…then he said “Go and get nicked!” – How an ugly environment produces ugly behaviour (Blog #3)

boxing gloves on and ready for a fight

Have you ever thought you knew someone so well that you could easily predict how they’d act in any situation?

Well, I thought I did. And then our work environment changed and so did everything else.

It was February 2016, I was returning to work after my second stint of maternity leave. And I was returning to a team that I’d describe as dying. They were drained, flat and ‘not together’ like a team should be.

Team members were unhappy with each other and although everyone was borderline civil to each other upfront, when backs turned everyone had something to say about someone in the team. No one was on the same side and everyone’s main agenda was to protect themselves, no matter the cost. When I say protect themselves, I mean if 20 minutes went on a job that wasn’t on their to-do list for the day, they wanted it recorded.

The work culture was a mess. And when asked by the manager what I thought, there was no hesitation in telling her exactly what I thought − “Your team is dying.”

Tears were all too common among team members and shouting and giving each other shit was becoming a norm.

My manager took on board what I said, but was convinced it was only certain individuals that felt that way or that showed those signs. If only she heard what her team were saying about her. The finger would often be used to describe their thoughts. Need I say more?

Now, it definitely needs to be asked, how a manager could be so unaware of how her team felt about her? Or even how she could’ve been under the impression that things were going well? But these topics I’ll save for another day. Today I want to focus on work environment and the impact it can have.

You know, I really wanted to help my team members as it looked to me like they were in a lot of pain. I told my manager about the interest, passion and knowledge I had in the area of work culture and really emphasised that something needed to be done. So she said, “OK.”

She was happy to hear my ideas and allowed me to present them to the team. But I was presenting to a team that couldn’t care less. All it meant to them was more work. And any team bonding activities… well, let’s just say they weren’t interested. That meant spending more time together and all they wanted to do was get as far away from each other as possible.

So nothing happened. I, too, lost interest. The situation within our team became all about protecting your own butt. In amidst all this, one thing my manager said to me is, “Mimoza, you can’t aim to do all the motivating, they (the team members) need to bring it as well.”

The question that came to mind instantly is how could she expect anyone to be motivated in the environment we were in?

In an environment where it was all about making sure you protected yourself.

Asking an employee to be motivated in an environment where not only did they have to protect themselves from their own manager, they also had to protect themselves from their fellow team mates, was absolutely crazy to me.

Everyone was in survival mode. Get the work done. Make sure you’ve covered yourself by recording it all. And get the hell out of there as fast as you can. Spending time recording the work you did was a high priority – too high for my liking.

Throughout my years of experience what has been even more interesting is witnessing, firsthand, a person I’ve worked with before change completely as a result of changes to the work environment. Raising the question, did I ever really know them?

If you’ve read my about page you’d already know that job #9 came as a result of a merger and so I had colleagues that I worked with at job #8 come over to job #9. Now, I can safely say that I truly considered my colleagues at job #8 as extended family members, never having had a bad or awkward experience with any of them, at job #8 anyway. What was interesting to see is how some of these people started to change as a result of the environment at job #9 and here, just for you, are two examples.

Example 1 – “Go and get nicked!”
My manager at job #8 was extremely kind, respectful and a lovely person to deal with who I looked forward to working with every day. Yes, every day!

The funny thing about him is that he was so nice that he constantly felt the need to apologise to me. He’d walk down my way and say “Sorry.” I’d even say to him, “Stop saying sorry you haven’t done anything.” And he would say something along the lines of “I’ve missed a meeting”, which he hadn’t or that he wasn’t speaking to me enough, which he was. I’d tell him to stop it as he was a fantastic manager and he was.

At the end of 2011 the whole company selected this person as number one employee of the year, which is how much we all loved and respected him. There wasn’t anything he wasn’t willing to do for us or the company. And when he got the award tears came down his face, that’s how much it all meant to him.

At job #9 I went up to this same person with a request from my current manager at the time and he told me to tell that manager “to go and get nicked!” Which was a nice way of telling her to “go and get fucked!”

And this was one of the nicer things he had to say in regards to that manager. At a later date he also mentioned that when dealing with her he felt like punching her in the face. I never thought this person would be capable of saying such a thing, but it became very obvious to me that he was simply becoming a product of his environment.

