A Vision for the Future of Work

*Reprise: I’m winding down to one new post per week between now and Baby Integrated’s arrival in March 2017. Enjoy this repost!*

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantWe need a new vision for work – a vision that’s more alive and more vibrant than the mechanical environments that most of us are offered in our jobs today.

Many of us still believe in old stories about work, stories that tell us things like: “you need a boss,” “what matters is the bottom line,” or “once you get to the top, you’ll be happy.”

Even if we know those things aren’t true, we still cling to them and strive to fit into stories that don’t serve us. We’re hungry for something else, but we aren’t quite sure what that is.

Our stories are outdated, and that’s causing dissonance for people who want more depth and meaning in their careers.

David Korten, the author of a book called The Great Turning, wrote, “When the stories a society shares are out of tune with its circumstances, they can become self-limiting, even a threat to survival. That is our current situation.”

In case you haven’t heard of the concept of The Great Turning, I’ll share my understanding of it: it’s essentially the idea that humans are at a pivotal crossroads in terms of our consciousness and the actions we take based on what we believe is true in the world. Many people are living and working as though things are fine, the same as always – “There are plenty of natural resources,” “If I just work hard enough I can get ahead,” “Our world is not falling apart,” etc.

But for those of us who are awake to the destruction happening around us – the devastation of our natural environments, the curse of affluenza and consumerism – we have a choice to make. We can either choose to be crippled by fear and continue living like everything’s fine, or we can be a part of the shift: The Great Turning.

We can turn toward community, toward stewardship, toward a new economy based on wholeness instead of emptiness.

The Great Turning absolutely applies to our worklives and the stories we tell ourselves in our careers.

Things like the push for paid parental leave, a new awareness of self-management in the workplace, and a greater desire for work life integration are all signs that people are choosing a new vision of work, which gives me all the feels and makes me so excited.

So what is that vision? What would work look like in a society more interested in caring for ourselves, one another, and our planet than with shareholder profits?

Frederic Laloux, whose work I respect immensely, writes about three components of organizations that are pushing the envelope toward this new vision of work:

  • Self-management
  • Wholeness
  • Evolutionary purpose

These are concepts in his book, Reinventing Organizations.

Here are some ways that self-management might show up in the future of work:

Organizations that have come out of The Great Turning will be living, diverse ecosystems, not the behemoth machines that we have today. These organizations will be made up of peers who have agreed upon a certain mode of functioning and self-enforce the rules and structures that they’ve created. Teams within these organizations will be like fully functional cellular organisms, equipped with what they need to support one another and do high-quality work. Ongoing, in-depth training on group dynamics, vulnerability, and conflict resolution will ensure that these self-managing organizations can focus more on the good work they’re doing than on politics and in-fighting.

What about Laloux’s concept of wholeness? How might that become part of the future of work?

Thanks to the work of Brené Brown and many others, shame and vulnerability have become more acceptable things to talk about, but there’s still not enough room in today’s workplace for us to show up fully human. From where I sit, many of our workplaces are hyper-masculine environments in which you’re expected to have a forceful approach to problems, compete with your peers, and scramble to the top. In any living system, whether it’s our bodies, ecosystems, or the earth itself, we need balance.

Our workplaces need a balanced dose of the feminine. In organizations that move toward and value wholeness, feminine attributes such as intuition, cooperation, and care for the community will be just as important as profit, action, and meeting goals. We need both types of energy, and when in balance, they enable us to be whole ourselves and to create organizations that are spacious enough for integrated adults.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantFinally, I want to talk about Laloux’s concept of evolutionary purpose and add my own twist:

Laloux talks about evolutionary purpose in terms of organizational purpose and the idea that if an organization is a living system, its direction cannot be controlled. In the future of work, perhaps organizations start out with one set of goals, but over time and through the work of their self-managing teams, new goals arise – goals that could even change the entire focus of the company. The idea here is that we will learn to let things arise and move with them instead of sticking to old stories or outdated company mission statements.

I want to add another idea to this concept, though, and that is about interconnectedness. Part of The Great Turning is a change in Western consciousness from individualism to a deeper sense that we are part of something larger. So many people are sick in this culture because they believe that they are separate. They believe that they are alone in this world, disconnected from others, from the earth, from life itself. If you believe that you are separate from everything, it’s much easier to cause harm – to yourself, to others, and to the earth around you.

