I had hoped to work for this one organization for such a long time, such that when this inexplicable feeling came up to not apply for a position that had come up in the organization and which I qualified for; I applied anyway. I thought this feeling would pass if I gave it time. Maybe I wouldn’t be called for the interview anyway. But I was. And the feeling had not gone away or subsided. If anything, it was even louder. I ignored it and paid more attention to fear I had of a future I had not planned for. I made a decision more out of fear of an uncertain future. FEAR is really False Evidence Appearing Real isn’t it though. I had no proof of how the future would have turned out. I just had false evidence – actually no evidence – of how it would turn out. The interview was my best option – and so I thought.
I went for the interview. It was awkward. I remember going home feeling like that that was the worst interview I’d given and I wouldn’t hire me if I were sitting on the other end of the table. To start off with, none of the members on the interview panel had a qualification or experience in my line of work. This made answering some of the technical work-related questions tricky, but interesting. We managed to understand each other relatively well. The general questions were a lot easier to address. One of them – a common interview question – was for me to describe a challenge I had experienced in past work and what I had done to overcome it. My answer was aligned to my suggestion to work in parallel with another colleague as opposed to working in a hierarchical format. In this way, we would focus on the outcome of the work as opposed to the processes of it which were hindering progress. We would work together at the same level both independently as we made use of each of our talents, but on the same path toward a common goal. The combined effort worked brilliantly as we each harnessed our strengths, serving the organization we were working for toward much better results earlier and ahead of schedule. I thought this was a pretty good answer. But it wasn’t received well.
One of the people on the interview panel, coincidentally the person who was going to be my direct supervisor made the following comment: so this means that when you come here, you are going to take all of our jobs? This confused me greatly. Why would I do that? Each person is hired for their talent; each person, even if working in a team has a separate contract which has its terms and conditions dependent on the agreement between that one person and the organization; each person has their own reasons for applying for that job; and in working as a team – at least in my mind – the purpose of the organization is served more holistically, providing timely service demanded by its customers. Second gut warning. Something was not quite right here. This job would not be a good fit. Still, I ignored the feeling.
After a few days, the Human Resources department called me because they couldn’t get hold of one of my referees who was out of reach at that moment. This was of course a good sign that they had considered me – that was great. Despite having done poorly in the interview, they were still considering me. But that feeling propped up again. My interview was not so great but they were still considering me? Third gut warning.
The human resources lady asked that I provide more references ‘otherwise I would lose the job’. That language used was interesting. Gut warning number 4. Here I thought human resources were supposed to be all about people, i.e. better, more inclusive communication? It felt as if I was begging for the job and that I was in their debt? Maybe I came across that way in the interview without realizing it? But she wasn’t in the room?
Theoretically, employment is a contract between 2 entities getting into a mutually beneficial relationship. You hire me for my talent; I provide that to the best of my ability and in line with the role that you need covered; the customers are satisfied and pay you; you pay me. Win win situation.
I gave her another referee anyway, wondered how such a highly acclaimed organization would act like that – and twice within short space of time and from 2 people from different departments, different age groups and gender (this is the researcher in me evaluating scenarios as I try and make sense of everything).
A couple of days later, I got offered the job and was told to come in and sign the contract before the organization closed for yearly business in the next 2 days. There was no – Good afternoon, you have made it to the 2nd round of interviews, would you be able to come on such and such a day? Or good afternoon, we would like to offer you the job. What salary were you looking at receiving? What benefits would you like? Nope. Just a come in and sign the contract. Needless to say? Gut warning number 5. I ignored it. Where communication is very important to me – how was I ignoring my gut instinct to not take this job.
Fast forward to the 1st day of work. My boss – the one from the interview? He didn’t know I had signed a contract and would be starting work on this day. I was shown to what was to be my office, and was sharing with another person from another department to the one I was working in. There was no desk or chair for me, so I found a chair and sat at the end of his desk to start familiarizing myself with the work that I would be engaged in. No worries I thought. I’m sure they are arranging a desk and chair for me. It is just after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays anyway, so the organization is still arranging its year. That was my justification to ignoring Gut warning number 6.
The guy whose desk I was sitting on didn’t like me sharing his desk – rightfully so. He made a snarky joke about it. That made me uncomfortable. This was my 2nd day at work. I went to look for the procurement department to ask for a desk and chair. Thankfully I got a desk and chair the next day. I was told though that we would have to change the office because a fellow from out of the country was to use that office. We came in everyday for about 2 weeks thinking that the move was going to happen that day. After the 2 weeks, we were then moved to one of the smaller boardrooms (in transition) to where our permanent office was going to be located. We spent a couple of days there, then were moved into what was now our office – a separate floor to my department, where constant interaction was important for the progression of our work. Gut warning number 7. No worries, I thought – I can gain some much-needed exercise walking to and from my department several times a day I suppose.