Example 2 – “I can’t say I stopped to speak to you!”
A work colleague that I worked with at job #8 was like everyone else there, extremely nice and cooperative. I remember heaps of times this same person going out of his way to help me, just for the sake of helping me and he didn’t stop to record the amount of minutes spent.

At Job #9 things changed.

I had a couple of questions that I needed to ask and although there were a few people I could’ve gone to, I thought I’d go to a person I considered a good friend from job #8.

He happened to be on the phone and I waited until he was finished. Although, he did see me, once he finished his phone call, he continued to make another phone call.

Yep, I got snubbed off.

Even his two colleagues sitting opposite him stood up outraged at his actions, their faces amazed at how rude someone could be. They couldn’t believe that he had continued with another phone call and didn’t even look my way to acknowledge I was there.

But the icing on the cake came with his remark that followed… “Hey, there are a certain number of phone calls I need to make. I can’t say I stopped to speak to you!”

Yep, love you too. What a way to treat a colleague.

At first I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know, that feeling when someone insults the shit out of you. I couldn’t believe what just happened. And let’s admit there could’ve been a number of better ways to handle that situation. But once again a 360 degree change had happened to a person that I thought I knew because of the environment he was in.

The person right at the top sets the tone for the environment and the tone set for job #9 wasn’t pretty. In fact it was ugly, resulting in ugly behaviour by people there.

What’s the ugliest type of behaviour you’ve seen at places you’ve work? The uglier the better. I want to hear your story.

For more on 10 Years and 9 Jobs subscribe today! For more on how it all started click here.

Next week it’s all about friendships at work and why they matter.

I’ll see you then.

Mimoza

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What loving your job looks like (Part 1) – No protection needed! (Blog #2)

Happy person at work

What does feeling safe at work mean to you?

Have you ever really felt safe at work?

And yes, I do mean safe. Not happy or comfortable, but safe.

While I give you some time to think about it, this is what feeling safe meant to me.

It was Friday and already a few months into the new job I started in 2011 (job #8). My husband was dropping me off to work that day and he mentioned something to me that I hadn’t thought about in a while.

He said, “Mimoza… you no longer say what you use to say with your other jobs every Friday.” And he was right. The words I’d automatically say every Friday I simply forgot about. And those words were… are you ready for this?

“I really hope today ends off well.”

Yes, simple right? But what did I mean by this?

What this meant is that I always hoped that the week would end off well, so that I could have a good weekend and not have something happen on the Friday at work that would wreck my mood for the next couple of days.

Over a very short time of working at job #8 that concern just faded away like it never existed.

So, let’s dive a bit deeper.

What was this concern that never left me in my other jobs?

This concern was simply based on dealing with my colleagues around me. Yep, dealing with my team mates.

Sometimes even for the simplest issues it’d be these words that would play in my mind far too often, “Oh god, now I have to speak to that person again”, or “How am I going to do this without getting completely insulted or belittled?”

As that was essentially what I’d be protecting myself from. That is precisely what would ruin the rest of my day or my weekend.

Surprising?

Well, can you tell me who likes to be made to feel like shit?

So, then, and sometimes for the simplest things again, the deliberation process would begin. What do I mean? The plan I’d put together in approaching a person or people in getting the job done.

It’d be a case of do I approach him/her in person or try and avoid them altogether via email making sure I ‘cc’ other colleagues in so that responsibility is shared? Talk about a lot of unnecessary emails.

Time and energy would be spent on thinking about how to approach someone I worked with instead of simply approaching them without any concern. And this wasn’t an issue at job #8, you wanted to speak to someone – you simply did! Imagine that.

If you’re thinking that job #8 was easy, you couldn’t be more wrong. It was the hardest most challenging job I’ve had, which is another reason why I loved it. And if you needed to speak to someone you simply did! You knew you’d be treated with the utmost respect, by a player that was on your team, there for the same cause. Regardless if it fell directly in their court or not.

Not only did this prevent time being wasted on unnecessary activities but it also aided in getting rid of any self-conscious feelings I had, which were always present with me in every other place I’ve worked. Now, in some places more than others, but it was always there.

