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.
Next week it’s all about friendships at work and why they matter.
I’ll see you then.