I was asked if I would like to help with the company’s monthly social. I was not sure what to say.
A colleague of mine, along with a woman from another department, were eagerly waiting for my response by my cubicle.
I had a 9 month old child at home and my wife was desperate for any break she could get. Staying late at work was, well, work.
I asked to be excused due to my parental obligations. The reality was though that even if I had not had a baby at home, hanging out late at the office was not how I wanted to spend my social time- at least not at this office.
You can’t mandate morale from the top down.
The company I was working for was developing database software. They had been in business for less than a year when they had managed to raise a few million dollars which they used to quickly hire 60 or so people.
I was brought in to build and manage the website. This was the late 90’s, and they did not know much about the Internet, but they thought they needed to have someone around who did.
They gave me a cubicle with the software programmers and I was told to build a website and do whatever webmasters do. I was pretty much left alone.
I had been there couple of months when I was approached about the monthly Social. I felt pressured, but I gave my apologies and the company morale duo wandered off to seek out the next potential candidate.
Later in the day I bumped into the colleague who had approached me earlier. I asked him why he was doing it. That is, why he was so eager to get people to stay after work. I thought it was an honest question. However, he seemed quite taken aback that I should need to ask.
“Don’t you want to have a positive work environment?” he asked. “Yes, I do!” I said quickly.
He looked at me out of the corner of his eye. I was a non-believer in his mind now. I realized I should not have asked.
A couple of days later I was in the elevator at the end of the day. The President of the company got in and we rode to the ground floor in silence.
I had seen him around, but never been introduced. He did not acknowledge me and his body language made it clear he did not want to be approached.
I realized that in the time I had been with the company that he had never been to the part of the office I worked in.
Don’t ask people to do something you are not interested in or willing to do yourself.
Did the president care if I was at the company social? Somehow I don’t think so. In fact, although I did not go, neither did he.
I was not asked to help with anymore of the monthly socials. Six months or so later the same colleague who had asked me to help with the social appeared at my desk in the morning along with someone I recognized form HR. They asked me to come with them.
I was led into a room where I, along with a dozen other people, were told we were laid-off as of that moment. He then escorted me back to my desk to collect my belongings and I was walked out the door.
I heard that one week later that same colleague was walked out the door by someone else in similar fashion as I had been.
Companies come and go. Sometimes things work out, sometimes, even with the best laid plans, they don’t. At the core of all companies though are people.
Why did I not want to attend the monthly social? Was I not a team player?
You cannot have a president sitting in a tower with a scowl on his face and expect HR to whip up team spirit.
We are all human, cut from the same cloth, and if the leadership does not care, then you can’t expect the people who are working for you to care either.
In the end I did not care when I was walked out the door, other than I had to now find another job. In fact, it felt incredibly liberating to know I did not have to walk back into that door again.
Now it is your turn. Do you care for what you do? I would love to hear from you.