Six years ago I accepted a job offer. I knew I was letting myself to a tough relationship that my gut feeling did not approve of, but I chose not to listen to it. I did not listen because it sounded rationally so good and then I had my ego interfere. I had applied to this position earlier and I was not selected at that time. One year fast-forward,  I was wanted. I knew it in that first interview already that this was not a good fit for me, my gut feeling very rightfully had told it to me. Back then though, I did not deal well with rejections (I still have trouble with them even though it got so much better now…) And now they did want me after all and the position was fitting well with the rest of the circumstances of my life at that time. To be more specific, I had just relocated back to Munich and I did want to stay there for many reasons. The current position I had was going to shut down, I had been proposed a beautiful job offer by beautiful people in Norway, but I was not ready to relocate there for private reasons. And then, boy, I had my ego interfere…I accepted the job offer in Munich and I stayed.

The first month was nice, full of motivation, excitement, inspiration and new things to learn. The second month started to show and in the third month, I could see the toxic environment I had landed in very clearly. My gut feeling had warned me off about it so alarmingly already in that first interview, where I was rejected. I had chosen to ignore.

Actually, it was all even worse. Shaming, blaming, fear was on the daily agenda in all forms and it was accepted as the norm. They all took it and thought this is how a work environment typically is. I have to add majority of our small team was freshmen coming from different countries right out of the university. They had seldom prior experience. Compared to them I was a rookie, which made everything even harder for me, as I had seen it also otherwise. Life at work looked like it is normal to be humiliated each and every day. Your bosses always know it better and your mistakes are punished big time, while your successes are just invisible. I was shocked.  At the same time, I don’t deal well with failures, so I stuck around. I said I will master this.

I stuck around for three years. I did not master it at all. Instead, I suffered. I suffered to the point that I got sick and that I did not know why life was doing this to me after all the hardship I had already had thus far in my life. I suffered to the point that I left it all… I left Munich, I left Germany, I left my apartment, I left my friends. I left it all for a new life.

Now I know why…  And I am grateful. In hindsight, am truly grateful for all what has happened to me.

Six years after that, I happen to have my own team. Seven brilliant, young, motivated, super smart, beautiful, diverse people. I am called “Manager”, while I feel more like a like an “experienced family member”. Call it “older sister”, even “grandmother” if you like. OK, maybe sometimes, I am indeed the manager with firm commands and strict voice, but that is seldom. My team seldom lets me get there.  My team is a natural family to me and I love them.

I want my team to feel recognized for each little victory they conquered and they conquer BIG victories. I want them to feel valued for the person they are. They are super smart, young individuals with their own dreams and passions and I want them to feel supported, unique and special.  I want no fears, no “failures”, no shames, no blames…I want us to laugh together, grow together, learn and cherish together. I want them to grow and sail away when and if they want to. I want them to challenge me in my of thinking so that I can learn from them and I can also grow in ways I could have never imagined. I want that they have a life outside of work and that they value their family, their hobbies, health and whatever else is important to them. I demand respect for everyone and everything, most importantly for oneself. I want that we wake up each and every day and we want to come to work, because we are creating something beautiful and meaningful together and because it is so much fun. Everything I did not have during those three years that make me sick, I want for them, for us.

Now, in hindsight, I am grateful for those three years of hardship. Had I not gone through that, had I never known. Me and my team, we are doing well. Don’t we have any hiccups? We do. And then some….But we manage, and we laugh. We are a family, as long as we are together and until we start to fly away to discover the world outside…

In hindsight, I am so grateful for all the hardship I had back then, which I had not understood why. Now I know. I needed that time to be the person I am now and to be able to live the fortune that I have now.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Soren Kierkegaard

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