Work Environment Matters
There are many reasons why people leave their jobs — perhaps their salary was not something their were comfortable; maybe their boss was insane; or its possible that they could no longer deal with the commute (I am sure you know at least one person with the commute from hell—the person who has to take two buses to the ferry to hop on the train. I’m talking about our friends from Staten Island or the out-of-towners from New Jersey).
All of these reasons I have listed, and many that I have not, are valid. Think about it. One fact we do not consider outright, perhaps intentionally, is that most of us spend a third of our weekdays in the office, another third in bed (if we’re lucky—almost no one gets eight hours sleep anymore), and the last third of that time either fantasizing about sleep, or attempting to live while still worrying about all the stuff we need to accomplish the next day at work. That being said, if you’re going to spend so much of your time — time that is arguably the choicest, most alert part of your day — at work… you might want to be in an atmosphere that doesn’t make you grind your teeth.
It is therefore well worth asking yourself, no matter what stage you are at in your career… What kind of work environment do you need?
Like cities unto themselves, offices have their own characteristics and culture. Some are your “shut the door behind you” offices, while others are more “we have no doors. Feel free to pull up the nearest beanbag and have a seat.” Fast-paced, mildly-manic, bustling, or low-key, the energy of an office space is important to your satisfaction and productivity as an employee. Employers are aware of this, which is one reason today’s job descriptions and their requirements increasingly include statements like ” must work well in a quiet office setting” or “ability to meet deadlines and function in a fast paced work environment. The former wants to avoid employee boredom, and the later wants to avoid someone’s tears or nervous breakdown.
Knowing whether the office you are considering is right for you requires conversations with current or recent employees, or ideally an interview— during the latter, you can see it with your own eyes. If you feel excited or like really could belong there, kind of like shopping for your own home, you’ll feel it.
The main part of what defines your working environment is of course the people. Life can be much easier when you don’t hate your coworkers, or at least if you can respect them enough to get things done. However, while you may be able to work around your discomfort with your colleagues, it is a rare person indeed who can side-step a terrible boss— or even a supervisor whose management style doesn’t gel with their own style of working.
Some people prefer lots of guidance when completing a task, while others simply say “give me the goal and I’ll figure it out.” Neither of these is wrong, but when you are paired with a manager who doesn’t quite get your approach, it can create discomfort for you both. If you’re more of a “I’d like guidance” person, you could feel some confusion while your manager could feel like you’re trying to get them to do your job. If you are on the other side, more of the “let me run with it” type, you may feel micro-managed while your supervisor feels like you aren’t structured.
The best way to get a handle of your manager’s style is of course to ask questions: How would you describe your management style? Can you tell me about some of the projects you’ve worked on before and how you’ve guided your team through it? What type of communication do you prefer? Do you prefer to be kept abreast of each step of projects or do you want your staff to bring you in at the end or seek you out when there is an issue? And of course, whenever possible, ask someone who has worked under your potential boss. See what their experience has been like—chances are the picture they give to you will be closer to what you’ll actually experience when you work there.