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OP-ED: A light extinguished

  • Published at 09:30 pm July 7th, 2020
Clarity is one important thing for the workplaceBigstock
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Unhappiness is a silent epidemic

The following story is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that occurs all the time, in every organization. It is a tragedy that also can be avoided, or at least worked on. It goes something like this. 

A new employee joins the company. It is her first job. She is brimming with enthusiasm, ideas, and a desire to contribute to the organization that, at least according to her, put its faith in her and believes in her abilities. She remembers her interview as she starts off on her first day of work, remembering the tough questions she faced from the panel. 

She feels proud that she was able to handle herself well, and impress them with her clarity of thought and technical know-how. And what of the work culture? Of course, it was fabulous, supportive, and inclusive. The job circular assured it. The interview confirmed it. She was joining a fulfilling position, where she would be contributing and making a difference. 

She remembers the glowing acceptance letter she received in her email, assuring her how excited her hiring manager was, how happy the entire team appeared to be. She was told that she bested a long list of potential candidates to come out on top. They were sure she would make a positive impact. 

Her carefully concealed but ever-present self-deprecation had no opportunity to rear its ugly head this time. She belonged. She mattered. She was valuable.

Things take a dive

Almost from day one, she feels that something is not quite adding up. She was expecting energy and exuberance in the workplace, and an environment of support and connection. This isn’t what she expected. 

No one was rude, per se. The greetings were polite and cordial, and she had been given a set of instructions, which were explained to her by one of her senior colleagues. But there appeared no scope for questions, no opportunity to provide feedback or give input on her part. She brushed off her initial feelings. Surely it was just the jitters of work. 

Maybe it was a difficult time for the organization. Maybe things would get better. Of course, things would get better. She was her energetic, enthusiastic self in all meetings with the team. Brimming with ideas and youthful exuberance, her voice would not be stifled nor silenced. She participated eagerly in the workgroups, be they on social media channels or messaging apps. 

But with every passing day, slowly but surely, her enthusiasm begins to wane. Her immediate supervisor cared not about teaching her the ropes or familiarizing her with her role. She often spoke into the void when she pitched her ideas or expressed her views, almost never getting a response or even an acknowledgement. 

Everyone was busy, too busy in fact, to really pay attention to this young woman who was trying to make her own mark. She begins to realize that some people are even annoyed with her enthusiasm. There are whispers that she talked too much, that she was disrupting the flow of the office. That she simply did not understand what it was like to work in an office environment. 

Her virtues were not getting recognized, but every mistake she made was certainly pointed out. She slowly grew to become afraid, wary at all times about making a mistake and angering her bosses and supervisors. 

All alone 

She felt alone, more alone than she could ever remember feeling. Her self-deprecation roared back to life, and once again, she questioned herself. No, she blamed herself. Of course it was her fault. Of course she was being annoying. Of course she needed to be better. 

Of course others weren’t sitting around to answer her questions or respond to her. They were busy and she should just focus on her work. Get it done, just like everyone else did. Just like that, another promising new employee, brimming with energy and enthusiasm, becomes yet another employee in the system. 

Robbed of her hopes, dreams, and aspirations, she becomes yet another individual who complains about work, her colleagues, her bosses, and the organization she works for. It is about time we addressed how offices, regardless of sector or industry, function. 

Lofty claims of being employee-first, of having the best interest of employees, and of creating an enabling, positive work culture will remain nothing but empty words if employees, young and old, continue to be discouraged by the system, eventually becoming part of the problem as their virtues and positivity are sapped away. 

Research, time and time again, has shown just how much every organization benefits from having high morale amidst its employees, and of having a culture of inclusivity, positivity, and empowerment, where, regardless of your place in the corporate hierarchy, you are encouraged to have a voice. 

It is a shame that it appears we have deviated further and further from these principles. It is no wonder that most people complain about their jobs, because more often than not, their jobs have given them very little to be happy about. 

AHM Mustafizur Rahman is an Editorial Assistant at Dhaka Tribune.