come into a job and make no changes whatsoever at first – getting a lay of the land and a thorough understanding of what they’ve got to work with. Then as if a button was pushed, they implement changes in procedures, change-up the staffing complement, and become the Manager that is needed rather than the Manager they are most comfortable in being; they adapted.

This change is something that goes right back to high school chemistry. When you know there is an ingredient needing to be added in order to produce the charge and change desired, you have to introduce it to the existing compounds in order to bring about the desired result. So if the needed ingredient at the Management level requires a different style of Management, you could decide to replace yourself – not likely – or you could change yourself to be the infusion into the mix that’s required. Hard for some and easier for others to pull this off. For those that do however, it becomes easier over time like any behavioural change and the maintenance of that change becomes less forced.

High school chemistry basics coming back to help or hinder you in your career; who knew?

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