Have you found your professional purpose? In this week’s solo episode, Aoife discusses her why and opens up about past work experiences where she came face to face with a toxic work environment and, on the other hand, a lack of workplace fit.
As the well-known saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. Even though Aoife’s past experiences weren’t idyllic, they did steer her to where she is today, helping individuals and organisations seek and obtain happiness at work and avoid workplace dissatisfaction. Throughout the discussion, Aoife weighs up her career management and unpacks her ten-year journey of confidence rebuilding and the valuable lessons she has learned throughout her professional career. Further key points throughout include;
– Career reflections and personal growth
– A passion for category management: Improving marketing and sales
– The realisation of being in a toxic work environment
– A breakdown of communication in the workplace
– Management styles: the costly impact of micromanagement
– The role of HR and the damage of broken promises
– How to deal with job dissatisfaction and pressure at work
– Qualities of an effective manager
– The rising issue of workplace bullying and organisational politics
– The importance of maximising your strengths at work
‘’The thing about toxic work environments is that sometimes they’re just toxic. But sometimes it’s just that it’s not a good fit for you individually.’’ – Aoife O’Brien.
THE LISTENERS SAY:
Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!
Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:
Aoife O’Brien 00:00
Do you know how much imposter syndrome is costing your business? The thing with impostor syndrome is that we don’t know from the outside who is experiencing imposter syndrome at any given time. On a recent study that I carried out, employees describe their experience of imposter syndrome as feeling really anxious and feeling really stressed. Imposter syndrome is known to be linked with burnout because we tend to want to hide our imposter syndrome by overworking. Another symptom of imposter syndrome is that we’re not sharing our ideas, and so our voices don’t get heard at work. And the company that we work for becomes therefore less innovative. Imposter syndrome occurs at all levels within organisations. And it’s especially prevalent when we start a new role or when we start a new company, and it can become really debilitating when you are promoted to a position. If you’d like to know more about the work that I do with organisations when it comes to imposter syndrome to identifying it, to managing it to overcoming it, please check out my website impostersyndrome.ie
You’re listening to the Happier at Work podcast. I’m your host Aoife O’Brien. This is a podcast for leaders who put people first. The podcast covers four broad themes, engagement and belonging, performance and productivity, leadership, equity, and the future of work. Everything to do with the happier at work podcast relates to employee retention, you can find out more at happieratwork.ie
Hello, and welcome to this week’s solo episode of the Happier at Work podcast. And in today’s episode, I’m going to be sharing about my why. So it’s my purpose as I see it today. And the reason for this is, since I’ve started talking about unhappiness at work, I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me to work together. And when I first started my business, I was very much focused on individual one to one coaching. And as time has progressed, I’ve started working more and more with organisations. And because these people have reached out to me and I’ve started working together with individuals, again, I thought it worth sharing a little bit about my own personal journey towards happiness at work. Ultimately, my experiences at work led me to ask the question of what could I have done differently in my career to avoid this situation? But also from the organisation’s perspective? What could they have done differently to support me to retain me in the organisations that I worked in? Let me start by saying I probably didn’t have the most traditional of introductions into work life, I missed the so called milk rounds when I was at university. And I started selling advertising space. And that’s sort of how I got started on my career, until I became really interested in this idea, the concept of category management and how to use data to tell stories to improve marketing and to improve sales. So that’s when I feel like my career really began. But I got along really well at work. I progressed in my career, I was happy, I felt challenged enough. And I worked in companies that really invested in their people and the development of their people. So where did it all go wrong? Or did it started to go wrong? I took on a role in an organisation and I knew some people who worked there. So I presumed that the experience was going to be similar to one that I had had previously in the company where we had worked together. Within a couple of months, I felt I was really up to speed with their software, it was quite easy to get to know, to navigate. And what I found was people were coming to me to ask me questions, even though they had actually been in the organisation for longer. So that surprised me. But I also felt really important, I felt really good. When I started in that organisation, I had five days of client work, which left obviously no time for meetings, it left no time for personal development or or anything like that. Within another couple of months, I realised it was actually quite a toxic organisation, there was a really high level of turnover, there was an attitude of you need to cover your arse, so if you ever did something you needed to have writing to back it up. And so it became very apparent that it wasn’t the best place to be. Now in the interim, I had been told that I