But we aren’t separate, are we?

I love this quote from the poet Rabindranath Tagore: “The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world.”

In the future of work, I imagine people coming together to create organizations that monitor, act, and celebrate stewardship of their people and their impact on the natural environment. Profits are most definitely a part of that, but in this evolved future, profits are put in their rightful place: alongside – and no more important than – people and the earth.

When we realize that we are connected to everything around us, we can 1) wake up to the pain of what’s going on in ourselves and to the earth, and 2) choose to be a part of The Great Turning.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantIt is possible to have a society full of organizations that contribute to the well-being of the world instead of deplete it.

The future of work can be one that is joyful and colorful and supportive of each of us and the gifts we bring to it. We all have a unique part to play in this pivotal time, and if our bodies and hearts are diminished after each 40-hour workweek, it’s difficult to see what that part is and how to play it.

No matter where you are in the world or what you do for work, I encourage you to believe in this vision if it resonates with you. Shed that old story that tells you that work is about taking and keeping up and defeating others.

Choose to believe in a story that invites you to be bigger and dive deeper.

We need this vision to become real, and I believe that process is already underway. If caring, brave individuals like you can come together and support one another as they make real change in their own worklives and in the lives of others, then this vision will become real much more quickly.

One such community of these kinds of people is the Facebook group I facilitate called A Wild New Work. Click to join us and choose a different path.

“Am I Doing It Right?”

*Reprise: I’m winding down to one new post per week between now and Baby Integrated’s arrival in March 2017. Enjoy this repost!*

I grew up as the oldest of five kids. Our family of seven was…bustling, to say the least.

As the oldest, I thought it was my job to minimize the stress on my parents as much as possible, and so I got very good at being obedient (until my teenage years, anyway – but that’s a post for another day).

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
My mom and one of my sisters sitting sweetly as I look on suspiciously.

I was a pretty mellow kid and didn’t get bored easily, and my siblings were fairly similar. One thing we heard over and over again at church was “you kids are so well-behaved!”

Picture five little blonde kids all in a row in a pew, angelically coloring quietly or singing along to the hymns. We’d smile sweetly as adults would pinch our cheeks or tell us how mature we were in the fellowship hall after the service.

It’s easy – and natural – for kids to pick up on the cues from adults, especially the cues that let them know how they can be “successful” in their environment.

In school, at church, and everywhere in-between, I learned that I would get praise and love if I followed the rules and did things “the right way.”

Color inside the lines. Glue the macaroni in just the right spot on the paper. Write my name in that corner. There was so much to do correctly, and everyone saw what happened to the kids who had trouble with or refused to fall into line – their macaroni art looked like shit.

One question loomed large in my childhood, as it does for many kids, and it was “Am I doing it right?”

This question got lodged deep into my brain, and it’s no wonder that it continues to show up in my adult life. Since it’s in me, it’s easy for me to see it in others, too, and the question permeates so many of my interactions with my clients. They wonder if they’re going about their job search wrong, or if they said the right thing to a co-worker, or if they’re just doing life completely backward.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThey wonder if they’re missing the “right” path, and the fear that they’re getting this all wrong causes them so much stress.

But our journey to create a life that we love isn’t some step by step coloring exercise. There are no lines.

There’s no one right way that you’re supposed to do this. There are a million right ways, and the trick is to find the one that works for you.

Here’s a question I like a lot more than “Am I doing this right?”:

“Does this work for me?”

Does the macaroni face I just made work for me? Does this organization work for me? Does my obsession with money, status, appearance, prestige, etc. work for me?

You are the only one that can answer that question, but if you’re going to break free of the pressure to do more, faster, and by someone else’s standards, you have to.

Does your life right now work for you?

Does your work work for you?

If it doesn’t, that’s okay – it can change. If you’re willing to choose to live according to the things that work for you, it becomes easier to recalibrate and get back on your own perfect flight path.

megan leatherman a wild new workStarting 2/4/17, working women have an opportunity to create space for a worklife that works for them in whatever beautiful way they need it to. I’m offering a three-week online series that will dive into these issues, so if anything in this blog post resonates with you, I’d encourage you to join us.

If you’d like to learn more and sign up, you can click here.

I hope you’ll try to let go of “Am I doing this right?” and embrace “Does this work for me?” instead.

You’ll feel about 1,000,000 pounds lighter and be well on your way to a life that is full of beauty.

