You’re more likely to enjoy your job if you make friends with your coworkers. But if you don’t have any co-workers, the challenge to not only enjoy your job, but to perform successfully in it, becomes immense.
That was one of the first things I noticed as I transitioned from being an employee to running an organization. There wasn’t anyone to talk to.
As many of us are taking the plunge from cubicle prisoner to being the boss, we’re stumbling over the entry gate. Support is the number one desire of newly-minted leaders and entrepreneurs. Who can understand the situations we’re in? Who can empathize and congratulate our failures and successes? Where is the team at?
I often tell my best friend Belle about Guy A who sucks at life, or Situation B that just rocked my week. She empathizes, congratulates, and is a good friend, but she has no idea about the foolishness or magnanimity of either like a co-worker would.
Co-workers have shared experiences that they can talk about and understand, and they support each other. They know exactly who Guy A is and are acutely aware of how important Situation B is. It’s a unique bond that can’t be replaced by even the best mentor or friend.
Here’s how to deal with no co-workers:
1) Manage yourself differently. Being a leader is about making sacrifices. This is one of them. It’s part of the package, so you just have to deal with it. Dealing with no co-workers, however, does not mean relying on Ben & Jerry, my good friends of a few weeks ago. You have to maintain your healthy habits – perhaps journaling and exercise – and create new ones.
For me, this means changing my mindset. It’s letting go of things that would have bothered me in the past. It’s looking at situations differently, and oftentimes strategically. It’s realizing that people will treat me differently, and that’s what I signed up for. Mostly, it’s concentrating on what makes my position exciting and fun.
2) Start a support network. In the upper-echelons of CEOs and Presidents, support groups are quite common. Company leaders often get together for breakfast or lunch roundtables and share the challenges of running an organization. They’ve defined it differently, but really they’re simply building co-worker relationships.
It would be difficult, however, for a young leader to find value from these roundtables outside of a mentor relationship.
Generation Y leaders need to create their own groups, and those groups need to respond to how we work. Being a young leader has its own set of unique challenges. If we’re going to be taking on positions of authority earlier, and creating our own rules, we need to be honest about what those challenges are.
3) Lean on people who know nothing. As is often true, weaknesses are also strengths. While Belle cannot fulfill the role of my co-worker, I am much happier with her as my friend. You need to have people that are outside of the work/life blender to keep perspective.
Belle doesn’t come to any of my organization’s events. She doesn’t know the majority of the people. She leads a completely different life. And while we don’t have those shared experiences, it is for that reason that it’s refreshing to be around her. I’ve known her so long that I’m not defined as a young leader, as a Gen Y Princess, a blogger, or as an Executive Director. I’m just me. And that’s a big deep breath of happiness.