Have you ever felt like an outsider in your organisation or that you’re doing something wrong, when it feels right?
A client, Marg, asked me to help her improve her people management skills. She said she’d been told she was ‘too soft’.
Marg worked in a large, male-dominated, industrial manufacturing plant that was measured on its production, quality and cost cutting.
She described a workplace that was fear-driven and blame-focused. Whenever there were production or quality issues, she said, ‘management’ looked for someone to blame.
Marg thought it was unfair to blame production issues on people alone as there were many possible causes. She figured her job was to problem-solve, which she did well.
As we talked, it was clear that she was managing her staff just fine. Her colleagues, however, were not.
When I pointed out that her approach seemed fair and reasonable she looked sceptical. When I asked her how it was to work in such an environment, tears welled.
Over the course of our session, she moved from confusion, to relief, then concern about her future as she realised she now faced a choice.
When you work in the same organisation for an extended period, you get used to how things are. As you become more senior, you’re expected (implicitly) to adapt and adopt the values of your organisation. As you become aware of the dissonance, it’s easy to become confused and think there’s something wrong with you.
Don’t. Pay attention, claim your power and recognise you can choose to stay and put up with it, change workplace values, or leave.
Before you make a decision:
- Seek out like-minded colleagues. Share experiences and perspectives – it will help you stay sane.
- Determine if you can build a coalition for change. The more people who think like you the greater the influence you will have.
- Role model your values within your sphere of influence. People will appreciate it and you will have a positive impact on those around you.
- Recognise that the culture is bigger than any one individual. Unless you can find enough people to build a coalition for change, it’s unlikely you can change it yourself. Consider the impact this may have on you.
- If you don’t think you can influence change or find enough allies to stay sane, find another job.