What Does it Mean to be Wild at Work?

I use the word “wild” a lot in my worklife. I use the word in many of my offerings to folks, and it’s one way that I want to feel on a daily basis, no matter what I’m doing.

The word “wild” can conjure up all sorts of images, from unruly teenagers to rock stars, which isn’t exactly the point I’m trying to make by using it. To me, “wild” resonates because it’s about something much deeper within us.

Something we may have forgotten about consciously but that never went away.

To be wild is to live in harmony with our true nature.

megan leatherman career coaching human resources consultant wild new work

It’s about instinct, and intuition, and a sense of connectedness that most of us don’t experience on a regular basis.

I often wonder if there’s room for our wild selves at work. In most organizations – and this is even true for entrepreneurs like me – there are layers and layers of unspoken rules about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

From where I sit, I see a bourgeoning desire among professionals to reconnect with the natural world, which of course includes their own internal wildernesses. This is a beautiful thing. It means that more freedom, authenticity, and truth are at hand.

So, what does it mean to be wild at work?

If being wild is about being our true selves, then I see it showing up in four major ways:

First, as a deeper connectedness to our bodies.

Up until two or three years ago, I couldn’t have told you what my body might think about the stress I was in at work. I assumed bodies were for using – my body got me to work, it typed things, and it was a real annoyance every time it needed to eat or sleep. I was separated from my body, which is a real shame given the fact that it was sending me blaring alarm signals that I could have listened to.

Other animals can’t separate from their bodies like we do. Our minds give us the ability, for better or worse, to override what our bodies are telling us about a situation.

To be wild at work means that we partner with our bodies instead of hating them for placing limitations on us. We express gratitude for the fact that we’re here on this earth in this way and honor that by taking good care of the skin we’re in. To be wild at work might mean sleeping more, taking regular breaks every 90 minutes at work, or choosing foods that support the body.

Second, to be wild at work is to be connected to the Earth. 

megan leatherman career coaching human resources consultant wild new workCan you imagine putting a bunch of bears in a climate-controlled office environment with fluorescent lighting on them all day? Let’s say they’re there for months, and even years, day in and day out. How would that change them?

I don’t think anyone would argue that bears should be in that kind of environment all day for years at a time, but a lot of us assume that it’s fine for humans.

The truth is, being in an environment where we’re shut off from Nature is detrimental to us, too.

To be wild at work is to cultivate a connection to the Earth in some way, even if you do have to sit in a poorly lit cubicle 40+ hours/week. Maybe your instinctual nature will be nourished enough by going on hikes over the weekends, or tending to a plant on your desk, or looking at cute animal pictures on your lunch break.

Third, it’s about reconnecting to our intuition.

When I think about having to survive in the wild on my own, I just shrug my shoulders and assume I’d be dead in a matter of days. Martha Beck talks a lot in her book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World about the amazing abilities of modern-day trackers. These are people who track wild animals using skills that most of us in the “real world” have totally lost touch with.

There is so much mystery and truth right underneath our rationale-loving noses, and if we can reconnect with our intuition, it will guide us. We can learn to track our own desires again.

To be wild at work is to know and trust your own internal GPS even though there’s external pressure to be logical and justify your actions. You’ll know when it’s your intuition because it will feel clear and free, as if you just know where to find the water and food you need.

megan leatherman career coaching human resources consultant wild new workFinally, to be wild at work is to be connected to one another.

Before we could all go to the grocery store, rent apartments of our own, and be entertained by little screens, we existed in tribes of around 100 people. We were embedded. The concept of “loneliness” may not have even existed.

Some wild animals are solitary beings, but not us. To be disconnected – at work or in any area of our lives – is physically painful to us. More and more research is demonstrating the harmful health outcomes that come along with living in isolation, and work is one of the most common places where people feel alone.

If we really let our natural, true selves out of the “civilized” prison we’ve constructed around us, we can connect more deeply with one another. At work, this requires us to be authentic and loving – to assume the best in our colleagues even when we feel like they’re getting in our way somehow.

You know what’s the most beautiful part about this concept of being “wild”?

It’s that we’re already there.

We are in bodies, on the earth, with intuition and the ability to connect with each other.

We are wild, despite our civilization and occasional disconnection from ourselves.

