Workplace Wars – Why do you stay?

Quite often people voice their opinion about how they don’t look forward to Mondays and why Friday afternoons are just such a delight, as they are ready to hit the bar. Ready to drink away all the stress and pressure the week has caused them…and so, to prepare for the weekend that is never long enough!

If this is you, are you wasting your life?

Just last week, I met a young lady who told me that she dreaded going to work in the morning – to the point she had to throw up before getting in her car – as she could feel that her colleagues are talking about her behind her back. “I feel as if they are all conspiring against me”, she said, “instead of training me, because that is what they promised me when I commenced my employment with them.”

Another woman told me how she had nightmares from all the threats and intimidation she had to endure at work. Moreover, how there was a complete imbalance of power dynamics and she painted a clear picture of how she was involved in a dictatorship rather than being part of a management team.

 I can relate and I have no doubt many of you can too. So why do we stay in such dreadful circumstances?

Well, my guess is that we all fall into the trap of believing that things will get better over time…but most of the time it doesn’t.People stay because ‘better the devil you know’ than getting into another wild ride somewhere new.

Personally, I have also been in that illusion-bubble of attempting to make my workplace a better and more positive world… Sadly, nothing was less true. I guess some lessons we have to learn the hard way. The good thing after an experience like this one is that things can only get better and we learn what not to do, we set higher standards and understand what not to accept!

Let me share with you my story about disharmony at work.

A story so intense it ended in hospital.

Years back, I was working in an international college where I handed the management baton to a newly appointed individual so that I could focus on another department within the company. I trained this new lady, I briefed her and stayed available to coach and guide her should she have questions over the months that followed. I gave her an overview of who was who within the organization, how long everyone had been a valued member of the team and the individual qualities each employee brought to the table.

Because I am a happy extrovert – always have been and always will be – I love to keep the team motivated. I was just my bubbly self, inspiring my colleagues and being ‘a listening ear’ where needed.

The ‘new manager’ did not like the fact that I was close to my colleagues. Neither did she appreciate my many years of expertise and international experience, as I could be a threat to her and just as easily as I had handed her the position, I could take it back!

Obviously, this was never my intention as I am a person well know for my integrity. When I give up a position, there is an intention attached to it – and why would someone give something up to then crawl back to it? Clearly she never took the time to get to know who I really was as a person and neither the values I stand for. Nothing could be said about the quality of my work as I love to over deliver and exceed expectations.

So, approach number two had been put in motion: breaking down the team by bullying all founding members out one by one… except me and one older lady.

I was astonished this was actually possible… and even more surprised the owner of the company allowed such a thing to happen? Nevertheless, my guess: some individuals enjoy a little drama…

The one other member of our existing team, apart from myself, yes, the older lady, had now sided with the new manager, stroking her ego by speaking ill of me behind my back. It is truly interesting how people can just flip their behaviour to safeguard their job or make life easier for themselves. For me this is unimaginable. How do such people sleep at night?

As time went by, my overseas marketing trips were cancelled and I got given so much admin work that I was asked to come in earlier and stay later. I worked more than ever and shortly after, I was asked to re-sign my contract and take a substantial pay-cut (which is completely illegal, so I found out much later). In essence, there was absolutely no reason for me to stay, although I stuck with it.

A few months later, I was so over-worked that my body had developed a swollen and infected gland.I could hardly walk, and I knew that it was now time to check myself into the hospital. That same morning I received a mean message from the older lady, obliviously on behalf of the new manger.  I was at a point of not caring as my health took priority. I did send a reply-text stating I was in hospital awaiting a date for surgery and informing them I could not come to work. As the manager was highly emotionally intelligent – NOT – I received the following reply: “OK”.

I understand we cannot ‘like’ everyone, but respect is a minimum and a civilized answer from someone in a leadership position should be the norm. However, there was no leadership, not even a glimpse of it. In hindsight, I wonder why I was expecting empathy from someone who raves about how she shoots animals for pleasure and gets a kick out of watching them die. I realized that my values and those of the new manger were so far apart… no matter how hard I tried to make this work – a relationship requires the input of two people and it seems that I was the only one contributing.

It was during my recovery in the hospital that I made the decision to prepare my exodus with a big smile on my face! It was as if I had finally seen the light.

Till today, I am uncertain what I was trying to prove, as there is nothing to prove to someone who doesn’t want to see. In addition, when you know your worth, so no need to prove anything, to anyone.

We need to accept that the dynamics in an organization can change at any time, in fact, change is the only constant and change is inevitable, otherwise we would still be using horse and carriage as our preferred transport method and there would be no innovation. Nevertheless, when things change, we don’t need to start treating each other with disrespect and make each other’s life hell.

Those are not qualities of a good leader! Neither is taking the passive aggressive approach and sabotaging an individual behind their back nor setting colleagues up against each other.

A good leader appreciates what each team member brings to the table and values their contributions over the years. Perhaps some people are ready for a new role, which may or may not involve new responsibilities. But, everything and everyone needs to be part of a wider conversation, and in my opinion, only when being part of this discussion and having the ability to share opinions, the right decisions can be made. These decisions that will drive a company forward and will help it grow, together with its people.

Utilizing this approach, people will love going to work as they will feel they contribute to the greater good. They feel valued and assist with each other’s growth. There is nothing more beautiful than kindness and seen the fact that most of us spend a minimum of 40 years in the workplace, why not make it a nice experience and create a nurturing environment instead of a war zone?

Thankfully, I have a vast memory bank of excellent workplace memories, which I have collected over the years as a result of working in many different wonderful international organizations. I am delighted to have collaborated with so many amazing colleagues and managers whom have been great role models for me.

Moreover, it is interesting to see and compare how different companies contribute to making the atmosphere in the workplace a priority or not and these experiences assist us to make decisions of which ones we want to be part of.

In closing, have a think about your contribution in the workplace. Are you happy at work and how could you make it an even nice world and a better experience? For me, the above mentioned story was just one temporary situation I got to experience and I am glad I was part of it as I learned a lot about human behaviour. I learned that insecurity and a lack of belief in the self can change people into a vicious individual and drive them to do awful things. On the other hand, it is pivotal to set personal boundaries as the behavior we accept will persist!

We can only choose to contribute and make our workplace a better world, but if there is no reciprocal effort, it is time to leave and find a workplace where we can be who we are, contribute and be recognized as a valuable team member! Put yourself among people (colleagues) who bring out the best in you, only then can you blossom and shine! And remember…and really remember: ‘We rise by lifting others!’

 

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