Reference Points for Your Job

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Apr 09

This year my wife and I had the privilege of taking a two-week trip to Ireland. You will note that Europe uses the Euro for money, Celsius for temperature, and the metric system for measuring everything (except, interestingly, Ireland has a European Union exception where they can still measure pints, as in pints of Guinness…).

The reason this is important to Cubicle Warriors is this: we lost most of our reference points for how we went about our day. Cold or warm outside? How fast were we going (100 km per hour, we found out, is about 62 mph…)? How much was 50 Euro — in dollars?

It took us a while to get used to seeing 10-degrees Celsius instead of 50-degrees Fahrenheit, 10-Euro instead of 16-dollars (the exchange rate really sucks), and knowing that if we were going somewhere 100-km away and driving 100-km per hour, it would take us about an hour to get there. We adjusted.

When we change managers, positions or companies, our reference points that provide our levels of certainty on how well we are doing our jobs significantly changes. There is feedback, but we can’t relate the feedback to the work we’re doing like we used to. Sure, money is money, but the Euro and dollars still mean different things.

When you change jobs, companies, or managers, you’ll feel lost for a bit because these reference points change. Until you know where the new reference points are, you won’t be able to operate on cruise control.

How do you know you’re doing a good job when your manager, company, or job changes?

  • Steve says:

    Hi Scot

    That pint was a bit more of a pint than we’d pour in the USA. Imperial Pints are 20 oz, rather than our 16 oz version.

    Sometimes people cling to their old reference points despite change. I recall being at a Farmer’s Market in Mannheim (then West) Germany and hearing older people asking for “One Pound (weight)” in German for 1/2 kilo amounts of veg.

    Later living in the UK my fuel was priced in Litres, the Road posted in Miles, my Pint of Beer was a big one like your Irish experience paid for in Pounds Sterling, the bets at the race track sometimes were in Guineas which don’t exist, and I measured leather soles for my shoe factories in Irons (1/48th of an inch, thereabouts), other leathers in MM and so on.

    Even those reference points were subject to flux, as the currency was NOT exactly legal tender, but was prommisary notes. Subtle difference, but occassionally came into play.

    I remember years ago at a Military school being told that in the end “It all Depends…” in response as to how to handle the variabilities of moving or soft reference points.

    A few things ring true no matter what – truth, faith & honor being the first I can think of. But after that it kind of depends….



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