It can really be a feast or famine environment in cube land. When I first entered the full-time arena, I was met with some really lovely people. There were a lot of post-graduates who also had joined the workforce. It was a really collaborative time for the five of us, as we helped each other navigate the new world of Job #1, and jobs in general. We called ourselves the “Newbies” and we had lunch every Friday.
We ordered cakes for each others birthday, we celebrated with one another and we even had a group text. It was like a little club to make working for 8 hours much less miserable.
Until, my “mentor” from Job #1, Jasmine*, informed me we were being cliquey and needed to stop. This was the first time I entered survival mode in the office world. The first time I felt like, Oh, maybe not everyone is my friend. In short, the message I received was: I am being judged for having fun. I am being judged for having a support group.
The judgment after the halo effect of post-graduate job life ranged from ‘You don’t do this report correctly’ to ‘You should have more work to do’ to…. ‘We don’t talk about drinking at the office’.
The double standards were perplexing.
Each department has its own suite in Job #1’s first location, there were approximately 100 people who worked for the company, but not enough room, so we spread out amongst 10-11 suites.
One day, preparing for a meeting with Jasmine, I walked into Suite #9, where she and the other cool older admin assistants got to sit.
I was a little early for our meeting, so I walked in slowly, and believe it or not…. ALL EIGHT OF THE ‘OLDER’ ADMIN ASSISTANTS WERE HAVING LUNCH, TALKING ABOUT DRINKING AND NOT WORKING.
All three things the “Newbies” were judged for.
Have you ever had a situation where you were made to feel you couldn’t be a part of the club? A situation at work where you felt like it wasn’t OK to be you? (I’d love to hear about it in the comments!)
It’s just one of the reasons we feel obliged to start our own clubs, by creating our own companies where the people we’ll hire in the future are always a part of the conversation and fun is had by all.
I was always trying to bring my joy to the office, in fact, one day I brought those old school (If you’re a 90’s kid..you’ll remember these!) Dinosaur Egg Oatmeal packets. I was working a half-day and wanted a way to bond with everyone before I headed out of town.
These moments really made me feel part of the team, but sadly, I was always met with glaring eyes and the suggestion that the team and I “Clock out” if we were going to be doing anything outside of work for 10 minutes.
I’ll never fully understand this management style. I completely adhere to completing your work before deadlines, and I firmly believe having fun makes this possible.
As you might guess, there are a few certain employees that make sure no fun will be had on the clock. They are the hall monitors of the real world.
My hall monitor nemesis was named Betty*. In my first week on Job #1, I accidentally hit the ‘Page All’ button on my phone.
Betty came running into my cubicle and said, “I don’t know if you know this, but you just hit page all. Sam* (Company President) could have been in a meeting, and how embarrassing would that have been.”
Again, something I will never understand when people make mistakes… they do it on accident. Hence, the term, mistake. Nobody, especially a young, insecure new employee needs to be shamed on top of this.
Of course, Betty* may have genuinely just cared about the company, but it didn’t stop there.
She and I shared a thin, cubicle wall, and one afternoon I spritzed a little perfume after a long walk. Feeling a little fresher after my break, I settled in for an afternoon of note-taking on calls (Joy.)
That’s when I heard Betty say on her phone line, “Urgh, I just hate it when people spray perfumes. Don’t you?”
There it was again. Shame for being me, for trying to bring a little fun to my afternoon; and you know, not stink up the place.
Betty continued on her small, dig like tyrants for the next year and in hindsight, she was my last straw for departing to Job #2.
I left the office to work virtually one afternoon (Ok, many afternoons) and as I wrote on my cube door “Working from home”, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach I always got. The feeling that I was going to get in trouble for working anywhere but the office four walls.
As I sat in my house, trying to catch up on housework and keep up to date with emails flying at the speed of light, Betty texted me.
“I saw you left. Do you need me to forward your office phone to your cell-phone so you don’t miss anything? You know that’s the company policy. And, did you get approval for leaving?”
BETTY LEAVE ME ALONE!!!
See, the even more complicated part, was Betty was in charge of “backing up” the people I supported when I was out of the office. Meaning she was always in my business, always irritated that I actually used the gift of six weeks vacation and always analyzing my work.
In a sea of 32 young women trying to get to the top, Betty was ready to crush any crab with a weaker shell than hers.
Do you have a Betty at your office?
It leaves that feeling of paranoia like a consistent pimple that just won’t go away. Which leads me to my next point, if you hate feeling paranoid, and like the security of a ‘safe’, friendly environment – being your own boss might be the right next step.
In an office environment, you’re making your world very small by striving for approval and positioning that only makes sense within that office context. Take one of your older jobs for example, and remember the most coveted position. Now, imagine you moved to another country, or heck, another state – no one would know who said lucky girl or guy in that position was, likely what the company was or why that position was significant.
My partner, Chris and I, always call this the ‘state line rule’. The founder of Job #1, is a multi-multi-millionaire who owns most of the town we used to live in. We moved 45 minutes away and I kid you not… no one in this town knows who he is! This town has its own one of these dudes.
It’s really hard to escape your day to day life to get a bird’s eye view on your situation and realize it’s little-ness in the big picture, but I’d like for you to try. Write out the moments you’ve felt like crap at work. Now revisit each one and ask, “Will this matter in 10 years?”
Journal for a bit about what you like, and what you don’t like about your job. This will help you get really clear about the true dream you want to chase. Let me know what you find!