was going to be promoted to direct your level and was asked which kind of director I want it to be and this happened on four separate occasions. So I have kind of had written it down in that cya culture. I had all the These notes are written down from those experiences that I had. So I was told on four separate occasions, I was going to be promoted, they were doing a restructure in the organisation. And what actually ended up happening was, I was pulled into a room one day by one of my peers who was also a friend. And he started talking about my clients. And you know, what we were going to do with my clients. And I thought, Oh, this is really strange that he will be talking about my clients, because they’re not his clients. And he said that, oh, I’m your boss now. So you know, that came as a massive shock. So not only was I not getting the promotion that I had been told on four separate occasions that I was going to get, they have promoted someone who was my peer, and my friend to be my manager, and not communicated that to me at all. To put that into a bit more context, this was going to be his first time managing people at all. He turned out to be quite a micromanager. So he was looking through my calendar to decide how much work I had on. And that’s not the system I used for how I manage my workload at all. He used to assume that I didn’t have much on and therefore take work on on my behalf and give it to me and make promises that I had to deliver on, which was, you know, obviously quite frustrating for me, when I took it to the more senior people within the team, or anytime I arranged meetings with people who are more senior, he would inevitably end up at that meeting. But on a I took it kind of a few levels above and I was told this was going back to the horse’s mouth of who had made these promises to me that I was going to be promoted. When I queried it, I was told that he’s actually my supervisor, and he’s not my manager at all, and that I can have his manager as my manager, and that his manager can be my mentor. Now, that turned out to be a lie. And this individual who I queried it with another colleague of mine described him as spineless. And then I could see exactly what was going on there. So things I felt kind of went from bad to worse, I wasn’t getting any support that I needed, I felt like the entire workplace was toxic. And they probably thought that I wouldn’t leave because I was on a sponsorship visa at the time. And what did happen was I did leave. So I just thought I am not staying in this toxic environment. And I left and I travelled for over a year after that. And it really, really knocked my confidence for a long time. And it probably took me a good 10 years to really build that confidence back up after that shock after being, you know, made all of these promises, then it didn’t happen. And just the way I was being treated really unfairly as well. But like I said at the start, it’s put me on the journey I’m on now. And as I was going through that I was doing a lot of research around HR, what could HR have done differently, what could I have done differently to improve my situation, to not enter into that toxic work environment to begin with? So how could I have prevented something like that from happening? And those cogs are kind of still turning in my head. How can I help companies to avoid these types of situations, companies that are good to work in, but also as an individual, how can I avoid going into a situation that is going to be a toxic situation, or that’s not going to suit me. So the thing about toxic work environments as well is that sometimes they’re just toxic. But sometimes it’s just that it’s not a good fit for you individually. And it’s something that, that you need to be a bit more aware of that you need to know what your core values are. And I think for me, this is, you know, put me on this journey of understanding more about our core values that work more about needs satisfaction at work, and also working to our strengths. The second story I wanted to share was a bit more similar to that, that second way of toxic environments. So it’s not that it was toxic. As such, it just didn’t suit me to the best. I wasn’t able to work to the best of my abilities in that organisation. Now, again, putting this into context, I had been traveling for well over a year, and I came back to work. And of course at the time, it wasn’t really spoken about or I didn’t even think the fact that I had been out of work for well over a year. So longer than the average maternity leave. I have been out of work traveling, and it took a while to properly properly get back into it. But in the interview process, they asked me for an additional presentation that I needed to deliver over and above what other people had done because they weren’t quite sure about me. They weren’t sure whether I would fit in there whether I would actually be a good worker, all of these kinds of things. So that was kind of let’s say, that was something that was lasting in my experience of the interview process, sort of the the onboarding and getting to know me, etc. I hadn’t worked in over a year. And when I first joined it, I really, really loved it. I liked the environment, I liked being back working and what happend was, we got to six months, and they decided to extend my probation. Now, having said that had never happened to me before, I didn’t really understand what’s going on. And I certainly didn’t know why they were doing. And I’m looking back and I’m thinking my boss was managing 11 other people at the time, she maybe didn’t have enough time for me to give me the support that I needed, or to really clarify the expectations they had for me, within our team. I, at the same time was coming with all of this experience that I had, with multinational global organisations, having so many ideas that I wanted to share and at one