All we have to do is reclaim what feels natural to us.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutionsIf this topic feels wild or natural or energizing to you, then you might be interested in a free webinar I’m doing next Wednesday, 1/11/17, at 10am PST.

It’s called How to Work in a Wild New Way, and we’ll be digging deeper into this topic.

Win a Spot in A Wild New Work!

megan leatherman a wild new workI’m offering working women in Portland a new, innovative group experience starting October 29th, and it’s called A Wild New Work.

This group is for women who are ready to make work work for them. 

It’s for women who want to find ways to bring more of themselves into their careers with a supportive community behind them.

We’ll meet for four hours per session and dig deep into issues like intuition, boundaries at work, and work life integration.

If you’re ready to shake things up in your worklife and imagine a better, wilder way of doing things, I’ve got some good news:

I’m giving away a spot in this group for free! 

Spaces normally cost $475, but with one click, you could be joining us gratis!

Here’s all you have to do: just pick a social media outlet (or choose all three and triple your chances to win!) below and “like” the post! That will enter your name into the raffle, and I’ll choose the winner on Wednesday afternoon. Easy peasy!

Click here to view the Facebook post

Click here to view the post on LinkedIn

Click here to view my profile on Instagram

Even If You’re An Evergreen, You’re Changing, Too

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI realized something the other day as my husband and I were driving out to the Mt. Hood National Forest: deciduous trees get all the glory this time of year. 

Their bright, flashy leaves draw us in and announce to us that Autumn has arrived. Feeling their crunch under our feet or throwing them up in the air over us is a joyful experience, and the leaves are kind of the signature of the season.

But what about the quieter changes taking place?

What about all the other trees, the ones that don’t seem to change much throughout the year?

I always thought that evergreen trees like pine or cedar grew up, dropped some cones and maybe a few needles along the way, and were mostly unchanging throughout time. During our weekend trip in this spectacular forest, I wondered if that was actually true. Nothing is unchanging, right? So what happens inside of these seemingly ever-stable trees during the Fall?

It turns out that evergreen trees go through changes of their own each year, but it’s much more subtle and less “out there” than their fiery deciduous cousins.

Evergreen trees shed old needles every few years, and before those needles drop, they turn yellowish brown. This process is totally natural, but a lot of people mistakenly believe that this change means the tree is sick or dying. Some trees only shed needles on the inside of the branches, making their transformation almost invisible unless you look closely.

In my work with people who want to make a shift in their career, there’s a lot of pressure to make big, sweeping changes – changes that are apparent and obvious to others looking in on their lives. And some people do make those changes, very quickly – one day their leaves are all fiery oranges and reds, and I know they’re ready to make the leap.

Others, however, are like the evergreens. They’re much slower to make changes, and sometimes the change taking place is so deep inside of them that it’s difficult to see. For months and months, it can seem like nothing is really shifting, and then one day, they have a branch full of old brown needles that are ready to drop.

We are each our own kind of tree in this transformational season, and we may even be different kinds of trees throughout our lives.

The past few years of my life have been like that of a sugar maple tree, ablaze in the Autumn and undergoing major changes every year. Other times, however, I’ve felt much more evergreen – as if nothing on the surface was changing until one day, it did.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantTrust the natural changes that want to take place in your life, even if you feel like the leaves aren’t dropping quickly enough.

The leaves on any tree change color and drop from the branches without thinking or being made to – they simply respond to the changing environment around them and go when it’s time.

Your leaves are your thought and behavior patterns, the parts of your past that need to be integrated, and aspects of life like your career, relationships, etc. You’ll know when they’re ready to change color and drop off your branches because your intuition will tell you they are.

You’ll have a sense that something needs to change, that you want more from a part of your life, or you’ll hit rock bottom and be forced to look at a tree full of empty branches and ready for new growth.

This process is much simpler and more graceful when we’ve developed a relationship to our intuition and can sense the shift before we’re faced with a crisis and forced to change.

Have you heard about the concept in Chinese medicine and other ancient belief systems that says that sickness begins in the spirit, or the aura, or whatever word fits for you? The idea is that disease is a manifestation of an illness that began long before we could see it in the physical body. If we can develop a strong relationship with what’s happening in our energy systems, we can sense a disturbance and address it before it makes us really sick.

The same is true for our intuition and the changes our souls want us to make. Sometimes life pushes us to the edge with a crisis that forces us to look at some things we wouldn’t see before. Other times, we’re given the opportunity to sense something that’s not yet “real” and make the change without needing to go through crisis.