It’s when you have an idea and when you want to say it, but you don’t. Or you give a filtered version of what you’re thinking, say around 20% of the original idea. Or when your true thoughts and opinions aren’t expressed and you hold back as you don’t feel comfortable saying what it is you truly think and just go with what has always been done.

Sound familiar?

It can look as innocent as this.

You’re in a team meeting and start asking a question or expressing an idea and the first thing you notice is people laughing around you. Now, in most cases it’d be considered harmless, a group of work colleagues having a laugh. But you then laugh too as you don’t want anyone to say that you can’t take a joke and your idea or question never really gets taken seriously and you get brushed aside with a smile on your face. So you look happy to have not been taken seriously.

Now, I’m not saying that people I worked with in my past jobs were bad people. Had I had nothing to do with them at work, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had a problem with them. But there is something that happens to people when they’re in an environment where they need to protect themselves. They do what is very human of them and they protect themselves and put others second, third or even last. And this can look very, very ugly.

Here, let me paint you a picture.

It’s about 9.40am in the morning and we’re in our daily team WIP. I go through the to-do list and as I hand a folder over to my manager that got handed to me by colleague that very recently resigned (surprise, surprise), my manger reacts by slamming down the folder on the desk and then shouting to everyone, “THAT’S IT! I DON’T WANT ANY MORE FOLDERS HANDED TO ME, EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE PUT IN MY INTRAY”.

Like it was a big deal.

Who would have thought such a simple action could create that type of reaction.

That was my manager telling everyone to get the fuck away from her as she was at the point of having a mental breakdown. This manager was solely focused on protecting herself to the point where insulting gestures somehow became acceptable and in the process lost sight on what it meant to treat a team member with respect.

It became perfectly normal for her to constantly tell her team to not speak to her. Reason… so she could get work done.

Do you think anyone wanted to speak to her?

But sometimes in order to get something done we needed to – trust me no one enjoyed it. The amount of people that came to me in an attempt to avoid her were endless. I remember a work colleague within the same team saying to this manager, “That’s all I’ve wanted to do since I started to work here is not speak to you.” Guess how many times he was told not to speak to her? My guess about 500 times (a week (lol)).

I can tell you, the result of her behaviour did her no favours. People resigned and the ones that remained resented her.

I’m a firm believer in that there is no excuse for this type of behaviour regardless of how crazy and hectic it can get. However, the people that do rise above these situations by identifying it for what it is and attempting to make some kind of change are the ones we call leaders.

A work culture that is truly effective is one where employees put their fellow colleagues first and this can only happen in an environment where you don’t need to protect yourself.

Have you ever experienced a similar situation? I’d love to hear about it.

For more on 10 Years & 9 Jobs subscribe today! For more about my story click here – How it all started

Next week it’s all about how your environment can change you and the people around you.

I’ll see you then.

Mimoza

 

 

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5 sure signs that you hate your job (Blog #1)

shutterstock_160934816

Do you think you’d be able to recognise what hating your job looks like?

Because I think that so many people have hated their job for so long that they can’t even tell the difference anymore. It’s amazing how miserable people can be at work and still tell themselves, “Yeah, I like my job” or “I have a good job.”

Here’s a sure sign. If it makes you feel like crap then it’s safe to say you don’t like it!

I remember being back at uni and a friend of mine telling me that her father who, according to her, had a very good government job, eventually had to ask to have Monday’s off permanently. So, I asked “Why?” Any thoughts? Because on the Sundays the mere thought of going to work the next day was causing him to experience severe migraines. Gee… what a great job. If only we were all that lucky.

So, why do you think people can’t recognise if they’re unhappy with their job? Why is it that such unhappiness is accepted?

Well, here are my three reasons when you take out the financial side to things:

1. A lack of experience or even a lack of the right experience – Most people don’t have anything to compare their current job to. It may be only their first or second job. Whereas for some, it’s a case of not having any better experiences to compare it to. Their past experiences have either been the same or even worse.

2. “It’s a job, no one really likes their job… right?” – There’s that belief it’s work and you’re not really supposed to like it. Just, when people ask you, make sure you say that you do (lol). So, any thoughts or feelings that relate to you not liking your job becomes normal. This coupled with the belief that if you have a well-paid office job you should consider yourself lucky, makes it easy to convince yourself you’ve got it good when it could be so much better.

