2019 marks the seventh year in full-time employment for me. Seven years don’t sound like much. Yet, in less than a decade, I have experienced more than many people in their whole worklife.
When I reflect on some of the things that happened, I feel like I did not always choose my employers wisely. A lot of it had to do with the fact that some aspects of employment were not visible from the outside before I started the job.
A quick rundown of my “highlights”:
- cyberstalking by a member I had to kick out because he had harassed women in the community
- comments by colleagues on why all of a sudden you need a woman’ permission to touch her
- bullying of colleagues in front of everyone
- sex messages – and my employer failed to protect me
- false accusations by my team lead who had told this to the head of our department
- colleagues who were rigidly controlled to make them quit
- colleagues who were made to cry in “retrospectives”
- talking down so that I wouldn’t ask for a raise again
- similar conversations in which men’s ideas were treated like gold, women’s ideas as unimaginative
- deliberate change in language so that colleagues could not follow along
- a plot concocted by a head of to get rid of my colleague and me (as recounted by the team lead who was tasked with this sordid endeavor)
- public statements that men were preferred for the job
- colleagues and I tasked to lie to the customer / community
- and more…
Considering these incidents, it is hard for me to trust. This applies both to the employer company itself as well as to colleagues.
The difference in trust
Yet, in my job at Google I trust. I have take the conscoius decision to let myself fall without security net. Why is my motivation different this time around? Why am I able to trust?
It is all due to my amazing colleagues. Having gotten to know them, I would walk through fire for each and everyone. They trusted me first – with their communities, their projects, and indeed, their “babies”.
Assume positive intent
Everybody has good days and bad days. What I do know is that noone would do anything negative intentionally. “Assume positive intent” is one of the mantras.
By creating this atmosphere of mutual trust, we are all more productive. Because we feel that, if we do make a mistake, the “tribe” will hold you and cheer you on.
The concept is also known as “psychological safety”. Looking back, a lot of what my mother has done in raising me, is connected to trust or better said, an advance in trust. I always valued that beyond anything else. It led me to have confidence in myself and my actions.
The same goes for my amazing DACH community. Never before have I had the impression that I can blindly trust a group of people like that. They have proven themselves to me first. I mirror their belief in me.
So how does it work for me currently? The best way I could describe it is an immersive letting go. Falling off a cliff, but with a smiling face.
I trust. I trust, I trust. I embrace. I exude positive vibes. I lean on others, they lean on me.
The way this shows is that I let others peek inside. By that I mean not only the deep stuff I talk about anyway. I refer to my innermost feelings and psychological states. This does not happen with everyone everytime. (it would overwhelm people that often, of course).
No, it is the half an hour talk in between booths at a conference. It is the handover of a project I am heavily invested in and not checking in for every single detail. It is having no answer to the question “will everything be alright?” and still feeling assured.
How do I contribute my part? I don’t judge. Whatever comes my way, I am sure that there are motives and reasons for everything. And again, I trust with all of my heart.
The end result? A tight-knit team on a shared mission. In our case that is empowering developers and giving them the confidence and tools to succeed. Another exercise in trust? Absolutely! And absolutely worth it.