Corporate almost killed my soul.

It’s the end of 2018 and wrap up meetings are being had in my office for our big projects.

I get called in to take minutes as well as a to get my do list from this one specific meeting which had the big Kahuna’s of my office.

As I was sitting there taking the relevant notes, I zoned out and one thought came to mind; “I feel out of place, I feel small, I feel unrecognized”. These thoughts only got worse seeing as I had a valid point to make but didn’t trust myself enough to make it.

I wish I could say this was the first meeting I ever felt this way in, but it wasn’t. The feeling of suffocating my own thoughts and ideas was happening more and more often. It’s like when a teacher says there is no stupid question or idea, but you decide to pitch what you wanted to say privately afterwards and they ask, “why didn’t you say anything when I asked in class?”.

I was confident enough to say what I wanted and engage how I wanted in social spaces but in this one place where I spend over 80% of my time, I was the complete opposite.

So, after this meeting I decided to look up something on self-esteem in the work place. I used to tweet a lot that corporate spaces can kill your confidence, honestly thought I was speaking of a place of my own hurt but researched and realized that actual studies have been done regarding this.

Let’s learn together shall we, the term we will be looking at is, Organization-Based Self Esteem (OBSE)” the degree to which a person believes in their own capability, significance and worth in an organization.”

The one part that got me from my research and made me feel that I identify with the construct of OBSE is a simple sentence I read:

Low-self-esteem individuals experience more uncertainty as to the correctness of their thoughts, feelings and behavior and rely more on external cues to guide their behavior.

Having been in this role for close to two years I should be feeling more confident about myself and what I offer the company I am in but instead the opposite was happening to me. It was not only affecting my general attitude in the office but also how I was doing in my job. I would constantly find myself needing to ask my manager about tasks I had performed over ten thousand times just to see if I was doing it right.

It’s a pretty crippling feeling to be in a place for 8 hours and to constantly feel the need for validation even though deep down you know you can do well, and you’ve done well before.

There are apparently three main aspects that affect self-esteem, and these can be used to look at it in the work environment as well, namely;

 (1) the implicit signals sent by the environmental structures to which one is exposed.

(2) messages sent from significant others in one’s social environment.

(3) the individual’s feelings of efficacy and competence derived from his/her direct and personal experiences.

In an organization, how the company culture is structured, interaction between yourself and management, how your work gets critiqued and your personal, direct experiences can play a role to you developing OBSE in the long term.

The real question is how to we try to overcome OBSE and maintain a high level of self-confidence?

I personally found that communicating with co-workers who were on the same level as myself helped as we seemed to be going through the same issue with our respective managers, this helped in being able to vent but also motivate each other to stay focused on the bigger picture.

Do what you do well, great every time. Make sure you leave no room to doubt yourself or second guess what you have been tasked with doing.

Not all those who lead us are open to seeing how they might be affecting us negatively, but remember you are also in the position to learn and that is for you to further yourself. Get tasks for yourself daily above the scope of what you are given that will make you feel like you are spending your time fruitfully.

I will end off by saying this; I have spent countless sessions with my friends and family who for some odd reason where dealing with not the greatest managements or leaders as well. It is frustrating, and it can take a toll on you.

High school doesn’t prepare you for this and neither does university or college. You will need to stumble through it, build up the character you want to go forward with and stick to it. Being a junior at any company means we stuck dealing with a lot of crap, and nobody really cares, so I challenge those who have some sort of a voice amongst their peers going through the same struggles at work to form a group. Have a place that reassures you of your greatness. Help each other out if you can.

I have also been reassured that there are great managers out there who affirm and build you up esp. when they see your full potential and what it can do for the company. So, if you are a manager, I think you should take the time to assess those who work for you and see if they have grown and expanded more since joining you or if their light has dimmed.

If you have experienced this, please let me know or if you have found ways to rise above it then share your tips.




4 Comments Add yours

  1. Zed says:

    Thank you for this piece! I relate to this completely. I’ve experienced this(still am to be quite honest) and slowly trying to gain back the confidence I had in myself before I started in this position. I remember asking myself “wtf are you still doing here” feeling like a puppet that can’t think for herself at times… Being a “yes person” all the time… It’s so hard and it’s hardly ever spoken about or shared in circles. And having other people around to share with and relate to helped a lot. I read somewhere that having at least 1 friend in the office can make the journey easier and increase productivity etc. And I’m glad to have met you in my journey. You helped me through my dark days, and gave me the warmest hugs and motivation!
    Thank you T!


    1. Thando says:

      I want to cry in response to this but I’ve honestly seem you grow into your role and into your own voice. You are respected and will prove a lot more to people as your journey continues. I’m happy the voice in you never let you give up but instead you were able to be a shoulder for most of us to cry on and just speak to. A silent power is strong one and you possess it. To being the best mentor when it’s your time cause anybody who will be under your wings will be well led. ♥️


  2. Thandolwethu says:

    Great piece Thando! I am sorry that you went through this experience. However the takeaway from this experience is recognising your power 😉 it’s still early and you have started the year on a great foot. You are young and should be exploring the corporate world how you see fit. Wishing you the best on all your endeavours!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thando says:

      Thank you so much for the positive response Thandolwethu. This experience definetly taught me a lot and I can only move forward knowing that I grew more into myself. Corporate is and will be testing guess we just need to be more open about it and help each other cope and thrive. 🙂


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