I remember my early stints at trying to work – each a disaster in it’s own way. I was bound in frustration and angst at that time, but now the memories have lost their sting – in fact they make me smile (and I even feel grateful for the path that they subsequently launched me onto).
I remember sitting on the 18’th floor of a plush office looking out at the beautiful blue Arabian sea that stretched out forever. The expansiveness of the ocean was in stark contrast to the feeling of contraction and confinement I experienced in my job. I wondered why I had let myself willingly be trapped into a work routine that felt like a prison.
I remember staring dumbfounded at the report I had prepared after a whole week of work only to be told that I would have to re analyze the data again and re-create the report so that an output graph that was going downward would go upward instead. My boss literally screamed at me and said, ‘Ramya if I submit this report I will lost my job’. I thought of all my math teachers from school and wanted to tell them that the math they had taught me did not help in the corporate world. Here I had to use math creatively – decide the final outcome numbers first and then create logic and input numbers to support it.
I remember hiding and crying in the bathroom so that nobody saw my emotional and feminine side at work. I was one of two women on a floor with open plan offices and I remember cringing inside but outwardly faking a smile everytime a man used a swear word or walked across the floor using foul language and obscene gestures. This was the norm and the ‘style’ on this particular floor and I was trying hard to fit in.
These are all real incidents from my own work experiences (each one in a different firm), and needless to say I did’nt last long in any of these jobs. These are perhaps extreme experiences but the more I open up to others the more I realize that my early work experiences were not outliers – rather they are more common than one would imagine. Feelings of frustration, unhappiness, self-betrayal and angst are sometimes taken as the norm – something one has to put up with in the world of work. But what if that is not true?
See it is easy to blame the corporate culture and fool ourselves into believing that we are helpless victims. In fact that is exactly what I did early on in my career as well. However when the world of ‘work’ became unbearable I finally gave up altogether and set out on a deeper quest. I wanted to discover the relationship between human beings and their work (partly out of intellectual curiosity but also out of a need to understand my own unhappiness at work so that I could change it).
For the last fourteen years I have been exploring the subject of the person-work relationship in the fields of organizational behaviour, philosophy, and experiential learning and growth. The more I explore the more I realize how our work can be an immense blessing or a curse in our lives – and how we hold the key to crafting (and often re-crafting) it one way or another. Yes the corporations have their cultures, our families and societies have their norms, and the media will keep trying to program our minds. But even amidst all of this we actually have the ability to craft for ourselves a work experience that is fulfilling, meaningful and joyful – one that allow us to be happy and contribute to the world as well.
For the last eight years I have been teaching courses and workshops at IIM Bangalore on these themes. Every year I teach multiple sections of a course for MBA students titled, ‘Personal Values, Goals, and Career Options’ which runs for 20 sessions over a 10 week period. I also have been conducting 3 day intensive workshops titled, ‘Leading with Joy’ to executive participants from multinationals to public sector employees.
This July, I am launching an online course on edX which is a combination of both these courses. Of course taking a course online is different from an in-class experience but I was fortunate to find a wonderful team at IIM Bangalore that worked with me for over two full years to re-craft our in class activities into activities that you can do by yourself. They have been designed to give you reflective experiences that are similar to the in-class activities.
If you are someone who would like to learn psychological tools to re-craft your work experience into something that is actually enjoyable and meaningful, something that feels like a tribute to you rather than a betrayal of your true self then check this course out. I would love to have you on board in our maiden run this July – and it is free! Enrol here https://www.edx.org/course/crafting-realities-work-happiness-and-meaning