Navigating the workplace

A friend of mine called me late at night last friday evening. I was initially pretty startled by her call as I wasn’t expecting it, and I was getting ready to sleep.

I answered the call. And oh boy, I think it was a good thing I did.

She was sobbing at the other end of the line and sounded really agitated. Apparently, something had gone wrong at work. Very wrong.

By way of background, she had transferred into the new department for about 2-3 months, and she has been struggling to get some of the work done, even though she has been clocking pretty long hours (finishing after 9 or 10 pm daily), mainly because of the lack of direction from her boss to get her tasks completed. According to what I understood from her, her direct boss was rather incapable, but the “big boss” who hired her into the role was the capable one.

After a couple of months, she finally has it and went to confront the big boss about the situation.

And oh boy, things didn’t really turn out the way that she expected. Instead, the big boss chastised her, and told her that her “direct boss” had actually “said good things about her”. In addition, the big boss retorted that her work product wasn’t that good.

Which kind of hit her really badly.

All those late hours, and late nights pulled together to pull the assignment together. Plus with the lack of directives, she had no one to rely on.

To be honest, I don’t really know whether that was a smart move pulled from her end.

On one hand, I think it’s a good thing that she confronted the situation, because of the way that it was heading and that she wasn’t getting the proper directives from her direct superior, hence she seeked “higher up” feedback regarding the situation.

On the other hand, it seemed like a back-stabbing moment to your direct superior to be doing that.

She learnt it the hard way.

And she apologised the next day to both superiors regarding that.

I felt for her and I think she didn’t intend any harm for doing what she did.

However, things sometimes don’t turn out the way we might want. And there might be a lot of hidden agenda.

After all, work politics are one of the hardest and most annoying things to navigate.

For her, it was a lesson learnt.

I am not sure how it is going to pan out for her. But she’s currently still with the organisation.

After all, not everyone forgets and moves on. There will be occasions where some nasty memories still linger.

But at the end of the day, it is just a job.

And for us to get so emotionally vested and caught up with that, is it really worth it?

Perhaps it might be for some.

But do you really need to do that to yourself?

I recalled my own situation when I had cried over work.

I have been in the workplace for a decade and there were two occasions where I had sobbed at work. The first occasion was when I was at my first job, when I didn’t perform well and got chastised by my manager. The truth of the matter was, I indeed didn’t perform well. Not looking for excuses for myself, but I thought that I was in the wrong industry. Having said that, I do not deny that I had very little interest in the product and service that the company was providing because it was a totally new industry that I was not known to (how I got into this job perhaps deserves a separate blog post).

The second occasion was a couple of years later, when I was in a different job (different industry this time). I had just joined the organisation (totally new industry and role for me), my direct manager was based in Seattle (imagine the time difference!) so I didn’t have a mentor locally. I had to figure out a lot of things for myself. I got chastised really badly by a consultant at work (even though she was just a junior), but it was so freaking loud and embarrassing that the entire office could hear it. After the incident, I walked out of the office, ran into the ladies and cry. The other colleagues heard about it and one of the senior managers consoled me. In fact, he even called the boss of that consultant told him that “Kate shouldn’t be treated like that”. For some reason, this situation escalated to even my “big boss” in Boston, and he was furious to hear that a member of his team was treated in this manner. The office manager even came to me and asked me if I would like an apology for that. I told her then “If she doesn’t mean it, there’s no point in having an apology. It will just be for formality purposes”.

On hindsight, the points that the consultant had chastised me for were valid points for making the work product a better one, and I do appreciate the feedback. However, the way that it was delivered was rather appalling to describe.

Well those were the days. Those two incidents happened way back then, when I was much younger, and navigating my career.

As I am older now, more experienced, and wiser, I would like to think that I will be able to handle such situations better, compared to the “little girl” who was sobbing in the ladies 7-8 years ago.

There are a lot of nasty stuff to deal at the workplace, other than the day to day complexities and numerous tasks that we need to deal with. Add in the human element and it’s so much more complicated. And there’s also the workplace politics….

It is not an easy situation to navigate. And for everyone, each of our circumstance is different.

But looking  back now, I wished I had been a bit wiser. Did I deserve to go through all that? Did I need to take it so hard?

Did I really need to cry over that?

At the end of the day, it’s just a job.

That pays the bills….

My mum once told me, the reason why my dad chose to retire early was also because he had a nasty boss at work that made life miserable for him.

I can imagine how that must have felt.

Bosses will always hold a certain level of authority over us. And I tend to think that it is also up to luck whether you get a good boss or nasty boss. Well, managing our bosses is also an important skill to learn.

To quote a line from Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

How true indeed.

And that is what I think separates a good boss from a bad boss. The self-realisation of that fact, and what you do to action on it.

4 thoughts on “Navigating the workplace

    • Haha theoretically that is seemed to be the case but technically not necessarily so. Well I guess if we want an easier life for ourselves, no harm taking that stance.


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