Work culture: self employment and doubt

anna zagalaComment

I’ve always been interested in organisational culture. In larger organisations where I’ve occupied Operational roles, I’ve gravitated to the HR component and the way explicit policies in fact underpin and enforce values. Is texting colleagues outside of work hours okay? Can you use some work time to exercise? Where does the organisation stand on morning tea breaks or shared lunches? That kind of thing. Healthy, safe, functional workplaces are a reflection of a thousand and one things put in place with humans who can successfully self-regulate their emotions, feel confident that situations can be repaired when they go the rails, and take responsibility and pride in what they do.

The great satisfaction, of course, is in working together to make something.

Working between organisations and self employment I’ve often reflected on the pleasures and drawbacks of both. This week I was painfully reminded of the drawbacks of being a Boss Lady when I faced a powerful and persistent sense of self doubt.

Horrid, miserable self doubt.

Which is weird, since I should have been on cloud nine. On four separate occasions clients said these very nice things about my work:

“Thank you, I love your work.”

“This is excellent stuff. The words go to  the very essence of CommunityOSH.”

“Love your work.”


While I’ve accepted the praise with grace I had trouble really taking the words to heart. It’s like I couldn’t hear them. 

Usually at the end of a project – when it’s gone well – it's cause for celebration: champagne, lunch out, cake for breakfast.

I just figure, if I can’t celebrate my small successes, who will? But instead of high five-ing myself recently I’ve literally just flipped a page in my notebook and got onto the next thing.

Joyless, sad sack me.

So I took a long hard look at my organisational culture:

~ Exercise encouraged
~ Morning tea a must
~ Communication boundaries in place

Tick. Tick. Tick. And then I realised, what I’m missing is the Boss Lady’s version of colleagues.

The stabilising force in this triangle – outside of myself and my clients – are my regular collaborators and creative colleagues. And right now they are roughly 800 kms to the east.  

It’s been hard to value my work because there’s been no one to share it with. The sense of “working together to make something” has been too fleeting.

In short, I’m facing the hardship of relocation, upheaval and transition. Transition – just here to share something that is probably not news to anyone – is just a bitch.*

Yeah, yeah, I know it takes time. In the meantime I'm doing the Boss Lady version of getting a boss.

I'm engaging a mentor. Stay tuned.


*Note, a bit of colourful language is okay, just not too much.

Image: Noel McKenna (more image details not avail) from the exhibition Landscape – Mapped, 1
8 November 2017 – 2 April 2018, Queensland Art Gallery