Over our working life we all come across many people, some of them you won’t remember and others will shape the way you think. Take a moment to reflect on your own experiences, and consider whether all the people who shaped you, or your career, have all been good influences.
I started work at the age of 16, working for one of the big four banks as a management trainee. I had so much enthusiasm to do a good job and make my way up the career ladder I couldn’t wait to get to work and leave the constraints of the education system.
During that period I worked with some amazing people, some of which are still great friends. However, it was the ones that showed me how not to be, who truly shaped me.
One of my managers had my colleagues and I crying on a sometimes weekly basis because even when you had made your targets it wasn’t good enough. I also had another manager who was unsupportive and impersonal during the time when my late father was dying, and she actively made my life difficult whilst trying to care for him.
I chose not to let it affect the quality of the service I gave as I still felt proud of the company that I worked for. The bank itself had some amazing policies, brilliant systems, tools to develop yourself professionally and good employee benefits.
The sad part of it was that there were a handful of bad apples who did not implement them. They were such a forward thinking employer, which was what attracted me in the first place to work for them, but by the time I left I had no drive.
I feel fortunate to have had these bad work experiences as they have motivated me to prove, at least to myself, that there must be a better way.
I believe you can succeed by treating people properly. It may not be conventional but I think that if you want people to work hard for you then you must sometimes have an element of give and take, this must not be too one-sided for either party otherwise it doesn’t work, it must be balanced and the right people in the team understand this and don’t spoil it for themselves.
It’s not about getting your workforce to ‘like’ or ‘love you as an employer either, it’s about getting them engaged in the company, wanting them to want it to succeed, for them to look forward to coming to work so they can be ready to do business. There are enough ups and downs in life already without being unhappy at work to add to that.
I think of my employees as ‘people’, I like to engage with them personally, talk about their lives, know what’s going on, if it’s all good that’s great, but it’s the times they need support that will make all the difference and if you don’t know them when the going is good, then you will never know either way.
If you have ever experienced something unpleasant at work, think about how it would have made things so much better if it had been handled differently.
Use your bad work experiences as a positive, break the bad behaviour chain and thank the people who taught you those valuable lessons of how not to be.
About the author
Katy Moss is the managing director of Trent Refractories – a UK based manufacturer and supplier of bespoke refractory solutions, supplying the UK market and beyond.