So, you’ve started a new job and you’ve met the team. They all seem hard working, professional individuals who care about what they do and you think, I’m going to fit in here.
But, after a while, you start to notice something isn’t quite right. Maybe you were promised some training and guidance that never materialised and you’re suddenly responsible for a workload you haven’t been shown how to handle or systems that you don’t know how to use. Maybe you notice that when it’s time to go home, everybody sticks around for a few more hours to get ‘urgent’ work done. Maybe you have read or overhear a colleague talking about how her friend returning from maternity leave is not going to last here.
If you can’t beat the system…
So, you start working harder. You cancel your evening plans during the working week. You come in early and leave late and you work like you’ve never worked before. You check in with your boss and they seem to be saying you’re doing okay, but they appear to be completely disengaged. It feels like no matter what you do, you can’t get it right. Every deadline you meet is replaced immediately with a new deadline. Every goal you achieve seems to mean nothing. Everything is urgent. Nothing is important.
The culture always wins?
Soon you start to get depressed. Life is now all about work and work is something you can’t seem to get right. You start to feel stressed. You go home and feel down. You spend your weekends just trying to relax. But, it’s impossible. Soon is will be Monday again. You start to think – what is wrong with me?
The answer is… nothing.
You are simply one of the many hardworking people in the world who thrives on knowing that their contribution makes a tangible difference to the company they work for. You want to know that you matter. Devalued employees are often driven into harmful thought patterns. They might ask themselves, why am I not better at fighting fires? They should be asking – why is everything always on fire? What is wrong with this role, this department, this organisation that I feel so devalued?
Realising that you are devalued can be a relief. But, it can also cause some employees to check out. Morale is low and you’ve just realised nobody cares about your effort. So, what next? Quit? Change careers? That might be the right choice. But, how about becoming a force for change?
Strategies for change
So many people say, I loved the job, I just couldn’t work in that culture anymore. A culture that encourages you to work beyond your contracted hours, where nothing is ever good enough is not a culture that allows you to thrive.
The problem is, feeling devalued is probably systemic. A culture pervades an entire organisation. It can seep into every facet of working life and can harbour bullying and harassment. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t change. It also doesn’t mean the change needs to start at the top. You are not responsible for the endemic culture problem in your organisation, but you have a voice and you can shape the space around you. Here are some ways how.
Know your worth
First and foremost, figure out what life means to you and what it is that you value. Is it doing a good job? Spending time with family? Getting out in nature? Heading to the pub with friends? Interrogate these activities and ask yourself, what is it that I get? A sense of connection, belonging, community, self-worth, adventure? Then, understand that these things are equal in value to your work. If you said you would leave the office on time to meet a friend, leave the office. Know your worth.
Share your values
If you have figured out what is important, share it with your colleagues. Try to find ways to bring your values into the office. Most companies have a set of values. How do these values align with your own? What tangible ways can you bring these to life in your department? This could be as simple as asking a colleague to collaborate, or taking 5 minutes out to chat to someone about their weekend.
Encourage an exchange of values. Understand the parameters in which your colleagues work. Talk about the work culture and how they feel about it. Be open about the fact that the system doesn’t work. Share your ideas and ask for theirs.
Ask for what you need
Don’t be afraid to tell your manager that you cannot achieve what is being asked of you with the resources you have in the time you have been given. If you can see the solution, give that to them too. What would facilitate you doing your job? Is the issue with resources? Are you being asked to do tasks outside of your job description? Give them the problem and the solution.
Do the maths
In many ways, it’s easier to suffer in silence than to take a stand. Culture is a powerful beast. Everybody likes to fit in. If you are concerned about management resenting you for rocking the boat, depersonalise it and simply do the maths:
- Feeling valued as an employee is a huge motivator
- Demotivated employees comprise the performance of your organisation
- A good work-life balance avoids burnout
- Making employees feel valued fosters loyalty
- Finding new staff is expensive
To find out more about how we change culture in the workplace, get in touch.