Try not to hang on to the leaves that want to turn brown and drop to the ground.

Try to trust that your intuition, or your heart, is at work and able to show you what needs to change and when – even if you feel like a Bosnian pine tree that hasn’t dropped needles in five years.

Intuition is one of the most amazing and accessible tools that I focus on in my work with people, and I’ve seen its ability to transform lives and careers.

megan leatherman a wild new workEveryone has intuition, and some of us need help tapping back into its wisdom from time to time. Intuition will be the focus of an entire day in my upcoming group coaching series for women, A Wild New Work. We’ll spend time exploring how intuition manifests for each of us and look at what it might have to say about our worklives and what we’re here on this earth to do.

If you’re a working woman in Portland who has a sense that some needles or leaves need to drop in order for new growth to come in, I hope you’ll consider joining us starting October 29th. You can learn more at this link.

No matter where you are in the world, I hope you’ll make some extra space for your intuition today, whether it’s by journaling, sitting quietly outside, or just holding your heart and taking a deep breath.

Let the seasonal changes of your soul carry you – they will if you let them.

Why Our Work Has to Change

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantA lot of what I’ve been doing lately has been centered around this concept of “a wild new work.” I think that term is appealing to folks because it sounds alive. And hopeful. Many people are hungry for work to be different – for it to be nourishing and adventurous instead of a source of depletion or fear.

For others, it’s easy to throw off this concept as frivolous, or optional – as if only privileged freelancers or white collar workers have the right to dream of something better.

From where I sit, this concept is not optional.

To work in a way that is life-giving is part of the next phase of our human evolution, if we choose to be brave and allow it to unfold. If you believe that the way we treat people in most organizations has no impact on how we treat the earth or the beings we share it with, then I’m sorry, but you are mistaken.

What does it do to a person to go to a stale office building every day to do meaningless work under the hum of fluorescent lights? How does monotony and micro-management change us over time?

According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, we are deeply shaped by the work that we do and the environments in which we do that work. (Check out his 10-minute TED Talk for more on this).

What does that mean for you? When you look around you at your work, does it strike you as an environment that you want to become?

For some of you, I think the immediate reaction would be “No!”

Some of the most troubling aspects of the way many of us work now are:

  • The systemic squashing of our own internal truth and integrity (e.g., our obsession with “experts,” “objectivity,” and productivity above all else)
  • The rampant disconnection: from the earth, from animals, from those we love, and, therefore, from our own humanity

photo-1461709444300-a6217cec3dffWhen we work in places where those things are true, we experience sickness, whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual.

In these environments, we forget who we are, which makes it easy for us to become desensitized to things like the systematic harm done to people of color or the literal pillaging of the earth (#nodapl). We fill our bank accounts or get to tell others about our fancy job, but meanwhile, something is closing off inside of us. As Viktor Frankl wrote, “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”

Because of what it does to us and our communities over time, the tightness and misalignment that’s felt in so many workplaces by so many people is a serious issue. The tightness and misalignment you feel is a serious issue.

Things have to change.

The work we dedicate so much of our lives to should make us – and the world around us – healthier. And there are people who are making that a reality today. Tami Simon, founder of a company called Sounds True, shares her vision of how business can be different:

We have this idea about business–everything we do has to help us make more money, be more productive or whatever. But that’s not my view of business. My view of business is that we are coming together as a community to fill a human need and actualize our lives.

I believe her vision is possible and have seen it happen for myself and others – including people working within organizations. There are always things you can do to nurture your spirit and your humanity, even in the midst of a mechanical workplace. If you feel interested in learning new ways to work and support yourself, I’ve got three ideas:

megan leatherman a wild new workYou can join our Facebook group, A Wild New Work, where we share resources and discuss issues coming up for working people.

You could register for the free webinar I’m offering tomorrow, September 14th at 10:00am. (If it’s after September 14th and you’re itching to view the recording, let me know).

If you’re a working woman in Portland, you could check out the four-week group I’m offering starting October 29th, where we will get very real about all of this and shake things up in our worklives.

If any of those ideas resonate with you, I hope you’ll take a step forward.

Your relationship to work, how you’re treated in your worklife, and how you treat yourself in your worklife are so important, and I hope that, no matter what, you at least give yourself permission to want what’s best for you and your gifts.

