The right work environment can make the most routine administrative task fun and engaging. The wrong environment can make that same task gruelling and full of despair. Research can seem like solving a mystery – or it can leave you staring blankly at a screen wondering why you are not doing something “more important.” In a positive environment, you will feel energized every day to perform your best. In a negative environment, you watch the clock as it creeps slowly toward your release and spend the night dreading your next day at work. You can feel trusted and part of the team, or isolated and lonely.
The work environment is a key factor in our development as professionals. Are we going to be fostered and trained into the next generation of leaders? Or is the passion going to be sucked from us by an organization unwilling to embrace a positive and collaborative culture?
No energy shortage in a healthy workplace environment
I am fortunate to be in a place that has embraced me with open arms. This experience has transformed a lengthy, sleep-deprived commute into a productive and educational period. I enjoy working long hours because I understand the value of my work. When I have questions I receive answers. When I make a mistake, someone is there to guide me through the process and help me amend my error. There is a platform to share my ideas and, for some reason, snacks always seem to show up during the week.
This environment allows me to be me, strengths and flaws, fully human. Now doesn’t that sound appealing? Doesn’t that sound like a workplace that gets things done, not because we are under the constraint of deadlines but because we are able to come together for a common purpose? We all see the big picture because it was explained to us and made clear what the goals were going to be from the outset.
But how would things be different if for every mistake I made I was chastised, if the reaction to a mistake or a misstep was anger or aggression? What if coworkers ate silently at their desks creating an eerie atmosphere of awkwardness? What if my ideas were scoffed at and I was made to feel a fool because I pitched an untried idea that likely doesn’t work in their real world? What if I didn’t get to interact with organizational leadership each day?
And worst of all, what if the snack fairy failed to deliver?
I can tell you that I have friends who have entered such toxic environments, and I know that they are struggling. I wonder how they justify staying in a place they know is not the best place to foster their learning and professional growth.
Weak links can thrive – or snap
I’m going to borrow the cliché that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you are in a positive space, you will find it difficult to see that link because it is supported by other, stronger links. If you find yourself in a toxic environment, though, the weak link will be allowed to rust, the chain will degrade and eventually it will snap.
I have to acknowledge that I’m possibly wrong and the siloed workplace really is where some people want to be. Maybe you’re an introvert and all you need are surface interactions to get you through your day. You simply want to quietly go about your work. I know though, that collaboration will grow further productivity, and that every position needs a certain amount of shared ideas in every position. Innovation can only be found through collaboration.
Only you can determine what environment is best for you. Everyone is going to have good and bad days at work. That’s a reality. Yet a work environment that fits with your style helps to make those bad days few and far between. We all have to deal with different people, but I believe in killing them with kindness. Eventually even your staunchest opponent may finally come around if they believe you are legitimately trying to build a positive relationship. It can all start with a simple “good morning” and “have a good evening.”
To Boomers and Generation X
You are in the managerial and director roles. You have the ability to shape the environment in your organization. If you get to know your employees and what motivates them, they may end up exceeding your expectations. Manage their expectations by managing your expectations of their role.
To Generation Y
No environment worth working in will require you to compromise your personal and professional ethics. Yes, the market is tough right now and it can be a struggle to find anything. But you have to know what is OK and what crosses the line. If necessary, write it down to remind yourself – and then do not talk yourself out of it!
This article concludes Laura’s and JJ’s series on the joys and challenges of new fundraisers.
Laura Champion (@charitablelaura) is a recent graduate of Humber College’s Fundraising and Volunteer Management program. She is Development Specialist on the I CAN campaign at West Park Healthcare Centre. Her goals in life include obtaining her CFRE, becoming a published author and being successful enough on Jeopardy to be brought back for the Tournament of Champions.
JJ Sandler (@j_s_believe) has completed the Humber College Fundraising and Volunteer Management program. During his internship with Camp Oochigeas, he focused on developing the infrastructure for a major gifts program. He is now Campaign Representative with United Way York Region. JJ is intent on completing his CFRE designation within five years, after which he hopes to earn his CGA credentials. He aspires to one day work for one of the Canadian NHL foundations.