Do You Want to be in Work Today?

I’m acclimating myself to a day job that is everything that the last one was not in so many ways, including the social culture. Even though there are several hundred people working out of a couple of buildings (or maybe because of it) there is an effort made to get people interacting on a social level.  Some of this takes place out of the office. There is an official monthly outing that usually involves a pub of some description. There are also unofficial outings such as last month’s poker night and orienteering event (note: these were two different events. No one was traipsing through the woods looking for a royal flush).

There’s also an effort made to bring a social element to the workplace. For example, a new cafeteria opened last month, and the company commemorated the event by supplying pizza for everyone for lunch.  Every Wednesday mornings there is a free continental breakfast laid out at about nine, after which you can enjoy a game of pool or foosball.  I have an e-mail that tells me the ice cream truck is coming by at four today with a free cone for everyone.

I realize this might reinforce the perception that people who work in technology are overgrown children who don’t have “real” jobs. But here’s what I notice: People at this company interact with each other congenially, with respect, and even with affection in many cases – kind of like a family. They enjoy each other’s company, co-operate willingly, make a team effort, have a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of being appreciated. The company hierarchy is respected, but unobtrusive. Sure, there is a lot of pressure to produce, but that pressure offset by all the preceding and more. You don’t have to be a network architect to realize that people who like working together tend to be more productive, which explains why this culture is supported and propagated from the top down.

Contrast this with the last place I worked. There was no effort made at improving the social culture.  No organized interaction except for what might happen between a few people at a grass roots level.  No effort was made to recognize people as anything more than drones.

As you might expect, anyone I knew well enough to have a conversation with (a much smaller group than at my current company) saw their work as being just a job.  No one was particularly happy to be there beyond being grateful for having a steady paycheque.  People were stressed about having to interact with others, which was sometimes merited by the rudeness and condescension that could be part of those interactions.  Any extra effort I witnessed seemed to be thwarted by people being at cross-purposes with each other.  I’m not saying that the lack of social interaction was the sole reason the project my department was working on collapsed and was resumed by a different set of people in a London office, but it was a factor. When the end came nobody really cared, provided they had another job to go to.

Even though we work two floors away from each other, and have little or no business contact during our workday, my supervisor rounded up a few of the other tech writers and trainers and came and got me for lunch the first day at my current job.

On the last day of my previous job, I sat at my desk blogging (see The Gift of Time) like any other day while my overall manager sat at his desk on the other side of a window that was part of my desk partition. If we both stood up at our desks, (and the glass was removed), we were close enough to reach across the partition to shake hands.  Instead, with about an hour left to go, my tech writer colleague and I got a rather generic e-mail from this person to say farewell and thanks for the service. My colleague was deeply offended. I just shrugged – what can you expect?

It’s just common sense to create a company work environment in which people feel valued, comfortable, and confident.  That’s where people do their best work.  We all have a part to play in making our work environment what it is. Some have more control over the environment than others.  In some cases you can convince those people when changes need to be made. In other cases you may need to move on and find a decent environment. They are out there.  Especially considering how much of your life you spend in work, you deserve to be in an environment where you actually want to be.

Just for today, I will be kind to all living things.

Including myself

See a list of Reiki precepts.


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