3. You get comfortable – And try and find any excuse to stop yourself from ever leaving. Again, falling back on that “I should be lucky to have this job.” Too bad the thought of going into work makes you feel ill.

These reasons are common and let’s face it, we’ve all been there. But do you know what I think are the five big ass signs that you hate your job?

The ones I’ve witnessed that you can’t miss.

You hate your job if…

1. You require alcohol to calm yourself down after a day’s worth of work – Even if it’s not a lot, something isn’t right if you’re needing it every day!

No matter what career advancements you think you’ll get with it. Nothing good comes out of anything that pushes you towards alcohol!

If you think it’s harmless, simply something that calms you down, then ask yourself, why is it that you need calming down?

From my experience this is usually the case when you don’t feel safe in your team. What I mean is when you feel as though your team and/or manager aren’t on your side. You feel insecure and scared and that at any point you could lose your job or get in trouble.

2. You’re physical sick way too often (a lot more than you use to) – Have I told you about job #7?

It was my second stint with government and the work culture was toxic, toxic, toxic. Did I mention it was toxic? And I was there for only four months.

A colleague claimed to have become oblivious to how bad things had become and openly declared that it simply didn’t bother her anymore. Of course not. She had her full-time permanent job, why would anything else matter? And the fact that she was away sick more than actually being there was simply a separate issue on its own (Not!).

Did you know that people who dislike their jobs suffer the same amount of anxiety and depression and sometimes even more when compared to people who don’t have jobs? Well they do, as proven by a 2011 study conducted at the University of Canberra, Australia*.

This colleague from job #6 later mentioned that her health had developed a bit of a routine where every year she would go through periods where she would be sick for about six weeks at a time. And I mean breaking ribs from non-stop coughing sick. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but once I began to learn more about work culture and the importance it played, it strung on me. I’d bet my house that it was her job making her sick. How could it not? When only after four months the mere thought of working there made me feel ill.

That colleague had been there six years – OMG!! No thank you!

3. You do your work in a bad state way too often – What do I mean? You’re in a shitty mood all the time, if not, most of the time. Sound familiar?

Basically, you’re constantly in a bad mood and the only time it improves is when you don’t have much work on or it’s Friday afternoon. But as soon as that workload increases and it’s the start of the week again, you’re back to being in that shitty mood.

Other daily traits include:
• You often swear at your computer or the work you’re doing.

• Every single noise in the place gets on your nerves and I mean every single noise. E.g. a colleague humming, the caps lock key being used, etc.

• The simplest actions frustrates the hell out of you. E.g. someone leaving The Advertiser (local newspaper) in the wrong place, a person asking a question, a minor detail being left out of an email, a small request that is just outside your job description. Basically, you don’t want to know about anything more than what you absolutely have to do and that’s it.

• You say “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” to questions that people ask you.

• You often tell people not to speak to you. The reason being to get your work done. Too bad about the message that sends, “Don’t fuck’n bother me with your shit, I just want to get mine done. I don’t give a shit about yours.” What a team player.

4. Whenever you talk to a friend at work 99% of your conversation with them is about how bad things are. Yep, if you’re constantly complaining about processes and people at work – you hate your job!

5. When you think of going to work the next day, the thought alone makes you feel ill – need I say more.

The worst thing about all this is the domino effect that happens when one person feels like this, it affects that person next to them and so on. If you feel this describes someone you know then please share it as it may open their eyes to something they can’t see.

Is there anything else you’d add to the list? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Oh and please don’t hold back on the detail as it’s the detail that I love.

For more on 10 Years & 9 Jobs subscribe today! To read more about my story click here How it all started.

In my next blog I’ll talk about what loving your job looks like.

See you then.

Mimoza

 

*A 2011 Study: P Butterworth, L. S. Leach, L. Strazdins, S. C. Olesen, B. Rogers and D. H. Broom. “The Psychosocial Quality of Work Determines Whether Employment Has Benefits for Mental Health: Results from a Longitudinal National Household Panel Survey,” Occupational & Environmental Medicine 11 (2011): 806-12.

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