Our new and permanent office was right next door to the boardroom, boarded by hardboard which meant when there was a meeting my office mate and I had to literally whisper if we needed to exchange to talk. Other interesting things that I saw happened and which changed my whole philosophy around offices included our office being used as a tea and lunch room from time to time especially when there were outside visitors. In those times, we had to move offices and literally hang somewhere else. The one time, I went out to work for the morning at one of our external branches. I came back to find my chair gone, the next time it was both the chair and the table. If this was the culture of the organization, I really had no problem with it. Call it hot seating if you may – but this was only happening to us – as far as I could tell. Everyone’s offices were left intact. Gut warning number 8? Constant movement from the day I arrived was also getting in the way of work, as the bulk of my work at that point was manually analyzing large amounts of data and this needed concentrated and quiet chunks of time during the day. As an introvert, not having or finding a space to recharge, refocus and realign information I received through my senses was exhausting. But I kept at it. I told myself I would stay for the probationary period of 3 months because I was on probation for the company and the company was on my own probation list. We had to give each other a chance, right? I could compromise a chair here and there and a desk here and there? But 3 months came, I stayed – I had no other plan; 6 months came, I stayed – with a plan to leave but I wasn’t confident in my plan as yet, 9 months came, I stayed – but this time with a plan not to renew after 12 months.
At the signing of the contract I had also been told that I would get a chance to renegotiate the salary that I had not been too happy with. I had no problem waiting for 3 months, so I dutifully did so. I respected that it would be fair for me to prove my value first. I made sure I was honoring my contract and some more, I made sure I was on time each and every day, dressed professionally, communicating with everyone keeping them in the loop of all the work I was doing, making sure I was literally ticking off all the duties that were required of my contract each week – that’s just me. I am a super organized person. This also helped me figure out if I were to stay after the probation period. To be honest, it just wasn’t a good fit but I was desperate to make it work – perhaps subconsciously to prove my gut wrong. So, I worked three-fold what the job actually required of me. It still wasn’t enough. My gut knew whatever excuses I was giving myself were just a cover up.
When it got to a time I could negotiate my salary – I approached my supervisor with examples of my work and examples of what next I could achieve and a request for more work as I still felt I could do more. With that, I also asked for a salary increase through a higher pay grade. My delightful supervisor’s first comments were:
But you are single and don’t have any children, why do you need all that money for?
Gut warning number? I have lost count. I was yet again so confused. Say what? How do you say that? Why? Surely, we have gone past this stage – the stage of at least saying it out loud within a professional space. Here I thought I had been hired for my brains, experience and value I could bring to the organization? This is a highly acclaimed organization, so surely rules and regulation around these things are aligned within an international framework of gender – no talent equality as far as is possible regardless of which country the organization is based? Or am I just naïve to these subtle – and in this case – blatant humiliation and gender discrimination. Needless to say, I didn’t get the salary adjustment. But guess what – I stayed. The story goes on… At some stage, I thought that I was maybe taking my cues from the wrong people in the organization, so I made it a point to find those who seemed to be getting on well, and doing well in their careers. This should make things different, right? I would see things from a different perspective? Perhaps I was still trying to prove my gut wrong.
The other ‘progressed’ people that I turned to? Turns out, it was just an exterior artwork they had developed to get to where they wanted to be. I engaged one about the different positions that were coming up and seeking advice on which ones would be ideal for a person with my talents. I had more to give to the organization and also the time to do so. I was already providing beyond what my contract was asking for and felt great and exhilarated doing so as I liked to keep busy. His comment?
Some jobs are not meant for married women……aaaaarghhhhh
BIG HUGE GUT WARNING!!! Guess what? I ignored it. I turned to a woman ‘leader’. She listened intently to my will to do more and be of value to the organization and to package the extra work I had decided to do to help the organization’s cause into my contract to justify my grade upgrade and therefore salary. She didn’t do anything. She didn’t get back to me. She was always busy. Each time I bumped into her, she would acknowledge that she knew she was to get back to me – and she never did. Then I thought I’d speak directly to the head of the organization. I had made a point to go and introduce myself personally when I first started working there. None of my emails were responded to. Gut warning number? But I stayed, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months…then I really had to leave. The leaving part – another story. What I learnt? Trying to prove my gut wrong never works out in the long run.
I struggled to get out of my door each morning for a year; I felt a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach each time I was getting dressed to go to work; I had to turn to motivational talks each and every day (not such a bad thing) but not when it is to go to a place that you know is not okay and not to go to a place that your gut clearly shows you that it is not the right fit for your life vision, and especially not okay if you don’t have a plan to move on after a designated period of time, and to know your why.
Think of a situation you are in right now that is not okay. A situation at work, school, home, church and relationship. What warning signs is your gut giving you? Have you learnt to listen to those cues that instinctively tell you when situations you continue to expose yourself to are not okay? Why are you staying? Are your reasons really just excuses? Is it because you don’t have a plan for your life and so you just follow what others say you should do? And you’re just falling into whichever bucket that is available?
Without a plan, without a vision, mission and values – you’re surely going to be blown here and there, tolerating other people’s poor behaviors toward and against you. Believing that you don’t have a plan, hooking onto False Evidence Appearing Real; fear of the future that you have not planned for. Are you living to serve other people’s dreams and not your own?
Know that in all of this, when other people make decisions for you…the decisions made are really hardly ever about you. Think about it. The decisions are more to serve them.
You need help planning your life, figuring out what you vision is and or how to map out your mission around your values – I’m here to help. Let’s get with it. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
A great book that I just finished reading and which is heling me only accept those things that are aligned with my vision and path toward that: The Power of a Positive No; How to say No and still get to yes by William Ury