18th December 2019

Working Environment: A Pandoras Box of Sorts

As I was graduating in 2009, I had an idea of where I would like to work. In my mind, I wanted to work with a well-known multinational company that provided a good working environment. My idea of a good working environment included a beautiful comfortable working place and facilities, a good salary package, development trainings, employee events etc.

Later on, working as a Site Engineer on a powerplant construction project for a local company in Egypt, I immediately realized my idea of a good working environment was not met by that particular organization by far. For starters, I couldn’t find a chair or desk to do my work.  We were provided with neither PCs to do mandatory reports nor canteens to buy a meal and that’s just to mention a few. To put matters into perspective; Maintenance Technicians were directed by Project Managers to switch off power in the office area because “The Breaker was Overloaded” only to make sure all Site Engineers cannot sit in the office. A move that set back Site Engineers’ performance especially when it came to documentation, design, progress evaluation and reporting.

What was even more shocking was that despite this inconsiderate environment, the company had about 3000 people out of which 600 were working on this installation project which made me wonder if all these people are tolerating such situations, was that environment really that bad?

Nevertheless, I focused on the bright side which in turn changed my mindset.  I realized that I had a great opportunity working at a huge Power Plant project which gave me a ton of experience, grew my intellect and practical knowledge needed for my Engineering career. I also had access to great leaders and supportive teachers who gave me guidance and advice that I use to this day. After a year, I was a more confident engineer and even got a salary bump.

I then switched my outlook to say, that the environment wasn’t bad after all. My initilal definition was biased and only focused on certain things while overlooking other aspects like knowledge sharing & transfer of it that in turn helped horn my career for the better.

3 years later I learned this lesson twice as hard when my original dream came true. I got a chance to work in a multinational company that had a very nice airconditioned office space, nice chairs, my own desk, a PC, well stocked canteens and an even better salary. But besides all that, I faced a great difficulty where I completely lacked support from my peers. I had to fend for myself with everything, utilizing my previous experience without any sense of guidance or help from existing leaders. This was quite devastating because I wanted to grow and this was not happening in my new job. I wanted to go back to my previous job! Goes to say how life is best understood backwards.

And even after years in the industry, this is still a repeat reality in each working space I have been in. What looks the best isn’t always the best and following that materialistic approach could lead to more challenges and pain than focusing on professional growth which we are all striving for.

It is still the employer’s responsibility to make sure the working environment provides the employee an opportunity to maximize their productivity and personal career growth.  But also, as employees we have to first understand that no company is perfect and possibly none will ever be. Our mindsets should be focused on thinking positively and looking at the opportunities our current job provides us. This can always help shape the working environment for the better regardless of where we are to a space that we are constantly learning, improving and developing our skills.

I am not saying toxic environments don’t exist out there however we ought to apply wisdom in telling the good from the evil apart and take measures to address. In the end, quitting or staying is a personal decision that can only be appreciated or frowned upon when observed in retrospect. Good luck to us all.