Combating Silence in Organizations

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI was really afraid to publish a post called 50 Reasons You Feel Like Shit at Work, and I was fearful in large part because it was so critical of common organizational practices.

For a long time, I was worried about coming across as too negative, too anti-organization, and so I wrote more mild posts in an effort to support readers while also keeping a door open to do work within organizations. I thought that if I played nice enough, I could continue writing while also working to make change inside of companies, even though when I’d tried, it felt totally draining.

We need innovative, forward-thinking people inside of organizations to drive change. Absolutely. For sure. And we also need people on the fringes noticing and giving voice to the things that are harmful and need to stop, which is where I feel more aligned with who I really am.

We need both kinds of people if we’re going to create organizations that allow people to show up as wholly themselves.

There is an unhealthy amount of silence around our organizations and their practices today. I felt afraid to post what I did because it still feels taboo to me to be critical of companies or non-profit groups. And yet, they wield a lot of power, and because of that, need to be held to a higher level of accountability.

Why are so many of us uncomfortable talking about the lack of transparency and humanity in these places?

I think it’s because for many of us, doing so has been labeled “unprofessional,” and we’re afraid of what could happen if we’re critical of the very people who sign our paychecks.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantMany of our ancestors have either been part of a labor movement or were working adults while their peers were trying to form unions. I know how controversial unions can be, and some of them are just as crooked as the organizations they’re “protecting” employees from, but their foundational purpose is pure: to publicly hold organizations accountable for how they treat their employees.

We need people to serve that function. We need to unveil harmful practices like hiding pay practices from employees, expecting salaried employees to work way more than 40 hours/week, and putting employees through patronizing disciplinary processes.

We need less silence and more accountability. Without bringing things out into the open, they stay secret and gnarly and more harmful than if we just looked at them and at least acknowledged that they were happening.

It breaks my heart when I hear about people who feel like they have no one they can talk to about an abusive boss, a total sense of overwork, or a suspicion that they’re being paid less than their peers for the same work. These are real, serious issues, and while I know the people in power often feel just as isolated and afraid as those “below” them, they’re kind of like politicians: they should be beholden to the people in their community.

Some organizational leaders will, for a long time to come, cling to the notion that they’re actually only beholden to “the business,” as if that’s a real thing.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThe social contract between workers and organizations is changing though, and the organizations that succeed will be the ones who stop trying to hide harmful practices and who humbly partner with their people to make things better.

Whether you work in an organization or without, I encourage you not to be silenced anymore. If you see something destructive, shed light on it. If you see something beautiful that needs more room to grow, do whatever you can to give it that.

You get to decide what kind of a place you want to work in, and you can effect real change by doing your part to hold the organization and its leaders accountable for their decisions and their treatment of you, the community, and the earth itself.

I know it’s not always comfortable, but it is a requirement for those of us calling for a new, healthier, more authentic world of work.

If you’d like to join a community that’s discussing some of these issues, I invite you to check out our Facebook group, A Wild New Work.

50 Reasons You Feel Like Shit at Work

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI hear from a lot of people who feel tired, stifled, belittled, overwhelmed, and patronized at work. They feel disrespected in meetings, put down by their “teammates,” or are just exhausted to their core.

So many of us put up with jobs and organizations that diminish who we fundamentally are.  We feel bad, heavy, or mixed up at work but tell ourselves that it’s just because we’re not tough enough to “hang.” We become convinced that since we feel badly, something must be wrong with us.

If you feel like shit at work and are telling yourself to toughen up, then I have something to say:

It’s not you. It’s them.

You are trying to function in a system that is broken. You’re trying to fit into an organization or mode of working that is not very friendly to normal human beings, and when we try to fit into systems that don’t work for us, we get sick. Or tired. Or angry. Or all of the above.

If you’re working inside of a company, you’ve likely tuned out a lot of the things that are breaking you down, because to see them all the time would make you go crazy. It often takes an outsider to notice them and say, “Actually, I think that’s wrong. And dumb.”

In this post, I’m highlighting 50 of the most insidious ways that organizations belittle the people they claim to be committed to (that’s you).

I’m doing this because I want you to see what you’re up against. I want to help people see so that they stop berating themselves for not being “tough enough” to succeed in these environments. Then, maybe, if we stop trying to fit into them, we’ll have the energy to change our organizations for the better.

