She told me I’d have to go in the back way. That the IT Manager would give me secret access to people’s accounts and I could see what they were up to. It was the early days of internet access and they wanted to figure out what people were doing during their time at the office.
The real story? They wanted to track internet abuse. That meant gambling and porn.
Well, what I discovered over the next few weeks made my hair curl, I’m not kidding. The majority of what I found was hardcore porn, the likes of which shocked the hell out of me. And I was not exactly an innocent, I’d been working in Rape Crises for years and I’d travelled and lived a lot by then.
I couldn’t believe that this is what people were doing during work hours. And after I’d analyzed and reported and discovered that without a clear policy in place (which we didn’t have) there was nothing to be done other than issue a warning and declare a new policy.
Here’s the thing though, after a week of this horrifying work, it got leaked. Yes, people somehow realized that I was snooping around in their accounts and watching them very closely. I’d walk into the canteen and the conversations would stop. I’d sit down at a table and people would get up and walk away. It was horrible. Toxic. I began to get daily headaches and chronic nausea.
My manager was completely unsympathetic, she didn’t seen to care how our function was being seen by the organization, how much trust we had lost. When I raised this issue, she laughed and sent me back to another, equally sneaky and horrible assignment.
I was determined to make this job work. It was well paid and prestigious. It was the most senior position I had held to date and I was going to prove I was up to it. On some level I knew that the environment was toxic, but I don’t think I even began to realize how that could affect me.
And then I got fired.
Out of the blue, a week before Christmas, I was told to pack up my office and leave that day. Why? Well, some mumbling about down-sizing, something about cost cuts. I was devastated. I felt a total failure.
It took me many weeks to begin to notice that I had created a story of what I had to put up with in order to be a success. When I started to wake up in the morning without headaches or nausea; when I realized that I had started to feel hopeful again, that’s when I began to see how toxic it had all been.
It took me a while to realize that I was successful just by virtue of the fact that I had survived.
It took me a while to realize that I didn’t need to compromise on my values and integrity in order to be a professional, in fact that the opposite is true. Sometimes you need to take a stand, even if it means losing your job.
It took me a while to realize that my ability and self-esteem cannot be measured by how any one person even a manager, sees me.
And so many years later, the same is true in my own business.
I don’t have to answer to someone else’s idea of how a successful business is run. I can decide on my own terms and make it work for me.
How does that look?
I get to create my own work environment – right now it’s at my kitchen table as my son makes his lunch. This morning it was at my local coffee shop with the buzz and company of other entrepreneurs like me.
I get to choose my hours – so I can cater to the needs of my family AND be available to clients all over the world.
I get to choose my clients by telling the stories that resonate with people looking to grow an authentic, heart centered business and really have impact on the world around them.
For me it feels like freedom – not easy to create, nor simple to maintain, but a constant state of examining, inquiring and testing. Allowing for mistakes and failures while trusting that this is my path and it’s always changing.
Yes, it’s freedom.
How does freedom look to you?
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