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Are You in the Wrong Car?

By Joey Havens

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I am parked outside the outpatient discharge exit, waiting for my friend to be wheelchaired out after his outpatient procedure. I’m his designated driver this morning. Recovery takes a little longer than planned, so I am reading a book on my Kindle while I wait. Lots of pedestrians and a few cars are coming by as they load up other patients who have been discharged.

My passenger door opened and a man quickly sat in my front seat. Truthfully, I’m a little slow reacting as I focus on an exciting part of the book. As I gaze over, I see a man I don’t know. He looks at the floorboard and mumbles something about being glad that’s over when I respornd, “You are in the wrong car.”

He gazes up, laughs, and says, “Wow, you even look like my driver. Sorry about that.” It’s obvious he is embarrassed as he quickly jumps out of my car. In about five minutes, another black Toyota SUV pulls up, and he jumps in and gives me a slight wave as he leaves. I’m not sure how he confused me with the other driver as I am much better looking. Ha!

What can we learn today from a leadership perspective? (Yes, Mom, we should keep our doors locked while sitting in a parking lot and watch those around us.) For me, this man’s predicament reminds me of the millions of people resigning from jobs to join another organization only to realize after onboarding this was a big mistake. Running from a workplace culture only to experience one that is worse. Those who moved for more money but now see the real value in being part of a culture with a strong sense of belonging and more opportunity. For those who moved for opportunity, they regret the toxic fumes that come with it. Those who want more flexibility find self-doubt, big brother control, and an overall feeling of being in it alone, which saps the joy from any freedom.

The old wisdom that the grass is not always greener on the other side is very true when it comes to workplace culture. Just as one wrong car door opens, an inadvertent step into a misaligned company culture can halt a career journey and diminish morale.

Appearances can be very deceiving when it comes to workplace culture. It’s easy to hang suitable banners, say the right things, and create an illusion of a people-first culture. However, it’s even easier and quick to spot these toxic workplaces for what they are by the actions of the leaders, listening to the team members’ feedback loops, and experiencing a personal lack of connection with our supervisor or new team.

My advice is to be careful about being lulled into a transition you might regret later. Do your due diligence thoroughly before jumping into the next car. Make sure the gains outweigh the risks. Be sure to get the inside scoop from existing team members. Your best option might be to be the cheerleader who helps grow and improve our current workplace culture. My experience has been that when I pursue excellence, my sense of belonging grows, opportunities flourish, and financial gains are abundant.

Regardless of our role or team, let’s be intentional about trusting first, connecting, and demonstrating we care. Every voice counts, and all cultures change one conversation at a time. Are you making your voice heard or looking around too much?

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