I feel like in my career of over 30 years in healthcare it deserves a relationship status of “it’s complicated.” I’m sure this feeling is not limited to just working in healthcare either but rather is something a lot of people could laugh in agreement about with their own job situation. Given the amount of job changes that are necessary in today’s corporate environment to simply navigating the political landscape of your department it is not easy having a job. The it’s complicated condition comes from a place of not knowing day-to-day how I feel about any of this anymore or if I should feel it at all. It is something so important to my very livelihood and yet it often leaves me feeling less than secure, confident and even empowered to live my best life some days. It is complicated.
Somewhere between the eloquently written company values that attracted me to the companies I have worked for and the day-to-day grind of work in my roles I have found a disconnection. I have never figured out if that gap is intentional but tend to believe it is something tolerated and people do their best to ignore. Inside that gap though is where most of us have to work every day. It is a large space beneath the streets where things actually get done in a company. It is here that we find the allowance for personal agendas, egos and unhealthy competition threaten sneak in and sabotage the focus. Above on the surface, we’re all about doing what is right, delivering value and thriving together but underneath there is a seedy underbelly to it all. It is worse in some places than others certainly but if you think this doesn’t exist in your company, you must be only reading the employee surveys for information about what happens.
We can all usually point to the person or area in our company or department where the gateway to this gap exists. While we all know it and can usually describe it in fine detail, nothing usually happens about it. Poor leadership and management is tolerated and even promoted, abusive and toxic environments allowed to exist and subjectivity for performance applied. It is a matter of who you know and who you can leverage to get what you need done for your own needs in work or your next career move. Saying anything about how any of this works and drawing attention to it, trying to change it or standing up against it means you are not being a team player. It is the unspoken rule of the gap work style.
Things can turn quickly too if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a position where it is of advantage for someone else. You can easily find yourself ousted and put in a position where you are either outside the real circle of gap movers and shakers or at worse extreme conveniently needing to find a new job. It is just how things are done and if profits are up or leadership reports look good, then there is no reason to change what is making everyone actually quite miserable about working there. Even if the numbers are not good, if it is something that has actually persisted then the likelihood of changing it are slim.
These conditions are inherent in every company. It is a condition of title, structure, hierarchy and standard setup of a company that creates these problems we then have to navigate to be successful in our job. We all have to pay the price to play in these situations, some more than others depending on your job. You certainly spend a lot more time in this gap the higher in management you go too. Sometimes we can become quite adept at it and other times it’s a pit of snakes we’re trying to not get bit from. Going to our jobs is actually much like the imaginary game of Jumanji where we’re just trying to survive and not lose all our lives in the game so we can keep our retirement, benefits and paychecks coming. Over time we detach emotionally even just to stick with it maybe until we find another job or with hopes something will get better where we are.
If it were only a matter of knowing how to do our jobs well then maybe they wouldn’t be so complicated. Most of us would say we know the functions of our job well. We can do the tasks that are in our job descriptions and complete the things we are assigned on time. It is where doing our job intersects with one of these complicated areas or people in the gap that we have to be not only savvy but street smart too. This tight rope walk that is in every job is where the problems come from most of the time too. Someone will not like how we handled something or thinks we should have done something else. Our manager will be upset we didn’t involve them for something or someone will say they were left out of it. The scenarios are endless for how things can blow up quickly.
Where I find this situation the most complicated is when I am thinking I am doing well at just doing my job. I’m getting things done, results are positive and my customers are happy. Yet in the gap people are not loving it. The fanfare is not being shined on them or it is making them look bad for not also rising to the occasion. It may also be calling out something that was not working well but people were liking it and here I am making it all look bad. This is also where things can get complicated because others, including leaders, will start to look for mistakes, errors, should have done somethings and more to not make your star shine so bright for long. Not to make it sound like a scene from a villainy movie but that is in fact how it feels at times in some corporate environments.
The truth is there is no such thing as a simple job. The reason jobs are filled with bullets of requirements for tons of experience and questions about how you work with difficult people are asked in interviews is because it is complicated. People play a lot of games at work for personal gain, pleasure and entertainment. We are supposed to have thick skin through it all and if we survive it maybe we’ll be considered for that next big promotion. As if promoting us deeper into this underbelly is a prize for the rite of passage in aligning to the toxicity and abuse we have endured to that point. If you thought it gets better at that point, I can assure you when I reached the senior leadership level the games only got more severe and environment more toxic because there’s more at stake.
Keeping your head about you at all times is essential at work. Taking the lessons of experience and using them to navigate the latest situation at work is what will help you the most in surviving it, hopefully. When that doesn’t work there is always updating your resume to find another job and starting over somewhere else. It is what most of us end up doing.
The real question is why? Why do we become complacent with job status of it is complicated?
The obvious answer is to support our families but underneath that most of us cannot say it is for personal passion of the job. Given the choice to work our job every day or win the lottery and walk away from it most of us would say lottery. We do our jobs out of necessity not enjoyment. We even get to the point where we do what we need to get by and avoid as much of the political gap as possible to increase our odds of survival. The idea of moving up in a company becomes faint memories of our younger days when we were naïve about this sort of thing existing and honestly thought it was possible. Now we just want to survive, earn our pay and build up a nest egg to leave it all behind one day.
The complicated situation of our jobs creates stress throughout our life but we try to balance it. When it gets too much we leave for something else. It is what causes most of us to only stay at our jobs 2 to 4 years before it is time to move on. Better opportunities, more chance at advancement or more pay. All noble reasons but we soon realize it’s just a different complicated situation at a different name on the door. We try again to make the best of it and inch closer to the life we actually want with things that make us feel complete.
I was tired and burned out from the it’s complicated status and continual need to just find another job when one started to have those familiar unsettling feelings. I kept going job to job thinking it would get better and perhaps I just needed to find the right company but there is always a gap. There is always that one person or situation that festers even the best of places to work. There is always something that happens to drive us to dusting off that resume under the time for personal growth and change labeling.
I was tired of taking it and I sure was tired of always being the one to start over somewhere else because I happen to not be in the right circle of people or situations. I was tired enough that I took the extreme and started something of my own where there is no gap, no burnout and no political games. I started my own business helping others with my heart of service and work that inspired and lifted me and others up. I started something that lessened the dependency on needing to just survive with a it is complicated situation in my job status.
If you’re tired of the game in the gap and a job status of it’s complicated, then it is time to consider what else is possible for work. I’m not talking of just finding a new job but rather building a path of work that is able to fill your inspiration, creativity and fulfillment of helping others with your heart of service. That space where your ideas hold value and can be materialized into something beautiful through your work. If that is you, let’s connect via chat at dragonspitapothecary.com