Your confidence can be really knocked if you work for a manager or a team that just don’t quite click with you. You start to question yourself. Why don’t you want to laugh along with them, why don’t you want to hang out with them at lunchtime? Why do you not get their in-jokes, why don’t you want to spend time with them out of work? Why do you want something different?
I worked for a boss who had a very different view to me on how to work and what are acceptable working hours. She thought it was perfectly reasonable to work all hours, and even to take your work on holiday.
One time she had a big birthday that she celebrated with her sister abroad and they’d gone out to do something special, a boat trip down a river. In the middle of it all she took a call about some big deal she’d been working on and won.
The last thing I’d want to do on my birthday or when I’m on holiday is check work emails or take calls or think about work! Fair enough it was a big deal. But it just reminded me how little I was invested in the work, and how different our values seemed.
Square peg in a round hole
Another time I went for a drink with a couple of colleagues. They started talking about and comparing their Rolexes. I remember wondering what on earth I was doing there with them. What we found interesting, and important, seemed so different.
It’s easy to feel like you’re the one that doesn’t fit in, you’re the square peg in the round hole.
When working for this company, for my lunch break I’d always rush off at 1pm on the dot. I’d head to the nearest bookshop or walk around, then eat my lunch at my desk. I didn’t really want to interact that much. I didn’t want to go to lunch with colleagues or stroll around the shops together.
Now, I realise I’m a bit of an introvert. So looking back, working in a busy, open plan office with phones constantly ringing, I needed time to be on my own, to recalibrate, breathe, think, digest.
But I felt like a bit of a weirdo, always sneaking off on my own. In my memory, I pretty much sprinted to the door every lunchtime! I was desperate to move, to get out, to feel free.
The same with after work drinks. The last thing I wanted was to hang out more with the people I’d spent all day with, as nice as most of them were (and some of them were friends). The thought of carrying on, drinking warm wine in some so-so bar, making small talk, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the energy.
So when I left that job and searched out a new one, I was looking for something different. This meant looking for like-minded people who had a similar outlook to me. Finding work that meant something to me. I didn’t want to be working in a big, busy, open-plan office. Where you felt judged if you weren’t at your desk at 9am, if you left on the dot at 5pm and didn’t stay late, and if you took your lunch break at any time other than between 1pm and 2pm.
I wanted freedom and meaning.
I ended up working for a company where we all work remotely. We’re doing good work, helping children struggling with their reading. I’m genuinely interested in what my colleagues have to say about all sorts.
I still work 9-5 but I take my lunch when I want to. I go for a walk round the block or have a break when I want to. There’s no judgement when we all say a virtual bye at 5pm. I work from home or I work from a coworking space. Or when I’m back visiting my parents, from their study. It can change depending on my mood or energy levels, or what I’ve got to get done.
I can be around people when I want to, be on my own when I want to, and just get my head down and do the work. Then I’ll coach for a couple of hours after work, or first thing in the morning before work. I’ve found a way of working that suits me much better.
What do you want to change?
If what you’ve just read resonates, have a think about what your ideal working environment would be. What works for you? What would you change if you could?
Currently, during the covid pandemic, a lot of us have time to gain perspective on our work situation, and see more clearly what is or isn’t working. Many people are trying out working remotely, from home. And some are realising that it suits them really well, they are far more productive and love not having to commute. They have more time to spend with family.
Perhaps they are realising that this way of working (ideally without a backdrop of fear, uncertainty and doom) is something they’d like to pursue. Or at least, have the option to do so a few times a week.
Others are realising that there could be something more fulfilling out there, something that lights them up, something they’d be proud to be working on. Something different.
This could be a good opportunity to really explore – journal, read, start to build a more precise picture of what you want.
It’s definitely a time of change, in so many ways. Hopefully a large part can be really positive, including relooking at how we are working and what we want from life, and making changes accordingly.
If you’d like to try a coaching session with me, send me a message on LinkedIn or at email@example.com for more info and details.
Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.