You have been in your first permanent paid job for 6 months following graduation from university. You were overjoyed at landing the role against tough competition. Your first step into the world of organisational life has given you an income to pay for rent and you’ve got away from living at home with Mum, Dad and your annoying sister. How’s it going?

When coaching young people in their early 20s, I often find that some of their expectations and assumptions are confounded upon meeting the realities of how organisations work in practice. Systems and processes don’t always function how they were intended, people don’t always behave in line with the corporate values that you researched for the job, and the job role itself isn’t always how it was sold to you at interview.

The contrast may seem huge between those sometimes mundane early responsibilities and the lofty intellectual nourishment of university life. The temptation is to look for greener grass prematurely.

Recent examples from my coaching work:

  • A requirement to print everything because that’s the way people have always done it, meaning long hours for you doing the donkey work.
  • Having to go through layers of management for a decision or approval more appropriate for you to make, delaying implementation or delivery, so you get frustrated and have the difficult job of explaining it to external stakeholders.
  • Being micro-managed so you have no freedom to show your abilities and potential.
  • Inadequate performance development because your manager’s priorities lie elsewhere, so you’re left to sink or swim.

Do not ask the world to change. Change yourself. Buddha

Here are 5 ways you can you deal positively with this kind of bureaucracy and poor people management:

Have a 1-1 with your manager

Ensure you have regular one-to-one performance conversations with your manager and raise the issues skilfully. Test out your ideas, clarify your role, responsibilities and the boundaries of authority to do things for yourself. Find out what pressures they are under so you can see their viewpoint. Negotiate how you would like things to be different and how your manager can help.

Be influential

Influence decision-makers and process owners by suggesting new, more efficient ways of working using your skills and knowledge (for example, digital options). Be proactive. Add value because you still see things with fresh eyes, unlike others who have been there much longer. Idea

Be a leader

Take the lead by acting first and asking for forgiveness later. Show others new ways of thinking, doing and being. If needed, get support from like-minded colleagues so you are not alone in taking action. Then show evidence of success and the difference you have made.

Manage your expectations

Build your resilience. Accept the situation rather than moan about it to others, otherwise you risk gaining a poor reputation. Choose your battles. Think about other positive aspects of your job to see if they outweigh the downsides. It might be a temporary situation. Manage your expectations about this first role – it’s not for life!


Find another role inside or outside the organisation if all the above are insufficient. Change starts with yourself – how you make it happen and how you respond when it happens.

The choice is yours. What will you choose?