Any glimmers of kindness and appreciation given by other non managerial staff was grabbed with gusto to keep me going. No one stood up to look after me through their own fear and I never once received a gift or note for Xmas, birthdays or even my engagement. Even when I did something amazing it was generally dismissed or commented on with almost a well so you should be doing this right.
Resigning just wasn’t an option back then, especially for women who were told to ‘just put up with it’. Eventually I was ‘let go of’ because I reached 20yo and that meant I was eligible for an adult wage. They were not only ass holes but cheapskates too.
Over those 2 years I learnt a lot about engineering, customer service and office procedures. But the biggest lesson I learnt was to never treat junior workers like crap and cause them distress. I vowed never to dish out to other people what I had endured. But of course many others who had similar workplace treatment would go on and become bullies themselves with the attitude of ‘I survived it, so you can too – its all part of starting out’. The main lessons from those years that shaped my ‘Why’ were :
I never want others to be treated like crap so I will treat everyone with the same level of respect – no matter how junior or senior, be they client, supplier or staff
Stand up for others and show your staff and colleagues that you care and appreciate them in lots of little ways
My next job experience
My next job was with a fabulous international adverting organisation and I couldn’t have wished for better managers when I joined. I was shown compassion, given amazing training and skills and most of all, enormous encouragement to become the best sales person I could be.
I had several very smart training and sales managers who always told me how much they believed in me and that I could do it. They all had a gift in treating others as ‘though they already succeeded’. Again many lessons fed into my ‘Why’, the mains ones being :
Training and support makes all the difference and I want others to receive as much training as possible to succeed
I want others to feel the power of encouragement that I received to build their self belief and esteem
Management has a huge responsibility
I share these experiences not just to demonstrate how influential our first few jobs can be in our career and life journey, but also as an impassioned wakeup call and plea to leaders and managers.
I know of many managers with a mindset of ‘well I was being treated like that as a junior or when I started out and survived, so will you’. Or they some have just blindly repeated the models of behaviour they witnessed without thought or understanding. And of course there are managers who want to inflict pain onto others to make up for the way they were treated (that’s another subject). But in any case the world has changed.
Workplace bullying and toxic workplaces have reached epidemic proportions with dire financial, social, mental health and productivity implications. Combined with increased family and social issues, community violence and the pressures of social media etc life is particularly difficult for young people to traverse.
We need to be kinder and show greater empathy more than ever before. Often young people who come into their first jobs haven’t had the best start in life for a myriad of reasons. And as a manager if you employed them, you have an opportunity to make a difference.
Leaders and business owners must recognise and accept the huge responsibility they have in developing young people and their futures. It is indeed a privilege to be able to show our young people the way and shape their future values.
Take every opportunity to guide the young people in your commercial care, and in doing so, reflect on the core values and lessons you learned from your first jobs.