Do you have a love/hate relationship with work?
I certainly did when I was back in corporate.
I loved the work that I did, it was interesting, challenging, and gave me a sense of achievement.
I loved the people I worked with (mostly!). They were smart, helpful, kind and we had a lot of fun whilst also doing good work. Many became friends and I am still in touch with them many years later.
However (there was always going to be a ‘However’, wasn’t there?),
I hated the culture that I had to work in. It was oppressive, fear-driven, controlling and abusive. People were continually being bullied, their contributions belittled, their character demeaned. There was an ‘in-group’ who got all the praise and promotions and an ‘out-group’ who got all the blame (bet you can’t guess which one I was in).
And I hated the people I worked for. They were mendacious, self-serving bullies who spent more time playing politics than developing the business.
I felt very conflicted about this and I thought about leaving several times. I decided to stay, for a number of reasons.
A major one was the deep connections I had with my colleagues. Also, because they were mostly outside my division, they were a temporary means of escape from its stifling atmosphere, which made it a bit more tolerable.
I also felt committed to what we were doing and got a sense of purpose from that.
I kept believing that things would change, that we might be able to escape the division we were stuck in.
And, finally, I felt the stability was important for my family at that time.
I still don’t know if it was the right choice.
Because I was unaware at at the time that being in that culture was damaging me. The signs were there but I pushed them aside with a combination of denial and a misplaced stoicism. Outside of work, life with my young family was going great. Who was I to complain about a little bit of stress and occasional bullying? It just came with the territory, I reasoned. The cost of having a good life. However, that cost turned out to be very high and deeply scarring.
On the other hand, I don’t regret giving my family that stability, particularly staying close to grandparents (changing jobs would also probably have meant moving).
However (don’t worry, this is a positive ‘however’!), I would negotiate my way through this dilemma very differently today.
I would take action to protect myself against the damage that the culture was doing to me. I would take a wider perspective, seek opinions of others and so uncover more options. I would consider my needs more comprehensively, addressing the blind spots I had back then.
If you’re in a love/hate relationship with work and wondering if you should stay or go, perhaps I can help.
You have more options than you think, so let’s find them together.