REAL EXPERIENCE: True interactions in a professional environment
Unfair at the Office
This piece has been written from the real experience of an individual who encountered a whole other side of the business they had known for years right after receiving a promotion.
The news came one day that in an attempt to grow our business size and service offering, the company would be undergoing an internal restructure. This, delightfully, included a promotion that would see me in-line with many heads of the business. Full of ambition, I gratefully accepted and was truly eager to see what this new opportunity would bring.
As it turns out, it brought something very unexpected.
Being part of an industry that championed women in the workplace and pushed for increased female presence in senior roles, I envisaged a very different welcome to my new position than what I received. Though my daily tasks and responsibilities stayed mostly the same, I found myself quickly questioned by senior leaders about the level of experience and qualifications I had. Strange, as not only was I fairly established in the business as an individual that had been around for years, but I also had a young family and certainly took my career seriously.
Interestingly, I soon found colleagues adopting the same attitude. From older men who had daughters of their own, to fellow women I once conversed happily with, I found myself in a world of complete scrutiny. My days started filling up with meetings where I was often criticized for the poor performance of either their department or the business as a whole. I remember distinctly being told by a much older director that I had 'no vision or strategy' and was asked if my job was 'really something I wanted to do' in a very condescending tone. In one meeting a department head reclined in his chair as he allowed a junior member of his team to tell me that everything I had set up in their department was 'sh*t' and that if I wanted to resign they 'wouldn’t think less of me'. If I ever tried to question or explain anything I was unanimously met with the same response, that it was 'not their job and not their responsibility'.
None of it made any sense.
Complaints that I was 'too young' and 'not qualified' to do my job swarmed from the same people who attended industry events promoting equality and shared LinkedIn articles empowering women in the workplace. At least once a week I found myself disproving false claims to my direct report by searching email trails and showing completed tasks. Overtime, we both reluctantly began to accept what this was really about.
As much as I wanted to pretend nothing had changed, it had, and it was starting to wear thin.
Unprofessional behavior takes its toll, but nothing stings quite as much as when you realise actual people who will smile at you in the hallway are purposely targeting you. I seriously considered resigning, but also didn’t want to let anyone feel they had succeeded. I instead decided to push through and prove that I deserved to be there.
The behavior, however, did not go unnoticed. As I continued to achieve successes for the business, the misconduct of a select few were eventually brought into the light. Those who could find other employment left the company whilst others stayed on, but regardless of the improvements that were being made, I had been exposed to a whole new side of business that had left its mark.
Although I had pushed through, I soon felt it was at a cost that seemed irreversible. I had become more cynical and inattentive to issues within the office, and found little motivation to drive improvements. I suppose my faith in the goodwill of others had been lost.
So I resigned. And the result was invaluable.
Having the ability to take some personal time, exercise, holiday with my family and consider my options really helped me to reset my emotions and get back the motivated, ambitious person I was before. It is clear that I spent too much time worrying that people would think I was weak and didn’t have the strength to survive in business if I left, but the reality is, I was being weak by continuing to put myself under that treatment day after day. Being able to walk away and move on is where the strength is, and I am just sorry I didn’t learn it any earlier.
I know now where I want my career to go, and am ready to take the next steps. The lessons I have learnt from my experiences have prepared me for any obstacles that come my way, and I also have the advantage of knowing to prioritise myself and my family over whatever working conditions I find myself in.