Last year I moved jobs from agency life: creative, colourful, open spaces and first names; to corporate: suits, black, grey and rules, so many rules. To say it was a culture shock doesn’t fully describe it. However, if there’s one thing I have learnt in my short millennial life, is that everything is an adventure.
The things I am learning about corporate is how hard it is to disrupt. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping point, he analyses the points at which the scales of success shift, looking at it from Dunbar’s Rule of 150 in relationship to a company.
The things I am learning about corporate is how hard it is to disrupt. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping point, he analyses how epidemics work and I see this applying to success in the workplace. Picking from the Rule of 150 on how real social relationships are formed, consider it in the growth process of a company. When you start out, you have a handful of employees, you know everyone by name and make it a point to get them to understand the vision of your company. As it gets bigger, you paste your mission and vision on the walls for those who will miss it along the way. Eventually, you grow (yay! the whole point of a business) and faces become fleeting, success gratuitous and hope easily a memory. But, according to the rule, this is the point where politics comes in. Many an established corporate have buckled under the pressure of the digital disruption. The original vision remains but it doesn’t adapt to the evolved market and social needs. New workers come in and adapt to the system, the rules are kept to a status quo: clock in early, type, type, type, lunch, some more typing, clock out. Day in a day out.
What I appreciated the most in starting my career working in small businesses and agency is the fact that they allow for horizontal leadership. You interact with the leadership directly, giving you plenty of time and insight into the soul of the company and the hard work that your boss/entrepreneur/founder puts in every day.
My first boss was an awesome lady who talked her mentor into taking her employees through a 3-day goal-setting workshop. It was so amazing for a first-timer into the official workspace to actually have a conversation about what it means to be professional and creative and to make the most of your role. She would often give me healthy reading material on growing myself and regularly shared her knowledge and journeys through life. When the company was going through a rough patch, at this point it had downsized to three of us including her partner, they had a very frank conversation with me that my stipend would be late and why. This is important to note because later at a different company, a similar situation happened and because it was bigger and no explanation was given, in the eyes of the employees you still drove a big car so… yeah.
With this first job, I understood that even a business manager has obligations, work and commitments beyond just being your boss
With this first job, I understood that even a business manager has obligations, work and commitments beyond just being your boss. With them, I learnt the benefit of taking the time to understand other people’s roles, competencies and how to be a part of the solution.
When I left, she gave me two things to think about. First, no one is irreplaceable. For a business owner, your employees can easily find another job when things get rough. As an employee, there will always be another person who can do what you do. The remedy to this: be valuable. As an employer, how are you helping your employees to grow? Be it in their talents or just personal growth and overall health even. Second, don’t burn bridges. Though I have failed in being consistently in touch with my former employers, I always made sure I left without any bad blood. Small businesses grow and turn into your social capital in the long run, you never know what point the circle of life will get back at you. And this goes both ways. As an employer, how and will they remember “that boss”? As an employee, will one of your old bosses ever want to call you back or refer you to another business?
I feel like I have aged five years in one year of corporate work though I have definitely learnt lessons that have matured me. I have challenged myself to share more of these lessons in the coming weeks and I hope to get some new ones to share.