Tales from the Employee Experience Underground

Thomas FairbairnFebruary 18, 20207min0

It’s important to get your EX knowledge from a wide range of places – above and below ground! Sure, there’s a huge value in listening to influencers and reading academic research. But qualitative, unique perspectives are really important too.

So we’ve collected together some lesser-known EX stories from all corners of the web, from ordinary workers all around the world. In here are examples of great work environments – and things to avoid! Hopefully you find these interesting.


The Email From Hell

“I worked for an oil company, and lived through mass redundancies when the oil went belly up.

They sent out a list of which positions were being made redundant, with numbers for how many people currently held that role and how many they were cutting it to. So if it said ‘Buyers | Current: 4 | Consultation: 3’ you knew that if you were a buyer you’d be under scrutiny and 25% of your team would be gone soon.

I sat at my desk and opened the e-mail. Looked for my position, no redundancy for me. The girl next to me opened hers and saw ‘Her position | Current: 1 | Consultation: 0’. That’s how she learned she’d lost her job.”


Awesome Bosses

“I worked at a radio station setting up and operating the technology for remote broadcasts, and the manager of the station was awesome.

He knew how to do every job in the station and would always be willing to offer help if he was on site with you, but didn’t interfere unless you were really messing up or asked for help.

One time, I forgot my staff pass at a concert and wasn’t allowed in during setup. When I called him asking what to do and profusely apologising, he walked up to the other side of the fence with the same jovial smile he always had and handed me a spare pass through the links. He dismissed my apologies and said mistakes happen.

I moved away and had to quit, but he’s given me sterling recommendation for every resume I’ve submitted since then.”


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Making Company News Fun

“Ten minutes into the company meeting someone’s phone went off playing bagpipe music. But as it got louder we realised it was an actual set of bagpipes playing outside. Before we knew it, the guy marches into the conference room blasting away. After he finished playing, the speaker, who had been playing dumb until now, announced that we had just acquired a small company in Scotland. Best announcement ever.”



Own Devices

“I work at a dispersed mid-sized enterprise which makes stuff everyone reading this probably owns. There is no management structure so-to-say. There is leadership but they’re not so much there to manage people as help steer the organisation directionally and approve large investments. We make our own decisions about what we individually spend our time doing and are free to form teams to investigate and implement new functionality. Salary is uniquely determined by your performance and usefulness to the company (not your boss’ opinion).

Upsides? Zero micromanagement. You will never have someone question why you left at 1pm on a Tuesday. You get to spend a lot of time experimenting and probably do more technical work than peers at other organisations.

Downsides? Decisions can be hard. No bosses means no one saying “you will do X” so you end up having to convince some hold-outs that solution X is better than Y. Policies are hard since who is there to say you MUST follow X policy?

The organisation works great if people feel ownership and just overall do what they’re supposed to do. It breaks down when no one steps up to do certain stuff.”


All That Glitters is Not Gold

“If there’s stuff pointed out there such as for entertainment, I’d be a little skeptical. You’re not paid to chill doing those things, so if they’re actually there to be used for relaxing, there’s a good chance you’re: doing a demanding or stressful job, or some other negative for them to try promote ‘fun’ activities at the workplace. What is a toxic workplace? This is a great example.

Flash offices and tidbits might seem appealing, but after a few months the job often might not be. Focus on whether you’ll enjoy the content of your job. Also bear in mind that above market-rate pay may also be compensating for something.”


If you’d like to see top organisations talking about their employee experience, book your seats today for the UK Employee Experience Awards!

Click here for more EX stories!

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Thomas Fairbairn

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