People, Politics and Pecking Orders: Corporate America Survival Tactics for Free Spirits

At 22 years old, I started my first job at a large corporation as a Data Preparation Technician. That was just a souped-up name for an ‘Office Gopher’.
I started all bright eyed and bushy tailed and now I’m all lethargic and lazy.


Well maybe lazy is the wrong terminology. I’m drained — at any given time during my work day I’m day dreaming about everything except work. 
Yep, I’m pretty bored, but, the allure of lofty company benefits has kept me blindly satisfied. Great insurance, 401 K matched up to 50% or more for some companies, paid vacation and holidays, employee discounts — who can resist all of that? All you have to do is what the hell they tell you to do for eight hours or so per day, five days per week. Simple, right? Nope, not even remotely simple and convenient for a self-proclaimed free spirit like myself! 

Merriam-Webster.com defines a free spirit as a non-conformist, a free and uninhibited person, bohemian, iconoclast, individualist, to name several.


Any time I am forced to follow someone else’s rules I feel trapped, stifled and suffocated. Don’t get me wrong, rules are important. They help guide us and keep us safe from harm in some cases; but, it’s a different story in Corporate America. Corporate America is a term that refers to corporations and big businesses within the United States. Within these corporations, toxic environments are manifested by people, politics and pecking orders. In simpler terms, if you give the wrong people a little bit of power over others, they may become greedy and abuse it making for a toxic work environment. Over 15 years of experience in these types of environments have shown me that the free spirit suffers the most under these conditions.

For years, I had no idea why I was so resistant to the work I was doing. I mean I was getting paid decently, taking care of myself, volunteering and giving back to my community, traveling and living my dreams — but I wasn’t happy.

It wasn’t until I was working in these environments for almost 15 years that I had an epiphany — it’s not them, it’s me.


I realized that my time in Corporate America has to come to an end soon because my happiness takes precedence over my comfortability. Unfortunately, walking away is not as easy as Issa made it look in Season Three, Episode Four of “Insecure” when she chucked the deuces and walked away from her forced subservient role at “We Got Y’all”. I would have to come up with a game plan — a two to five year exit plan. It might not work for others, but, this works for my almost 40 year old self.

In order to successfully last for two to five more years in Corporate America I have to find ‘pockets of freedom’ where I can within this caged type of environment. I did some research and I started practicing some simple steps to help me find that freedom. I’ve narrowed those steps down to six practices to help me find sanity in the middle of organized chaos. Here’s what I did:

Take A Career Assessment

Not all careers are made alike. You have to research to find the best match for you. Taking a career assessment can help you understand what type of work is best for you based on your personality, interests and needs. My Next Move is sponsored by the United States Department of Labor. There you can take the Interest Profiler that will allow you to assess your career needs. I love it because it gives a comprehensive detailing of several career paths. You’ll have to try it to find out how great it is! 

Practice Mindfulness

I do this by doing daily meditation and reciting affirmations. This has helped me tremendously. I’m able to live, breathe and exude positivity because my mind is clear. I think about things in a more positive light. It seems funny and fake at first, but, I promise after some practice it gets easier. Don’t know where start? Try Googling or searching YouTube. There are some great resources available.

Travel

Travel helps us grow in so many ways. Even if you cannot afford to travel far, do a road trip to clear your mind. Oftentimes travel introduces us to new experiences. New experiences help us understand that there is life outside of our current circumstances.  Check out a previous post I wrote about why travel is important to me here.

Open Communication With Your Management

Talk with your manager about your personality. I’m blessed to have a pretty cool and open-minded manager currently. In one of our monthly one on one meetings I decided to open up to her about my free spiritedness. I wanted to help her understand how to manage me. That’s right, she would have never known if I didn’t tell her! I was opening up the lines of communication between us. The meeting didn’t turn out too bad either. My manager commended me for my candor and self-awareness. Her response helped me build trust in sharing information with her in the future.

Avoid Office Drama and Politics

The easiest way to stay away from office politics and drama is to completely stay to yourself. Will you look standoffish? The answer is yes, but, you’ll keep away from the stress that drama and politics bring. If you’re an extroverted person like me it’s inevitable that you will get caught up in office BS at some point because extroverts get energized from social interactions. You have to know the art of smooth recovery in these situations though. Do a self-check if you get caught up, apologize to anyone you’ve offended and be sure that you understand how to stay out of things like that in the future. Finally, don’t belabor the issue. If others still have a problem, let them have it. Stay out of the mess and it’ll blow over before you know it.

Find Your Happy Place and Dwell There

Once you find your happy place, do everything in your power to stay there. This means habitually doing whatever it took you to get to that happy place in the beginning. For me, I try to recite affirmations and do meditations daily. For you, it might be something else. Just do it — HABITUALLY.

Even if you follow every one of the previous steps incessantly, you’re still going to have some pretty shitty days where you feel like cursing everyone out and walking away — that’s life. I encourage you to take a walk and get a breather. Maybe drawing the following diagram I draw when times get tough at work might help:

The large, open circle is a representation of your life. That tiny speck labeled job represents your job as it applies to your life. It’s important because it’s there; but, there’s much more space for more important things like family, friends, hobbies, etc. This little drawing reminds me, every single time, that life is so much bigger than my current situation.

Are you a free spirit working in Corporate America? Tell me what helps you survive. Do you know another free spirit who has struggled or is currently struggling? Please share this with them.

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