Have you taken your experience of school into your working life?

I've recently had to cast my mind back to my school days, with questions from my step-son about secondary school. He's in his first year and he will often ask about our experiences from when we were in our teenage years. It's only from our stories that its got me thinking...

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Looking back over the companies I've worked in and the behaviours demonstrated by various colleagues there's a pattern, a resemblance to those from school.  

School was always about 'setting us up' for the working experience, so that when we did finally finish education and step out into the big wide working world, it helped to manage our expectations for when we started working.  Or did it?

Stepping out of school, I went to work in the corporate world - an office environment, based in the city of London.  At the tender age of 17, it was both exciting and daunting at the same time.  My first experience of spending a day of 10 hours, including working and commuting, seemed very long and exhausting.  But then that was how it was.

Working with people of varied ages and experience is something I recall being both different and interesting.  At school, your classmates were the same age, or of similar ages in different year groups and the older folk were the teachers.  It didn't take long for my school behaviours to start meshing with my work behaviours.  Being punctual, worrying about being on time, smartly dressed, being a little wary and honestly quite scared of the big bosses if I had to speak to them.

This was just my experience, but it got me thinking... how many of us take on the school experience into our working life?  How many of us still feel like there's a school ethos in our working environment?

I'll give an example of one I have seen time and time again in the corporate world - being able to work from home.

Having worked in office environments all of my professional career, I first saw the introduction of this concept about 15 years ago and thought it was an incredible working solution.  The benefits of being able to get up a little later to save getting ready and commuting, but still starting work at the same time was an amazing idea.  Plus, doing my bit for the planet by not having to use fuel in the car or be another seat taken up on the train into the city was a huge leap into positive working approaches.

However, those I worked for didn’t quite see it the same way. 

After getting approval to work from home.  There was an undertone of lack of trust.  I'd have to let my boss know when I’d logged on, then check in at various points of the day to keep them informed on what I was working on.  I didn’t even do this when I was in the office!

Truth is, that school behaviour has filtered into the work space.  If there is no trust for employees to work from home, why were they employed in the first place?

Now this is just one example, you’ve probably experienced another behaviour in your work place where it takes you right back to your school days.  Having been a senior manager in the past, I’ve seen it on the other side but have always believed that people are adults and should be treated like adults.

So how do we move past this?  How do we start to make that change? 

With the new generation coming through into the working world, new patterns are being created.

More companies are looking at how they can attract people to work for them.  Job interviews are now a two-way street - it's not just about seeing if a candidate is right for the job, it's about the candidate seeing if the company is the right employer.

Flexible working approaches and wellbeing packages are what people look for in a job.  Money isn't the main focus anymore.  

More companies are starting to change, but there are still a minority out there who create this 'school' environment. 

If there’s something going on in your work life where you’re being made to feel like you’re back at school right now, here are a few steps you can take to try and improve your work situation:-

  1. Speak to the person who is making you feel like this - if this is your manager or another colleague talk to them.  Ask them why they feel they need to treat you in this manner?  They may not even realise they're doing it. Or they may be having the same experience themselves in their own position, either way it's about bringing this to their attention and how it's making you feel in your job and about coming to work.
  2. If you're the only individual or part of a team that is being treated like this in your organisation, then you may need to take this further.  Explore the policies you have in place in the company, and if in fact this is the way the company wants to be operating.  If not, then this is something you can take up further with your HR function.
  3. Ask yourself if this is the place you want to work?  Is this the type of culture you want to be part of?  If not, then perhaps it's time to start putting the feelers out and explore new ventures.  Look for a business that meets your values and ethics.  All big companies place their values and mission on their website, and have now started highlighting some of the benefits to working for them too.

We spend so much of our life working, it's important to enjoy your job as well as the environment you work in.  

Josie Copsey

Life Change Expert, Author, Mentor, Josie Copsey Ltd

Career changes, figuring out the perfect job, building incredible leaders and wellbeing are my jam. But before all of this, there was a corporate girl who had to go through quite a few setbacks, lessons and experiences. Ambitious, driven and focused I built a very successful change and training career that spanned over two decades. Helping leadership teams of large companies to transform their business. But back in 2013 I had enough. I was lost and didn’t recognise who I was anymore. A combination of being professionally bullied, suffering with burnout from working 12-hour days and zero personal life had done me in. My corporate work life had taken over me, I was selling my soul to a job and my health was suffering as a result. I took action and quit the job. Getting clear on my career was the ultimate light-bulb moment for me. But, there had been no definitive path in how I go about making this career change happen; all I knew was what I wanted to do and my determination and focus guided me through. I’m a gal who loves to plan and organise – a couple of my superpowers – so I documented every step and action I took knowing that one day, this would help others just like me. Those who have an idea on what they want to do, but unsure how to make it happen. Those who feel lost and hate their job, but don’t know what to do. Those who are stuck and looking for direction. I teach what I’ve done personally to build a career doing what I love and living the life I want. I’m all about taking action; you tell me what you want and I’ll show you how to make it happen. It is absolutely possible and achievable to be in a job you love; a job that brings you purpose and job satisfaction. You’re here for a reason. Your talents, your heart, your passion – you are one of a kind.