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Most of us have been there I explored in a recent LinkedIn article. Feeling unappreciated; our work and efforts going unnoticed and uncelebrated; our self-confidence plummeting by the day. The experience we have in the workplace can have a profound impact on all other areas of our lives, as well as our overall sense of well being. I started RedBalloon back in 2001 party because I wanted to create a workplace that inspires people, values their contribution and makes them excited to get up and go to work in the morning. In fact, just last night we were crowned – for the fifth year in a row – one of the top 10 best places to work in Australia (by BRW magazine). But my reality of the workplace has not always been so rosy.

Being a great work place is about creating a place where people can do their best work! Not diminishing them.

I have written quite a lot about my own awful work experiences and the impact we, as leaders, can have on the day-to-day employment reality of others. Some of my colleagues just this week were discussing this very topic – chatting about how grateful they are to work for a company like RedBalloon after seeing what life can be like in toxic workplaces. RedBalloon CEO Kristie was so interested in the concept she put a call out on our company blog for people to share their own workplace horror stories. What followed was beyond anything we could have anticipated…

“I had a manager who insisted on proof reading my emails before I could send and who berated me for sending a smiley face in an email to a colleague.”

“I worked for a property developer that would only sign off marketing invoices if I was wearing dresses or skirts. I had a few ‘invoice skirts’ that I’d have to bring out when suppliers would chase payment that got to a few months overdue.”

“During my first job in a call centre the team leader would screen calls made outside of the system, time our bathroom breaks, and sometimes follow people into the bathroom to check that they weren’t spending time on the phone or texting.”

“I worked for a building company a while back and had to float concrete floors. My boss would throw bricks at me from the scaffolding to try and knock me into the concrete.”

“When I was at school I worked as a retail assistant for s surf shop. The owner of the shop noticed someone had left their milk shake drink and a wrapper in the stock room. He then made a policy that we could not bring any food or drinks into the store. Our bags would be checked when entering and leaving the store by our store manager – we weren’t even allowed to have water bottles in our bags.”

To me there is a common theme to each of these stories. Apart from the fact that they are all horrific – and I struggle to understand how any business owner or leader could condone, let alone perpetrate, such acts against their people – the key values missing from these workplaces are respect and trust.

Fundamentally, as leaders, we have to trust others and ourselves. Trust is paramount in every employment relationship – without it, it is really difficult to achieve great things.

But trust takes time – as do all relationships. It is something that is given not earned. I say to my colleagues at RedBalloon, “You have my trust – it is not something you need to earn – it is implicit”. That is because I trust my choices in those leaders around me, I trust those leaders to fulfil, live and honour our values. And every day they encourage and develop those around them. First of all you have to trust yourself and your choices. There is no power in blame.

Do you have any workplace horror stories you’d like to share?

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