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What’s Happening?

Man looking depressed while sitting alone with his head in his hand on his living room sofa at home

Your mind is what’s happening. And then there’s the rest of your life.

I bumped into a friend of mine who I’ve known a long time. I see him at a coffee shop I frequently stop in at. He was telling me that he applied and was accepted for a job in a sales related field. As we were talking, he said that his first week was ok. He works at a kiosk and likes that he’s on his own for the most part. He also likes the autonomy that comes with it. As he was sharing how his first week unfolded, he started to get into this fear aspect of working – it went something like this;

“Well, you know when I’m not serving a customer I sit down. I get tired standing all the time. I don’t know if anyone from the company is watching. Maybe I’ll get into trouble. I just can’t stand the entire time.” This was just one example of worry that he was processing with me based on how he was feeling. I immediately felt sadness. I thought how could we STILL be in a mindset where we need to actually think about whether or not we can sit or stand at work in fear that one will get in trouble for it? There are lots of examples of this thinking in the workplace. Whether perceived or not, it’s real to him. And we wonder why depression, burn-out, stress-related issues and emotional well-being are at an all-time high.

The question is, what experiences did he have in the past and/or is experiencing with this new work that had him worrying? This kind of worrying doesn’t just magically rear its head if there hadn’t been a past story attached to it. And yet, either way, this way of thinking is unhealthy.  And, either way, as a welcoming and onboarding experience with a new employee it should be set-up for a warm and trustworthy exchange so that my friend didn’t have these preconceived thoughts of worry. Something or someone didn’t reassure him that he was a trusted human being doing what he was brought on to do. It should never be implied that we know how things work within a new environment. They’re all different. Whether you’re aware of it or not, we all bring our own biases to a new environment until we learn for ourselves how things work, and how supportive the culture.

No question, we have certainly evolved from the 1920’s working environment, but not enough where we still, in many (many) cases, punch in, time out, timed breaks, timed lunch, timed schedules, report for the sake of reporting, meetings for the sake of checking-in, managing for the sake of managing, and worry about standing or sitting. In fact, I’m convinced that we do more reporting than we do what we’re hired to do. Of course, this has nothing to do with trusting the people that you hire (said sarcastically). I’m also not naive in the fact that process, function, and work vary dramatically based on the kind of work involved.

What I do know is that unless leadership has evolved – really evolved, there are trust issues. There always have been. Take a look at some of the ridiculous company rules that have been created. I’m positive you’ll find at least one where you’re thinking, “Huh, what are we 5 years old?” Don’t get me started on the language still being used within a company – they still say; “probationary period.” How incredibly depressing when you accept work that excites you and the first documents you receive are mostly warnings, apart from “Congratulations.”

Funny enough, it doesn’t start there. Read job postings. Read the language. Depressing. It feels as if they really don’t want you to apply. Job hiring spike? Sure, but who’s getting the work?

Granted, and thankfully, I’ve seen more start-up companies creating upbeat and welcoming job postings. Happily, I see that small steps are being made to re-work the hiring process. Although, for the most part it hasn’t changed in decades.

So, as my friend still worries about standing or sitting while working, it had to have aged him a few years that week worrying and stressing over what his employer would say if they ‘found out.’ Ugh. Sadly, this comes down to fear. Fear in the language he uses, and what he’s telling himself. Staying in this mindset will not serve him well. His thinking holds him down.

I’ll say it now, if you’re leading your life in fear, then you’ll be struggling. The way to get past the fear is to shift your mindset. When situations present themselves, then have the tough conversations. Until then, you’re worrying for worrying sake.

I suggested to my friend that he reframe the conversation that he’s having with himself and think more wonderfully about how pleased he should be with the sales he made his first week of work, which he did. Or how friendly he was and what a great reflection that is of the company he represents.

Trust me, if an employer’s first piece of feedback to you is to comment on you’re sitting or standing habits, LEAVE. That would not be a healthy work environment nor positive culture to grow into.  

Can you imagine worrying about this kind of stuff? Yes, of course you can. It happens daily. You worry about booking personal appointments within worktime. Picking up your kids from school. Leaving early when needed. Isn’t it and wouldn’t it be refreshing to set your own schedule and work towards accomplishing what you need to do rather than having to work within a set period? I happily see more and more companies providing flexible and hybrid and/or remote environments and yet for the most part, certainly not entirely, this fast tracked due to a PANDEMIC. THIS is how hard it is for us to make changes. It took a catastrophe for change to take place. And, like anything else, it served some very well, and others horribly. Some companies flourished, others boarded up and shut down.

Having said this – observe and recognize where you are exactly on your life’s journey and whether you worry daily about ‘sitting or standing.’ If you do, make changes. Because, quite frankly, that sucks.