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The Rules of Sharing at Work

There is an odd comfort that comes from commiserating with our co-workers. We may not otherwise even like these people but on this one thing where we spend the majority of our week each week we can relate to each other. There is a common understanding and appreciation for what we all endure to provide for our families. What we go through to have some semblance of security financially at least in our life. Going to work at some companies does indeed feel like a war zone, complete with high stake political games and maneuvers that make a battle field ripe for the taking. It comes down to figuring out where to position yourself for cover and where you are standing when the chips come down.

I never thought I would get there. The point where you go from eagerly excited young solider willing to do anything it takes for the wins to where you just want to get by. Wiser, older, more experienced and familiar with the games played you realize how much you fell for the lies of it all. The promises of rewards, the ability to reach goals in your life that sometimes you don’t even know how you came to want some of those things. Very few of us grow up wanting to do the jobs we have now and no one intentionally sets out to say they want to work in a dull colored low walled cubicle. It certainly doesn’t sound like the adventure stories of dreams coming true for hard work and yet that is the difference between dreams and reality sometimes. Cubicles, neutral toned colors and noises all around us in the pursuit of winning, achieving, climbing up and succeeding.

Through it all we develop these relationships with people that we take comfort in. There’s the person who is always conveniently at the coffee pot when we are that we pass niceties to in the morning. Sharing a joke about wishing it were Friday already. The neighbors to our cubicle who understand the grind of the current projects we’re working on offering brief moments in the day to share frustration. Other team members we enjoy a happy hour with comparing bosses and who is making the latest power play. These people offer us a place to vent, share and compare in the hopes that we find what we are doing isn’t so bad as they have it. It makes us feel better and gives us that ability to push on bearing the stress, management ineptness and challenges that come across our desk.

It is also in these relationships we often get hurt the worst. Someone uses what we told them in confidence for their own gain. Taking credit for our work. The worst though is when it comes from a point of jealousy or spite because we are seen as getting something they wanted or felt they deserved. Good favor with the boss, special projects, a promotion even. Sometimes even just the better cubicle, if there is such a thing, becomes the scorn we bear from others. Most of the time, these things are irrelevant and meaningless in the big scene of making it in the world but inside the office they are inner workings of some of the most fierce battles fought.

An early mentor of mine told me to always be careful who you talk to in the office. Be mindful of the relationships and alliances you form. Sometimes this can be helped and you think you’re doing the right thing only later to realize they are a bigger game player than you thought. No one is exempt from this he advised when there is anything seen as prized at stake. Money, power and position make people do incredibly hurtful things to others. Even if the gain is minute. Sage advice I wish I had followed more often in my career.

This was always difficult advice to follow because the other side of things is the desire to give people the benefit of the doubt. To think they are inherently good, have integrity and are honest. I pride myself on those characteristics and want to believe others are like that too. Perhaps they are I can hear my mentor saying but all bets are off when something of value is up for grabs. Hard realities of this couldn’t be more true I would learn in my career. People you thought you could trust or go to for help not being there when you actually need them. You find yourself alone, isolated and ousted taking the fall for something that rapidly came together for someone else to take advantage from.

This is why I think most people when they reach the peak of their careers start to count down the days to retirement. It happens to all of us. The passion knocked out of us much like any hopes we ever had of having our careers be legendary or even happy experiences. We just want out but the necessity of work for living and saving still a present need. We become wiser to it all of course and tell ourselves just to roll w