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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I Need Freedom at Work

Today's answer comes from Joe.

A Problem:

Bit of a thorny one, this. I like to think of myself as someone who loves and needs freedom, probably because I have an all too precarious sense of my own independence. So perhaps no big surprise that I've chosen to work in a very heirarchichal corporation that, whilst on the one hand expects its staff to be creative and productive, also at some level requires a high degree of unquestioning compliance with (what I experience as) its byzantine and quite disciplinarian attitudes. I struggle to bridge both aspects.

You won't be surprised to hear that this has led me into some considerable conflict with my (female) line mgmt. I should add that I'm a bloke.

The conflict has recently led to me being disciplined by my mgmt, tho' some of the allegations my mgr made against me have been disproven, and indeed led to her own deputy being disciplined herself. In other words, very conflictual, very nasty, very difficult to move on from and to rebuild trusting, respectful relationships. But make no mistake, I want and need to get out of this hole. I also want to keep my job, because there's a great deal that I enjoy about it.

I'm not saying I'm an innocent party in all this, however I'm certainly not the only cause of the problems.

How do you recommend I try and move forward from here?

An Answer:

Most companies I have worked for are like this. When I first started to work for firms with restrictive attitudes I tried to fight back, but found that there was no sympathy or support from other employees, including other new ones. The first time I ended up quitting and going to a different job, but found that my new place of employment was basically no different than my old one. Many companies later I find that to be true of most organizations. For some reason new people do not change corporate attitudes, but are themselves changed to support them.

I don’t know what type of work that you do, but I am sorry to say that you will also probably have to adapt or find a company that is more progressive. Try to ignore what happened in the past and follow the rules now and in the future. If it comes to the point that you cannot handle the corporate culture then it would be best to be silent and find another job, rather than speaking up or acting ‘incorrectly’ and getting the sack. Unless you were really vocal and created too strong an impression with management then this conflict will be soon forgotten, as long as it does not establish a pattern of conflict. Your past transgressions will be forgotten as long as you ‘toe the line’, realize you will be beaten down, and change to be like everybody else.

By Joe.

[There may be more answers to this problem here]

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Blogger Clare said...

I confess it took me a while to post this up on the site, because I don't actually agree with it!

I was planning to write a comprehensive disagreement, but I don't have time, so I'll just say...

I'm very uncomfortable with this idea that people just have to knuckle down and conform.

Firstly, there are ways of challenging authority subtly and gently and without losing your job.

Secondly, corporate atmospheres suffer for everyone keeping quiet and toeing the line. Everybody benefits when people make efforts to inject a bit of individuality.

Thirdly, there's a lot to be said for collective action. If you don't like the way the management behave, you can stand up to them as long as you get your colleagues on side. We're not talking revolution here, this can be very subtle.

Fourthly, you can communicate with people who you have problems with, negotiate, get them on side. There is no need to be confrontational. There's a lot to be said for trying to understand them, and vice versa.

But finally... Joe may be right. Some work environments and cultures are not for everyone. Maybe you genuinely are too much of a free spirit to cope with a conservative office environment. There's a lot to be said for following your dreams. Money isn't everything.

12:06 am  

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