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No. 30 – I’m being excluded from company perks, and it’s starting to hurt

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22 September 2021

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, the impact of being excluded from corporate initiatives as a contractor, disappointment about a new job, and receiving nasty messages about a boss.

I am a long-term contractor in an organisation that has a lot of permanent employees. I am always being told that our company is focused on inclusion for everyone in the business (and inclusion is one of our corporate values). But as a contractor, I am excluded from things like team-building events, employee gifts and other non-financial benefits the company offers full-time employees. The result is that I don’t feel very included, and it’s starting to impact my experience at work. How can I change this?

Sadly I think the situation you describe is quite common and is also one that is overlooked by many business leaders. My suspicion is that at the most senior levels of your business, the intention would be that you are included in the kinds of people-focused, cultural initiatives you describe yet in practice, the fact you are paid as a contractor and not a PAYG employee, has got in the way. That is, of course, ridiculous. As leaders we want everyone working in and with our companies to feel part of the team regardless of how your income is taxed.

There is an interesting report which was recently published that showed one in four contractors did not feel their wellbeing was supported by their employer. I think the message to your company needs to be that even though they don’t have to worry about your annual leave for example, you are still a critical part of their business and culture. It might be worth asking your boss if they realise you are excluded from all-company events (they may not even know) and whether they can find a way to include you. I am sure they’ll be grateful for your commitment to the company, and it will serve as a reminder to them to remember to broaden their inclusion focus.

I am still relatively early in my career, and during the lockdowns last year I left my previous job for a role that promised to be highly engaging with lots of development potential. I’ve now been at the new job for a year and have felt unsupported, as if everyone is too busy for me. I feel isolated by lack of communication and underwhelmed by the work I’m doing. When I left my previous employer, they seemed to genuinely offer that if I changed my mind, they’d be interested in having me back. Would it be a good idea to try to take them up on this? What’s the best way to approach it, if at all?

I suspect everyone – me included – goes through what you describe, where the grass appears greener and the enticements of a shiny new role are too strong to resist. We leave one great job for another and then, unfortunately, it doesn’t work out.

How fabulous for you that your last employer left the door open – they clearly really valued you. You should absolutely talk to them about your experiences in the new role and why it has made you appreciate the leadership and culture they offered. You are only new in your career and I think they will understand that sometimes you need to go through this to value what’s right in front of you. They will also understand that employees who leave and return again are generally incredibly loyal since they won’t be in a hurry to head anywhere else again.

I work with someone who is constantly bitching and moaning about our boss. In our virtual meetings, she will send me nasty private chat messages about them while they’re talking. I don’t like it but don’t know what to say. I actually quite like working for my boss and so feel disloyal when I see the things that my friend is saying. What should I do?

As I read your question it reminded me of high school bullies passing notes around class. This is definitely not something you would expect in a professional work environment. It’s also not particularly clever given written online communication exists forever.

I think you need to be upfront with your colleague and just say something like: “Can you please not include me in your messages? I don’t want to see them and I have more than enough on my plate to be thinking about than your issues with the boss.” Blunt, yes. But totally necessary if you want to be the adult in the room.

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