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A (Work) Place To Grow

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work in different industries under many diverse managers, bosses, principals, and leaders. Some of these working relationships were more challenging than others, but all of them have helped me grow as an employee, teammate, and working professional. 

In my first year of work, I found myself in a particularly negative work environment. The relationship between me and my boss was strained, I never felt that my ideas were worthy of sharing and I sometimes felt like she didn’t trust me. There seemed to be a disconnect in our professional relationship and I soon came to realize that I resented my job and my work because I just couldn’t seem to get on board. I ultimately decided to leave that position, and luckily, I was able to interview at a new job that was a much better fit. This new opportunity made me feel energized and willing to go above and beyond in my duties. 

As we gain more experience and foster more professional relationships, we begin to learn what leaders and environments are best for our growth and development. Determining what that looks like is more complex than it might initially appear. Some environments are too comfortable, and won’t challenge us in the ways that we need to be challenged. On the other end of the spectrum, we have environments that are just plain hostile or toxic that stunt our growth. Some key indicators or signs of these kinds of environments include things like:

  • Inconsistent rules or policies
  • Micromanaging or excessive oversight
  • Feelings of fear or concern
  • No sense of community or camaraderie
  • Gossip and favoritism 
  • Culture of punishment over recognition

Now, there is a difference between truly unhealthy dynamics and simply having different or competing styles. The truth of the matter is that we won’t get along with every single person that we work with. As individuals, we all have different goals, processes, values, and personalities that can naturally lead to conflict. This kind of conflict is actually healthy and when we can work through these challenging dynamics our working relationships improve. 

If you feel stuck, underappreciated, or frustrated in your role, consider what can be done to fix it. Instead of looking at a difficult relationship as a standstill, consider ways to preserve the workplace relationship while meeting both of your needs. It is important that we are aware of our own style and expectations, while also considering the needs of others and the organization. This assessment helps us to evaluate our working relationships objectively so that we can determine the best course of action. Here are some questions for you to consider to help you reflect on the quality of your working relationships:  

  • What inspires you? What kind of leadership makes you feel the most inspired? Is it someone who can build a strong workplace community? Maybe it is someone who is a good public speaker or someone who demonstrates great trust in his or her employees.
  • What do you appreciate in a leader? Think about a boss who you enjoyed working for and what made it enjoyable. Maybe your boss was exceptional in delegating tasks or communicating thoughtfully. 
  • What can you not work with? Sometimes identifying the qualities that you want to avoid can be helpful in determining your ideal work environment. I know that I struggle to work for people who are very unorganized or are hesitant to hear new ideas. 
  • What do you know about yourself? There are two sides to every working relationship. In what ways do you contribute positively or negatively to your dynamic? This can be a really difficult question to answer, we have to be vulnerable and honest in order to determine the role we play.
  • What will make you better? Consider what ways you may need or want to grow. Then, think about who or what can help make that happen. You may determine that you need a leader who values questions so that you can gain more knowledge, or you want a team that is comfortable giving and receiving feedback so that you can better resolve conflicts.  

In striving to be your best self, it is beneficial to surround yourself with people who naturally help you to do that. If you find yourself working with people who do not make you better, remember that knowing what you don’t want in a workplace is still valuable information. Then, go out with your knowledge, find a better fit, and grow! 

*Leadership Lesson*

Another great reflection tool is considering your Needs and Offers

What do you need from your job or work? Make sure not to confuse the things you need with the things you want. Needs are things we have to have to be successful, the necessities while our wants are wishes are desires that add comfort or value. Determining our needs helps us to identify what is of the utmost importance to us in our work environments.  

What can you offer your role, boss, team, or organization? By exploring our “offers”, we conduct a thorough assessment of ourselves and what we can meaningfully contribute. We may find that what we can actually offer doesn’t align with the requirements, expectations, or culture. Our goal should be to find an environment that engages our strengths and turns our weaknesses into opportunities for growth. 

You can conduct this reflection as an individual or if you lead a team, use this reflection as a way to learn more about your group.

*Meet the Author*

Meghan Harney
4 yrs with Leadership Inspirations

B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies from Chapman University
M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Regis University

My Favorite Quote: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wild 

Quick Facts About Me: 1) My dream job would be an SNL cast member, 2) I love to plan parties and 3) I sing in my car like I’m performing a sold-out show.