Our work in this world is so incredibly valuable. And what are we taught about work in our culture and families? This is an important foundation for understanding the culture you are operating in within a company.
Our culture says: "Work forty hours of manmade time, every manmade week, and you will be deemed worthy and valuable when you do this by the reception of monetary compensation."
Our families say: "Go get a 'good job' (anyone else hear the residual "good boy/girl" "good enough narratives" that first families also instill with this?) that can afford you the life you want, the one that can pay your bills and buy you stuff you want.
At its most broad strokes, this is what culture dictates, and hands to our families to pass along to the youth who will then go on to create other families.
Families, by the way don't always mean our parents, siblings, and blood relatives. That is our first family. Family can be anything created by a group of people to perpetuate stories, narratives, beliefs and cultures. That was, I believe, the original intention of the family or tribe, in the days of our ancestors.
However, these days, we have companies that quickly become like our families, in that many of us spend more time with our colleagues than with our actual relations. So the important question becomes: how can you tell if your work culture, the one you spend most of your waking hours in, is a culture that is based on wounding?
With the opportunity for many of us to be working from home, and the distance created by this 'new normal' dynamic, it is a really impactful time to be reviewing (or viewing for the first time) the things about the workplace that really tug our threads of discomfort.
These are the times when something in us--intuition, gut reactions, thoughts popping quickly into our heads-- say "hm, something just isn't right here." The Truth is,: something isn't right, and if you are experiencing these sensations in your workplace, there's a good chance you may be working inside a wound culture.
What is a wound culture, actually?
Wound culture is when the negative narratives, the fear based practices, and the dehumanizing tactics are strong in a company's daily operational fibers. Its a palpable dissonance that causes us to feel dis-ease, discomfort, devalued, and in disarray when it comes to what we actually desire to be doing. It's an offspring of the overarching patriarchal culture that values neither men nor women, only the monetization of labor. And that, friends, is capitalism.
And it has a distinct feeling and flavor to it. You'll know it when you're in it, even if the conscious version of your hasn't quite registered it and decided to look it hard in the face. Your body feels it, parts of your mind register it, your heart knows it. Your creative enlivened self is restricted by it. That's why so many people call their jobs 'soul-crushing'; wound culture is a soul crushing environment. Its a complete system within a system that perpetuates woundedness, which is logically, the opposite of healing and wholeness. The wounded part of you is attracted to that culture, that's how the wound survives, while the higher and truthful part of you recognizes the need to rise into a more supportive and creative culture. Let's dive into what we experience when we are living within the confines of a wounded company culture.
You can know that your company is propagating a wound culture if any or all of the following take place frequently:
Employees are not trusted to manage their own time. This manifests in complete micromanagement; relentless follow-up on tasks, and the constant need for the manager to "check in" via phone call or meeting. In the last place I worked at before exiting the corporate world, both of my managers insisted on being carbon copied on almost all of my emails, and also required me to meet with them daily for a 15 minute debrief of what had gone on for me that day. It felt and was invasive, and did not breed an atmosphere of mutual trust. To that point, it can be observed that managers who don't trust their employees to do what is meant to be done also do not trust themselves to be able to do so, either. The distrust in self, plus the micromanagement that begins at the top works its way like poison throughout the entire body of the company.
Bosses yell at their employees, and/or speak to them with a raised voice or dangerous tone, and employees relate to each other in a similar fashion. I'll say this: yelling reallly isn't sustainable or acceptable in any relationship, and certainly not when there is the health of a group to consider. Anxiety is contagious. Nervous system agitation is contagious. If a boss is able to reprimand or conduct any type of dialgogue using an unsafe communication style like yelling, berating, or an extreme tone, they are clearly operating from a wounded culture that enables them to do so.
The dollar is valued higher than honesty or personal integrity. In a capitalist society, this isn't all that uncommon, though it is completely degrading and dishonoring to the human experience. Company cultures that encourage their employees to use any means or methods to ensure their bottom line is met and/or increased automatically consider honesty and integrity unimportant by default. Using manipulation tactics with clients, withholding information, outright lying, or conveying a false promise on what can be offered by the organization are all practices that are based in wound culture and dishonor all who are working in them. These are the same companies that view their people as machines, who don't offer fair or reasonable working conditions, including hours people need to be working or available to check emails/respond/get online, who promise one thing and then deliver another, and who claim transparency on finances, despite being completely covert on all things having to do with company wealth.
