“You’ve just got to learn to not care,” I advised a friend struggling with one of the main things that drives us all crazy when we are driven crazy at work – seeing our recommendations ignored only to see the consequences of their dismissal play out as we predicted.
“I can’t not care.”
“Well you’re going to continue to drive yourself crazy until you learn not to.”
“I can’t not do my job.”
“I’m not suggesting you don’t do you job, or that you don’t do your job to the best of your ability. I’m suggesting you not care.”
I wasn’t really satisfied with my advice. I didn’t have any other advice, but “not caring” seemed callow. So I took some time to articulate what it means to “not care.”
To not care requires you first accept that organizations are imperfect because they are run by people and people sometimes make decisions based on their egos, maintaining appearances, and legacy processes that interfere with fresh thinking and pragmatism. To not care means you recognize and accept the circumstantial limitations of what you can do and surrender the rest. You accept responsibility for what you are responsible for and then accept where the responsibility ends.
If you’re lucky, you’ll never have a job where you feel that the person occupying your seat could be you, someone else, or a robot, it would make no difference. If you do, invest the emotional energy you’d expend caring to find another job. If that’s not possible, invest your care in a way you think does matter, may it be volunteer work, your friends, your family, or learning something new. If you have a job where you need to not care, do a good job of what you do; but only invest yourself up to the limit of your influence and invest what you have left somewhere else more productive.
For my friend, for whom I have so much respect, you know who you are.