Change is a common occurrence in any workplace. Whether it be a change in roles, new staff, shifts in workplace ideologies and practises or any other number of situations that fall under the umbrella of change. As I started my working life from the young age of 14, I have experienced my fair share of disruption and change, so the first challenge was the identify one that I believed demonstrated my own personal self-development and professional values while still answering the assessable question.
After much deliberation, I settled on a much more recent event that has happened in my working life. That being, the change in workplace dynamic that occurred at my old job in Orange NSW after I moved away to Wollongong for university and the emotional and mental challenged that followed it. Before I moved away, I was high up on the management team at a pizza store and had a fantastic relationship with the owners, which I still have to this day. This relationship has allowed me to continually pick up work whenever I visit home and they welcome me back with open arms. However, there was a serious shift in my role in the shop that was a struggle to establish. Do I step back into my management role even though I only work there for three months of the year? Do I take a back seat and become one of the normal shift workers? How do I not over-step boundaries and ensure I do not disturb the workplace ecosystem that has been established after my departure? These were big challenges that I had to overcome, and it took two and a half years to finally realise what my new position would be.
In the early stages of this subject, we have been taught that “thinking narratively helps us to identify steps that have been taken in life that are distinctive in some way”. Putting this experience into a narrative has opened an opportunity for me to think critically on the situation and identify important characters in this story that were instrumental in my own development and the story itself. No character, in this regard, is more important on this journey than the owner of the business in question, Max Schaapveld. Other than having a last name that is difficult to pronounce, Max is a brilliant businessman and guided me through this difficult transition to ensure I could be the most effective worker possible. I reached out to Max and asked a few questions to gain his perspective on the situation so I could translate his view into the story.
Coming back to work after moving away, I assumed I would step back instantly into my old role, not thinking about the 5-month gap in-between my appearances. Instantly I came across challenges that were not expected. From Max’s eyes, I came back with a sense of authority to workers who I had not previously met. There were conflicts as I was a manager who essentially took 6 month holidays every year. I was not getting the same reception with some of the staff, and I struggled on a personal note to complete tasks to my own standard as my mind was so clouded emotionally speaking. How I was feeling directly represents the words of sociologist Arlie Hochschild who said when questioned about motional self-management:
“If in the course of asserting yourself you find that you are having to brace yourself against imagined criticisms, or people are looking disapproving and you realize your job may be in jeopardy, all of that bracing and anticipation and experience of anxiety I would count as yes, emotional labor. But it’s not welded into the task itself.”
I had never struggled to connect with a team or just in the workplace in general. This first experience ensured my confidence took a hit, so did my decision-making skill and my ability to be an effective worker. This struggle continued for my next two visits home until Max decided to have a chat to me to re-align my values and prioritise the value that I could add to his business.
Suddenly, I evolved from a store manager who handled every day running of the shop and staffing issues into a “Store Operations Manager”. This meant that I now had a role that utilised my years of experience in a beneficial way to the business. I now provided an outside perspective on staff and operations and attempted to ensure the business was providing a top-quality product with a top-quality team.
This small change in title and responsibilities revolutionised my professional development. Max noticed subtle changes in my work ethic and ability to evaluate challenges and capitalise on mistakes. The team that changed every time I came back began to respect me and so did the current managers. I was no longer a threat, and we began to work well together. I was able to now evaluate teams, train staff members and provide an outside perspective on business operations that were perhaps missed my managers who must focus so heavily on team morale and other everyday decisions. My job was not there to make friends, my job had the business at the forefront of my mind. This shift in dynamic really helped both the business and my development and this can all be put down to the genius insights of the business owner Max.
In the week 4 workshops, a particular quote stood out that I think resonates with this story:
“All stories are shaped by the assumption that because we have a past, we have a future”
My past at this workplace was full of success and a strong team synergy. Coming back to work a few times a year completely threw a spanner in the works and suddenly, the workplace that I had called home all my teenage years was suddenly foreign. However, and referring to the quote here, I had a future at this workplace because of my experience and skill. My job may have been different, and the workplace evolved without me, however these critical external factors shaped me into the worker I am today and gave me a future that I could not have imagined as a bright eyed, 14 year old walking into his first shift.
Max Schaapveld Interview, 2021.
Beck, J. 2018, The Concept Creep of Emotional Labour, The Atlantic, accessed 25th August 2021 https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/11/arlie-hochschild-housework-isnt-emotional-labor/576637/
BCM313 Workshop Week 4 Slides https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1LVQ3CUDWWq4HBow6mgb0D-rDLaSOHR2n3s4EWRvvdII/edit#slide=id.ge79a99c6d1_0_126
BCM313 Workshop Week 2 Slides https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1AFmvrwFk5r6mxh8FOIUXp33Ew7ydsc3BDyK54OmbWLU/edit#slide=id.gea09ee1d0e_0_109