Previously, I wrote my honest account of my experience working for Apple. I had a lot of negative things to say because I felt the environment was very toxic. At the same time, it allowed me to learn a lot about myself, my role in work the place, and some tools I could use to change my situations. I’d like to share some of the positives that I was able to take away from that trying and challenging period.
One of the biggest things I learned was the power speaking your mind. You don’t like something? Complain about it. Do you want a promotion? Let your boss know. Did someone do something really nice for you that they may not have even realized? Tell them!
I think this is something that is very difficult for Asian Americans in general. We have an influence of Asian work culture that tells us to lay low and stay off the radar. The nail that sticks out gets the hammer. The idea is that if I don’t cause any trouble, it’ll bring less trouble to my boss, and his/her life will be easier. If my boss’ life is easier, my life is easier. If I bring trouble, my boss will make my life hard.
In an American work context, I believe this philosophy is objectively incorrect. If you do this, you won’t stand out and you won’t get what you want.
Story time. In our lab at Apple, there was a limited amount of equipment. We would use equipment on different machines wherever there was availability. This means that you’d have work spread across different machines. It was annoying sometimes, but it was the most efficient use of the equipment we had. A group of older guys in our team started to complain about this and wanted to have their individual machines for their individual work for convenience. They brought it up to our boss. These guys complained for weeks about it. A lot of younger folks including myself felt a sense of smugness. We would talk on the side about how inflexible they were being. How it was such a waste of resources to do it their way.
But then…after being worn down for the better part of a month, my boss gave in and agreed to their demands. We were shocked. Couldn’t he see that their way was really bad? Well, we couldn’t really blame him in retrospect. He was hearing a lot of input about how the current way wasn’t good. None of the younger folks who thought differently spoke up so he didn’t get to hear our side. This is what started to clue me in.
It’s not your boss’ job to read your mind. I originally thought that if I just kept my mouth shut and quietly took on extra work for my boss, he would appreciate that and reward me later. What really ends up happening is that he/she never has to think about that task again since you’re silently dealing with it. They really have no knowledge of the work/skill/effort that has to go into it. They also have no idea of your burden and if you’re close to burning out, or maybe even burning out already.
This is really easily fixed though. You just speak up. It might be uncomfortable sometimes. That’s okay. If your boss is uncomfortable about it, that’s going to stick in his/her mind. That’s the whole point. If you occupy some amount of real estate in their mind, you’re doing your job correctly. They’re being updated with your progress and your needs, and if you’ve done well you’ll be rewarded. If you’ve done well but your boss never thinks about you, you’re most likely going to be passed over.