I’m fascinated with corporate work cultures as a lot of you may know.  As a corporate worker myself, I dive in deep and do whatever I can to get acclimated, develop rapport and relationships and be productive/add value from day one wherever possible, but still in parallel try to hover above it all as an outside observer.  My work life has consisted of shorter-term consulting and contracting engagements since pulling the plug on a 7-year stint in 2006, so there’s been a lot of opportunity to zoom in and out.

And, it’s fueled my closet sociologist curiosity big time too.  Sigh…me and my virtual clipboard.

Over the last four years I’ve had the privilege of peeking under the hood into quite a few different companies…7 if you include both the companies themselves (plus their external clients if that was the focus.)  8 if you include the pro bono work I did earlier this year while I was job hunting – our team was working hard to get that fire lit – gathering kindling, gently shielding any possible sparks from rain or high winds to get a steady flame going.  Could it really turn into a paid work engagement?

In fact, the picture in today’s post is a shot of one of the work spaces our team camped in earlier this year.  Our CEO had a really cool part-time office suite arrangement.  Rather than sign a full-time monthly lease he used a management company that sets up temporary, as-needed office space for small businesses worldwide, so we’d be stationed either at this location or more downtown depending. I see my purse on the chair at far left – we’d just come back from a quick lunch.  Yes, the never-fails-me Louis Vuitton Saleya with the Damier brown check exterior and amazing red lining.  One of my favorite interviewing and work travel handbags.  Perhaps I carried it that day to bring a bit more ‘luck’ to our mix. 

I did a lot of interviewing over the past year and while it’s hard to describe – this is my first attempt ‘saying’ it in words – it utterly fascinates me how the same – THE SAME – place I stepped into as an interview candidate can flip from seeming so calm to an utter hair-on-fire 27-ring circus of madness after being there actually working and getting acclimated.

And I think back on the other places I’ve worked…some are super fast-paced while some – at least from my viewpoint – THINK they’re fast-paced but really aren’t.  Some places probably had happy dust flying around in the air ducts – people were so cheery and positive even when things were going to shit.  And other places with relative calm, steady-state operations, well, people found more time to bitch.  It’s hard to express all of this in words, but the contrasts just fascinate me.  Maybe I’ll keep working on this in future posts.

So, just how big is this new job “onion” anyway?  Right now the layers seem endless.

The same halls I walked as an interview candidate not knowing a soul save for the hiring manager I’d just shaken hands with are now full of people I engage with daily on TONS of open tasks, issues and challenges. And, hopefully time out for a good laugh to blow off steam.  Sense of urgency and sense of humor…those two rhythms burn deep in my being and I try to live them out to my best every day.

The same meetings I used to attend as a fly on the wall as a newbie are now chock full of things for me to do, develop, report on and present.  Long gone are those days of bliss when I was simply trying to follow discussions and understand the massive MASSIVE amounts of lingo and acronyms.  Oh, and learning the names and voices of those on the conference calls. The issues discussed used to mean nothing as I had zero context.  Now, casual comments or questions/concerns from the teams…now they are borderline keeping me up at night – or, more often than not – keeping me very busy during the day. 

I feel like I’m on a teeter totter that could start tipping either way…I remember the stress of not working for months and the unknowns waking up every day wondering if THIS would be the day that email or phone call would come through – The Next Gig.  And, fast forward nearly five months, I’m starting to feel the pressure.  We’ve got some major things launching in the near future.  Being comfortable being uncomfortable.

And so much has changed – my work tasks, my office location and a few faces have come and gone on the team too.  At this company, none of this is unusual in a relatively short timeframe.  In fact, if it wasn’t happening I’d be concerned.  So when the stress starts to boil upward in me during the workday, I take a moment to close my eyes and remember, “you’re getting PAID for this stress.”  When I get frustrated with someone’s behavior I take a moment to remember the same.

I rarely lay awake at night now mulling over open tasks or upcoming meetings.  That used to be a big part of my Sunday night routine in my mid/late 20s, especially when I was supervising teams.  Fast forward a few years and thanks to a little more wisdom plus taking up hockey, Sunday nights don’t stress me out so much anymore.  Plus, being a little older and having been through – and survived – many varieties of stressful situations, I can take things in stride.  And as my Dad so wisely told me many years ago, “you’ll feel better when you’re there working the problem.”  Meaning, don’t worry about it off the clock.  He’s right.

After all, we’re doing great things on this team, but we’re not curing cancer or ending world hunger.

Now it’s time for another cup of coffee and time to plunge into the weekend.  Oh Monday, I see you in the distance – your time will come soon enough. 

For now, it’s all about you, Saturday.