Individual voices are not welcome to be heard. This relates directly to personal value within an organization. If you aren't valued for the unique, intelligent, creative and irreplaceable being you are, then the culture has some serious gaping holes in it, which are the wounds that prevent it from valuing people as individual creatives with a collective vision .
Higher Ups have an undeniable beck and call, or else. Bosses who don't honor, or do not know how to honor personal time away from work are at home in a wound culture. These people are likely the ones online at all hours, staying after hours, walking around with their phones in hand constantly, and never going on PTO without sending at least 5 emails, a day. These people are rewarded for their sacrifice of both balance as well as humanness by being placed in a positions of power within a wounded organizational culture. And since this is how they operate, and it is what the company asks of them, they automatically ask it of those around and under them in leadership. This is a form of projection, and its a very human thing to do when we are operating from a wound. And when a whole company is operating this way, the culture no longer values counterbalance, and time that folks need away from their desks and work devices.
Burn-Out is frequent. The company culture does not encourage rest or recuperation, not under any circumstances. No matter how hard folks have been pushing on a certain project, or if the outcome was favorable, its wash, rinse, repeat every day, week, month, fiscal year. No wonder burn out is searing the edges of every person operating within the company.
Feedback or expressed concerns are taken as personal affronts. Managers that are unable to have an open dialogue with employees about issues that arise interpersonally because they immediately take them personally are operating and backed by a hierarchy that condemns any kind of critique. It's the "father knows best" mentality, which is supposedly not to be questioned or criticized in any way from any one. It will keep you small and silent. Squashed voices lead to quiet unrest, and overwhelming feelings of anxiety and stress.
Creative Solutions are dismissed or ignored outright. Companies that use principles that perpetuate "how things have always been done" and "standing on the shoulders of giants" do not leave any place or purpose for personal creativity, which is the basis of human expression. Its a fear-based wound that swallows people's ambition, inspirations, aspirations, and innovations. This is similar to the "I can't" or "I couldn't possibly" personal narrative that reflects a wounded sense of self-worth. Companies founded upon and based on wounded sense of worth are breeding grounds of sameness and suffer organization wide from the scarcity of creativity.
It's no wonder, then, that I have heard so many people lately say that they have felt completely overtaken in the action to leave their place of employment. They say "I don't know exactly what I'm going to do, I just know I couldn't do that anymore." Still others, some of whom have lost their jobs during the pandemic, have said "I don't know that I will ever go back to a corporate
environment. I feel like I want to start my own thing." That sends a tingle down to my very bones. That is part of the great awakening of humanity. And it absolutely can begin on a personal level with people walking away from wounded organizational cultures that keep them small, overworked and exhausted, burnt out, and cut off from creative connection, wondering if there is more or different, feeling disconnected from a sense of balance and personal worth.
I know you didn't ask for my advice, and you certainly don't need to take it. Yet, here it is:
Exit the wound culture. Grab that favorite coffee mug that is yours off your desk, take your personal belongings, and log off without looking back. Then, heal the wounds that brought you through the doors of that company in the first place. Need support with that? Check out what else is here in this collective for you. I promise you, only because I've done it, it will launch you onto the greatest most fulfilling part of your journey yet. Leave the burn out, and trade it for burning passion. What do you love to do? Chances are, there are parts of your 'traditional' job that tap some of your innate gifts that will lead you to birth your passion in a really meaningful and impactful way. Leave the place, people, culture, narratives, routines that keep you in a box of impossibility. You are not broken, and you are not your wounds. And the only way to truly Know that is by trying a different culture. One that says yes to your voice and your creativity. And if you can't find that culture, create it. And I promise you, that is where you will want to devote all of your resources; time, energy, money, thoughts, emotions, feelings.
You'll be there, fully and willingly, for all of it.