Let’s face it - it is scary how bad some workplace experiences can be. The Wells Fargo scandal in the
news lately has reminded me of what it can feel like to work in a culture where you feel pressured to do things that are uncomfortable - or even illegal in their case. I don’t want to give away too much, but in honor of Halloween, I thought I would share one of my own personal workplace horror stories. Gather round the campfire while I tell you a tale...
In a former company, I shared an office with two other people. One was my manager and the other was an intern. We had an “open door” policy in which we were frequently interrupted throughout the day by coworkers and clients. Usually, it was a fun and casual place to be. But, I will never forget one experience I had there. Here I am, sitting at my desk, answering emails when I hear the door to our office slam behind me. I freeze. I hear the sound of angry footsteps and swivel in my chair just in time to see my coworker, we’ll call him “Bill,” aggressively point his finger across the desk at my supervisor. I think his mouth was actually, literally foaming. Then, he unleashed a verbal assault that I will not repeat here for decency’s sake. It was far from professional, and frankly a bit scary. My supervisor, not one to back down from a fight, responded in kind. The situation erupted into an all-out yelling match. It was not pretty.
However, I think that the scariest part of the scenario occurred later that day when our manager’s supervisor pulled me and my office-mate intern into her office to “debrief” from the incident. She basically gave us both a piece of candy and said, “hope you’re OK.” We were both adults at the time. It was insulting. Our team never got to the bottom of the issue, there was no meaningful discussion around what happened or why or how it could be prevented in the future, there were no consequences, and our work environment just deteriorated from there.
So, what happened that led to this moment of irate eruption? Bill was a part-time employee who was very hit or miss with attendance at meetings. He wasn’t great with reading email so he was frequently left out of the loop. I guess nobody told him on this particular day that our weekly meeting was taking place at a different building than normal. He was angry because he sat in traffic only to arrive at an empty meeting room. It wasn’t this one incident that led to the outburst, it was a pattern of lack of communication, and frankly a lack of participation on his part, that finally led to a breaking point. This is just one of many examples of the tension that can come from an unhealthy work culture. And, it explains why I left that job after only one year. While there were lots of contributing factors, for me, it was my manager that made all the difference between staying in this job and looking for another. If she had handled things differently in that moment, I may have never left.
If you manage a team, learn from this and other experiences so you can avoid making mistakes that drive your best players to look for other opportunities. The following list is from Inc.com and Monster.com in addition to my own experience.
Terrifying Management Mistakes
- Not setting clear goals and expectations
- Failing to communicate clearly
- Not making time for each person on the team
- Going for the quick fix over the lasting solution
- Sticking with the status quo
- Taking yourself too seriously
- Failing to mentor your team and help them grow
- Not listening
- Lacking professional boundaries
- Not growing yourself as a leader
- Not giving or receiving feedback
Now, go out there and encourage your team, foster a culture of transparency and accountability, and enjoy some Halloween candy while you're at it!
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