Some of the practices on the list might seem so benign that they surprise you, but little by little, drip by drip, these practices build to create cultures that are stagnant, devoid of trust, and overrun by egos. You might not experience all of these at your job, but I bet many of them will ring true.

I hope this list reminds you that you a) are not alone and b) are enough – tough enough, smart enough, capable enough – to do amazing work in the world.

For those put off by the title or message of this entry: I’m glad this doesn’t resonate with you – it may mean you work in an organization that truly values who you are! 

:: 50 Reasons You Feel Like Shit at Work ::

  1. The supply closets in the office are locked.
  2. You’re told – explicitly or implicitly – to keep “personal stuff” out of the office.
  3. Your organization doesn’t allow celebrations or recognize holidays of any kind because they’re too afraid of being sued.
  4. If you want to apply for an internal posting, you’re expected to have a Master’s degree, 5 years of experience, and a willingness to be paid at the bottom of market value.
  5. Meetings don’t start until people in positions of “leadership” are there, even though everyone else is expected to get there on time – and does.
  6. You’re not allowed to decorate and personalize the workspace you inhabit for 8+ hours/day.
  7. Dress codes.
  8. Your company assigns work as a one-way street without any input from the people being asked to do the work.
  9. Most meetings are secretive and closed-door.
  10. The leadership in your organization pretends that everything is fine when it’s not. Employees can handle bad news, y’all.
  11. Your time off is limited, capped, monitored, and regulated. If someone’s really motivated to work with you, they’ll show up and get the job done.
  12. Your manager gets salty when you have to leave early to pick up your kid or go to the dentist.
  13. They’re too cheap to stock the coffee station with high quality supplies. Folgers it is.
  14. You know that requests for ergonomic office furniture are always declined, so why bother asking?
  15. You’re asked to sign 100 company policies that treat you like a liability more than a trusted partner.
  16. A promotion is dangled in front of you but no one is being real about the fact that it’s not going to happen for another year or so.
  17. The front desk is decorated super nicely since it’s customer-facing, but the employee break room is sad and nasty.
  18. You’re expected to go to company parties that celebrate an organization you aren’t excited about.
  19. That new college grad is paid $80,000/year to analyze Excel spreadsheets but management says they can’t justify a $0.50/hour raise for the blue collar staff.
  20. You’re given 3 days of unpaid bereavement leave after a loved one dies. Oh, and you need to prove that someone actually died.
  21. The company’s relationships to shareholders are prioritized over their relationships with employees.
  22. Your supervisor lets you think that your contract will turn into a permanent gig even though they know it probably won’t.
  23. Your one on one check-ins are regularly cancelled with little to no consequence.
  24. Performance reviews get pushed back again and again until they’re 6 months or a year late. Or don’t happen at all.
  25. Unhealthy competition between teams is fostered just to get the numbers up.
  26. Pretty much the entire “disciplinary” process. Give me a break.
  27. Your manager talks about you and your team as if he’s playing in a fantasy football league that reduces you to a number and position.
  28. Your organization talks about people solely in terms of their performance (e.g., “low performers” v. “high performers”).
  29. End-of-year company bonuses get paid out to the C-suite but to no one else.
  30. Your organization fails to offer high-quality training and then gets annoyed that you’re not doing a better job.
  31. You’re expected to work in the same way, at the same times, and for the same reasons as everyone else.
  32. You’re not given the freedom to just do whatever’s necessary to take care of your customers.
  33. Your internet access is restricted at work.
  34. Everyone around you tolerates gossip and politicking.
  35. The physical space is neglected so much that you don’t have access to natural light, plants, or other things that make you feel comfortable and human.
  36. They offer you doughnuts once a week but then make clear that you actually don’t have a say in how you do your job.
  37. The payroll or HR department is slow to fix issues with your paycheck but somehow very quick to correct any over-payments they’ve made.
  38. You get in trouble for taking an issue to someone other than your direct supervisor.
  39. The workspaces for new team members aren’t set up ahead of time.
  40. The HR professional calls the lawyer more often than she talks to actual employees.
  41. Gratitude goes unspoken because “that’s just your job.”
  42. Someone’s value is directly related to how much time they put in at the office, even if it’s spent doing close to nothing.
  43. Bullying is tolerated.
  44. Expense reports.
  45. The leaders around you are allowed to “forget” where credit is due and take it for themselves.
  46. You’re rushed to make decisions, but then they take their sweet time to get back to you about that promotion you interviewed for because, well, “you wouldn’t understand.”
  47. You’re not allowed to work from home.
  48. The company increases their recruiting staff but does nothing about the fact that organizational turnover is 100+% for the year.
  49. What you say about work on social media is monitored and could get you in trouble.
  50. The people leading your organization believe that there’s no consequence to treating employees like shit.

