I remember years ago when I was in high school my mom telling me numerous times “these are the best years of your life!” Sure, spending day after day dealing with gossip, cliques, homework, disenchanted teachers, including kids who didn’t care much about actually learning was the best right? The sad thing is that many of us are still in high school only we call it work. Sound familiar?
Years ago employees hung out around the water cooler or coffee counter. Open office plans have flipped that practice upside down. Most employees have minimal privacy and are sitting on top of each other. It’s like sitting in a classroom all day working on homework assignments. Ultimately not much has changed since graduation, and you are still in high school.
Eight reasons why you are still in high school
1. Gossip. I think that corporate gossip is worse than in high school, we are just sneakier about it. Back in the old days, we didn’t have social media and smart phones to share what we heard. Technology has exasperated the spread of gossip and adults are savvier about making chatter sound like corporate strategy. These days gossip destroys people and careers. Don’t get wrapped up in its dangers.
2. Bullying. Adults can be cruel. Bullying takes place every day in the form of intimidation, sabotage, belittling, and even subtle threats. Not long ago, I had a manager that was smooth one day and the next day would micromanage and throw out threats with a smile on his face. We would all do a double take to try and understand his game.
3. Cliques: We were all in a group in high school whether we realized it or not. Nothing has changed. You are in a circle at work. Look around you. Higher level managers stay in their corner; the interns hang together all day. The IT folks have their spot. These cliques often meet after work for “team building”.
4. Lackadaisical Coworkers: My twins love school. Fortunately, they are bright and motivated to learn. They also complain weekly about being in classes with kids who could care less about learning or growing. It brings them down and at times, interrupts their learning. We all work with people who don’t care. They don’t want to learn. They don’t care about growing and strengthening the team. They just show up.
5. Competition: The magical word. In high school, we see competition in every sport, and it permeates throughout the system. Most of the time it’s healthy, but not always. Competition encouraged with negative intent can impact lives. You know where the competition is and who owns it in your area. You have probably seen how a competitive team can thrive and accomplish. You have also been on the receiving end of spiteful and negative competition. I have seen people pay with their jobs from malicious competition.
6. Teachers: I remember some of my best teachers. They were passionate about my learning and growth and cared about preparing me for success. I also remember the poor teachers. They had tenure and just showed up every day for a paycheck. Managers are not much different. Some leaders thrive on growing and mentoring teams. Others don’t care and like a tenured teacher, just show up.
7. The Principal: I’m guessing that you either loved or hated your high school Principal. It probably depended on how much trouble that you created! You still have a Principal – your top leadership including the CEO. The Principal is the one that manages the culture of the company, makes or breaks your future in the company and can make your job easy or challenge you. They probably don’t know you well unless you are a troublemaker or….a suck up. Beware of the Principal.
8. School Board: The school board oversees the entire system and has no idea about the inner working of the company nor do they care how you function on a daily basis. They only know what they are told and generally go along with what they hear. They don’t tend to dig deep into the company culture or care about employee well being or team challenges. Making cuts, moving employees, cutting departments is all in a day’s work for them.
Hopefully, you loved high school and have positive memories. You may also be in the minority. I was eager to move on after high school and grow through my college years. As you read this and if you are at work, look around you, and I bet you will whisper to yourself “I AM still in high school!”