Readers Rise Up! Share your resolution (or some thoughtful musings) on this all-too-common workplace scenario.
My friend Sam (an alias) recently shared his workday routine. Sam was resigned to things at work being depressing. He expressed no hope for future change.
Upon entering headquarters, Sam trudges past familiar and dreary corridors lined with posted regulations, engineering diagrams and historical snapshots of departmental meetings. He calmly passes through a mandatory security check where every morning security guards search for suspicious items. A green light signals. Sam exhales a barely audible breath of relief. He continues toward his office cubicle, while co-workers stare blankly – as they do day after day – at computer screens filled with rows of unanswered emails. Co-workers mumble quick and obligatory “Good Mornings” to Sam, in hopes he won’t distract them from their computer-induced zone-outs.
After several hours of desk time, Sam seeks out a friendly cohort for conversation. He heads to the coffee room where a group of colleagues engage in discussion of the latest front-page political brouhaha. One of the members, Joe, stands in the center of the group. Joe is famous for quirky one-liners. Joe imagines his comments to be as stylistic and punchy as the one-liners he’s heard on National Public Radio. The team soon-enough disbands and heads to the next meeting.
At the meeting a robust discussion of current engineering projects starts to brew. Sam’s team is looking at data generated by each project and is determining whether or not a project moves forward. Supervisor Harriet readily finds a reason to criticize staff in charge. “Oh, he’s such a moron,” or “Why did this idiot think he could get away with this faulty data?” she muses.
The meeting drones on as Harriet maintains her ongoing rants. Staff hold back comment. Why volunteer to be the next victim on her hit list? Harriet is oblivious and interprets no interruption as a sign of respect for her years on the job.
The New Department Head
Exhausted by this negativity, Sam sighs as he spots the new department head.
Turns out Chris is a micro manager and a bully, not to mention aggressive, short-tempered and demeaning. His feeble attempts at humor feel forced, uncomfortable and can be borderline discriminatory. Because his demeanor is unpredictable, it’s not easy to know when he’s joking. Staff avoid him when possible. Things seemed better at work when Chris’ predecessor was around.
Day after day, month after month the routine is the same. Today Sam find himself contemplating what is missing at work. He recognizes the following factors:
- The only person with a sense of humor is Joe. Most of the time it’s hard to know if his jokes are truly funny.
- Harriet loves attention and will get it at the expense of others. She doesn’t see how her harmful ways are destructive. Because of her selfish demeanor, staff prefer to laugh at her not with her.
- Chris’ disposition builds an air of tension at the office.
- Sam is showing signs of job stress such as anxiety, loss of interest in work, fatigue and stomach problems.
Despite this sobering realization, Sam doesn’t see a way out. What needs to change?
Let’s brainstorm together!
- Do you have advice to offer to Sam and his colleagues to improve conditions and promote well-being at work?
- Should Sam change jobs? Is he part of the problem?
- Is the entire organization fated to languish in a negative No Joy Today zone?
- What do you propose to remedy a workplace grown stale and out-of-touch with the aspirations of its workers? Is there hope, or is No Way Out fated to be the headline of Sam’s story?