We can do better.

We can create worklives and organizations that are vibrant and healthy, and that requires us to start by looking at the dark underbelly of many of our workplace cultures.

If you want things to be better or you found yourself nodding along to some of the things on this list, I invite you to find someone to debrief with, whether it’s a colleague, your partner, a friend, or the lovely folks in our new Facebook group,  A Wild New Work.

What’s the Next Juiciest Step?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis is part nine in a new nine-part discussion series called “A Wild New Work,” which is focused on helping people introspect about their own worklives and how to imbue them with more wildness, freedom, and joy.

Today’s question is:

What’s the next juiciest step?

You don’t have to figure out your entire career trajectory today (or ever). What’s the next thing you want to do in your worklife that feels awesome? Is it a project? Setting up a coffee date with someone you admire? What feels intriguing and a little exciting?

Click here to read my answer and share your own!

p.s.: Today is a new moon! This is a great time to set some small (or big) intentions for the next four weeks until another new moon.

What Are You Afraid Of?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis is part eight in a new nine-part discussion series called “A Wild New Work,” which is focused on helping people introspect about their own worklives and how to imbue them with more wildness, freedom, and joy.

Today’s question asks you to be fearless:

What are you afraid of?

What makes your stomach knot up? What about your worklife feels scary today? Look it in the eye and be honest with yourself here.

Click here to read my answer and share your own.

If Your Worklife Were an Ecosystem, What Would it Be?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis is part seven in a new nine-part discussion series called “A Wild New Work,” which is focused on helping people introspect about their own worklives and how to imbue them with more wildness, freedom, and joy.

Today’s question asks you to think creatively about your worklife:

If your worklife were an ecosystem, what kind would it be?

Jungle? Grassland? Arctic? What comes to mind? Close your eyes and imagine your career in front of you. Does it feel lush? Arid? Are you on land, or in the ocean? Play around with this and see what it might reveal about the state of your career.

Click here to read my answer and share your own in our private LinkedIn group!

What Makes You Feel Free?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis is part six in a new nine-part discussion series called “A Wild New Work,” which is focused on helping people introspect about their own worklives and how to imbue them with more wildness, freedom, and joy.

Today’s question is:

What makes you feel free?

What makes you feel like you can do whatever you want in your worklife? Where’s that sweet spot where you can whisper “Yes. This is me. This is home.”

Click here to read my answer and share your own in our private LinkedIn group!

If You Could Wave a Magic Wand, What Would You Change?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis is part five in a new nine-part discussion series called “A Wild New Work,” which is focused on helping people introspect about their own worklives and how to imbue them with more wildness, freedom, and joy.

Today’s question requires that you put on your magic cape and remember what it’s like to be a kid:

If you had a magic wand that could change anything, what would you make different about your career?

Click here to read my answer and share your own in our private LinkedIn group!

What Would You Do With a Free Day?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis is part four in a new nine-part discussion series called “A Wild New Work,” which is focused on helping people introspect about their own worklives and how to imbue them with more wildness, freedom, and joy.

Today’s question is a fun one:

What would you do today if money were no object and you weren’t expected to be anywhere?

It’s time to play imaginary hooky! Pretend it’s a free day – you woke up and have all the money you need in the bank, no one’s expecting you at home, work, or school, and you can spend the day however you want to.

Would you run errands? Clean the house? Sleep in? Go to a spa? Head to the beach? How would you spend this special day?

More importantly, does your answer have anything to do with how you’re feeling about your worklife?

Click here to read my answer and share your own in our private LinkedIn group!

Is There Something You Need to Say?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThis is part three in a new nine-part discussion series called “A Wild New Work,” which is focused on helping people introspect about their own worklives and how to imbue them with more wildness, freedom, and joy.

Today’s question is:

Is there something you need to say?

…to yourself? To someone else? What’s your heart trying to communicate these days?

Click here to read my answer and share your own in our private LinkedIn group!