When I started working here at the end of last year I was so happy that on work mornings I got a warm fuzzy thrill deep in the pit of my stomach – it was love. I felt like dancing down the hall of my workplace I loved it so much.
That might sound over the top, like I’m exaggerating, but really I was excited by my new job. It’s an innovative project, ground breaking, we’re doing something that fulfills a real need, I liked my work mates, thought I had the best boss in the world, felt privileged to have a part in it, and just felt really lucky to have landed on my feet in this role.
To be completely honest my previous work history had not been that joyous. I’d had my share of negative workplaces; difficult bosses, colleagues and clients; in recent years I’d set up my own business working freelance after having a child and found – whilst initially it was fulfilling working for myself – it was a hard slog with infrequent money, lots of stress, unpredictable future, and no clear career progression. Transitioning back from freelance work into a full-time position, it was a challenge job hunting due to a frequent bias that not having recently ‘held a similar role’ I was not considered as safe a bet as other candidates.
It was getting to the point where I was feeling desperate, considering jobs on crap money that would be a clear leap backwards (wiping out almost a decade of experience and corresponding salary level), considering retraining as something completely different to get a fresh start, wishing I’d made different career decisions, and was afraid that I would never be able to get past people’s biases about my work history (which I couldn’t change).
Then my luck improved: I had several strong job interviews within a couple of weeks, resulting in two job offers at the same time. I took the job that I thought was most interesting, and even had the confidence to negotiate a pay increase on the base offer. That’s the place I work at now.
And my first month on the job was amazing! My boss sang my praises; it was a family friendly workplace where people sometimes brought their kids in; people left work at a reasonable hour (the boss left at 3pm some days!); we had autonomy over our workload and hours; and I LOVED my role. I was so excited to be working in a creative, balanced, positive work environment where I had the opportunity to do my job unhindered, and it looked like I was going to be able to achieve some really amazing stuff.
That’s not to say there weren’t some little niggles, things that I dismissed, that I didn’t want to think too much about.
I was given the opportunity to work on a funding application, one we hoped would secure our project another $3-8 million – it was a great opportunity for me. Mind you it scared me shitless how much autonomy they gave me, when this wasn’t part of the role I was hired in, and was stretching beyond my core skill set. I thought it odd my boss wasn’t more heavily involved in it, wasn’t giving me any real feedback, it was hard to work out what was going on however I went along with it figuring that if I put a step wrong she or Barry (twice retired founder of the project) would set me straight.
That was a pattern from early on – my boss not giving clear instruction or direction, lack of feedback, absent leadership. And initially, in the honeymoon period, there were a few times when I got a sense that she might not be happy about something I had done but she kept it to herself and it was only body language that gave it away. So I felt like perhaps I’d disappointed her, but didn’t know why, and was determined to work harder and be better and not let her down. On the whole though it was a good time full of potential.
Our last meeting for the year before breaking up for Christmas we went round the circle to say something to sum up the past year. Being a new person I couldn’t contribute much in terms of history, but blushed as I gushed about how much I loved working there, and was so glad to have such an amazing boss. It was a little embarrassing, but I really did feel “full of goodwill,” drunk in love with my job.
I had no idea of what was to come.