point, I was told, that’s not how we do things around here. So you know, I thought, if I have any more ideas, and I’m not going to necessarily be sharing them, I’m gonna have to keep my mouth shut if I have any more ideas. So what happened then was I got a new manager. And this was in that sort of transition period where I was still on probation, I still wasn’t really clear on what areas I wasn’t really performing. But I managed to build a really great relationship with my new manager, she was just returning from maternity leave. And we ended up getting very, very well and I was promoted twice under her. So that’s just the kind of to put it into context the difference of a really good supportive manager who believes in you. And someone, I really had to fight a lot for, to get her to understand me to get her to, to know how I’d like to work going through that to really, really support me, because in the handover period, it was very clear that I know that I wasn’t performing and all of this kind of stuff. And, again, not entirely sure why I wasn’t performing, or it wasn’t really explained to me very well. I did end up staying in that organisation for much longer than I had originally thought. I stayed there for four and a half years. And again, putting that into context with the with the other organisation, I stayed there for less than 18 months. And so from the perspective of both, like leaving an organisation in less than 18 months after they had invested quite heavily in me in my development, sponsoring a visa. And then in the second instance, building up relationships over time, and having a great foundation, and then leaving an organisation, in both instances, it cost the organisations a lot of money. And again, back to this idea, this question of how could I have managed my career better? And how could to me the organisation have retained me? Or how could they have created an environment that I wanted to stay in, over that four and a half year period, there definitely were ups and downs. Like I say, it wasn’t that it was a toxic environment as such, but rather that it was something that perhaps didn’t suit me didn’t really get the best out of me. There were definitely politics going on. And I’m starting to understand a little bit more of a politics and politics has been explained to me as that’s how things get done around here. It’s about the relationships that you have, and knowing who you need to connect with in order to get stuff done. In an organisation. There was also bullying at a time, something I haven’t really talked about. And something I would love to talk about a little bit more on the podcast is bullying at work, because I think it happens a lot more than we realise. And I didn’t know who I could turn to I didn’t know who I could talk to. I did tell them in the exit interview. But I didn’t tell them prior to that, exactly what was going on. And I suppose the final push for me in that scenario where I was there for four and a half years, I was offered a place on the leadership team, I was given two options to be on the leadership team doing something that I probably didn’t enjoy that much and wasn’t that great at versus not being on the leadership team. But doing something that really would light me up would really work to my strengths. And so it’s only with the hindsight that we have 2020 vision isn’t as I realised that I probably would have been better not to be on the leadership team but doing something I really enjoyed. But at the time, I didn’t really see the path of how could I progress. Now, to be fair, my boss at the time that I was talking about, you know that I wasn’t really that happy in the role. He was looking for stuff that could have been a global role. He was really supportive and in trying to keep me there. Maybe he took his eye off the ball a little bit in relation to like he didn’t realise that I was that unhappy that I was going to leave. But certainly it taught me a lot about working to our strengths and the importance of really getting to use your strengths on a day to day basis, to feel that you are happy at work. Of course, I can see now how the ego played a huge role in my decision, you know, wanting to be on the leadership team wanting to be perceived by others as having succeeded, having reached that level. So I was really delighted with myself from that perspective. But like I say, it taught me a valuable lesson about using our strengths at work. And I think, you know, the reason for me sharing this today is to put a human behind the voice. And you know, there my experiences at work and my side of the story of what I have experienced at work, but also to maybe a story from today resonates with you, maybe you’re struggling with a career decision, maybe you are not entirely sure of how to create that environment where people want to stay. So for me, I work with both ends of the spectrum. So I help individuals but I also work with organisations in creating that environment that people don’t actually want to leave because I’ve been there and I know what to do, and I’ve done the research. And if you’re feeling brave enough, I’d love to hear your story of work. What’s your work history, what has brought you to where you are today? What have been the trials and tribulations? I’d really love to hear from you, do get involved in the conversation and you can connect with me through the website happieratwork.ie. And I’d love to hear from you there.
That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I am so glad you tuned in today. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, I would love to get your thoughts head on over to social media to get involved in the conversation. If you enjoy the podcast, I would love if you could rate, review it or share it with a friend. If you want to know more about what I do or how I could help your business head on over to happieratwork.ie