On Saturday night I had the privilege of hanging with two former coworkers. Former in the sense that I no longer work with them nor do they work for the company any longer either. We’re all “escapees”, as I referred to us. The three of us hadn’t spent any time together since the day I announced my retirement in Chicago. It was fantastic to see both their smiling faces beaming back at me across the table.
Eventually the conversation turned to some old war stories and how things had or hadn’t changed since my departure. And then a surprising little bomb was dropped. Some people in management positions had made comments that I was poisoning people…specifically, their perception of the company.
Initially I laughed. The thought that I would spend my precious time sitting around talking about my former employer…as if I had nothing better to do…was laughable. But then I thought about the implication…their implication…and I got irritated. Irritated that “they” (for lack of a better, more descriptive word) would place of any their shortcomings or lack of leadership at my feet. Irritated that I might be a scapegoat for their inability to motivate themselves or their employees. Irritated at the thought that I would try to use any personal influence I may or may not have for a personal vendetta…a vendetta I most certainly don’t have.
But let’s set the record straight once and for all…because apparently my blog is so powerful that this is the ultimate forum to corrupt people (wink, wink). And here I just thought it was my personal online diary…documenting my personal struggles, teachings, and lessons. Little did I know I was infecting people with radical thoughts of…oh, I don’t know…self discovery….shut.your.mouth.
So, to be clear here’s what I have done and will continue doing….
Specifically, I have listened to at most five friends/former co-workers (count them, 1…2…3…4…5) vent about their work situation. If memory serves correctly, this is EXACTLY what I spent most of my 15 years doing. Listening to co-workers…employees…supervisors…bitch about work and offering advice about steps they could take, strategies they could try, options available to them. Only, if I’m honest, there were a LOT more people bitching to me back then…when I was actually still employed by the company. Ok, so there’s nothing new there.
Of those folks I’ve talked to, only two (count them, 1…2) did I speak to at any length. I consider both friends and want nothing but the absolute best for them. Again, like I counseled past co-workers, employees, and supervisors for 15 years…I told my two friends that if they were unhappy…felt unappreciated…saw no room for growth or advancement…then it was time to find a place of employment that made them happy…inspired them…allowed them to grow. Those words are the exact same things I told many an employee when it was clear they weren’t happy working for me.
I’ve always believed that work should compliment our lives. I didn’t always do such a good job of living that belief but I did my best to make sure those around me did. If the place you spend at least eight hours a day is making you miserable and impacting the remaining hours that you aren’t there…or aren’t sleeping…then it’s time for a change. No matter what you do or what your position is, if you are miserable…make.a.change. Because I can almost guarantee you are making everyone around you miserable. Hrmmmm….I’ll come back to that in a minute. So, again, nothing new there.
Or is there? I used to cheer lead my ass off for the company I worked for. Even though I did my best to coach people according to their goals, I also did way more than my fair share of cheerleading on behalf of the company we worked for. Touting all the good things available to us and discussing the bad as small obstacles that together we could work to overcome. I’m pretty sure all my cheerleading to people was what ultimately kept me around so long. It’s hard for me not to believe my own words. After all, if I say it, there’s a part of me that believes it or I’d never be able to say. I’m not the type that spews companyline bullshit just because someone tells me to. Kinda makes me wonder who’s doing the cheerleading now…
So when I step back and look at the issue of me poisoning the minds of former co-workers, I’m left with two revelations. One, I’m no longer at the company cheerleading for them. I’m no longer the spokesperson for everything that is good and wonderful. I’m no longer on the inside trying to retain the best and the brightest…because newsflash, that’s not my job anymore. That’s someone else’s job now and apparently they aren’t doing such a good job so it’s all too easy to point a finger at me. To that I ask, are you that bad at your job that you are going to blame me??? Whoa, dude. You must really suck. My advice? Get a new job that isn’t so difficult for you.
The other revelation, you…the one trying to blame me for your shortcomings…yah you. Noooooo, there’s no one standing behind you…I’m talking directly to you. You are the one that’s not happy…that is uninspired and feels unappreciated…you are the one that doesn’t see a path for growth. You are the one putting all this negativity out into the company cosmos. You are the one that can’t seem to motivate yourself and therefore can’t muster the energy to motivate anyone around you. You are the one that has resorted to leadership by fear because you live in terror of being discovered. You are the one that can turn the ship or sink it.
I am a former employee….who writes a silly little blog. I am a former employee who hasn’t stayed in touch with most of the people I said I would simply because life got busy. I am a former employee who appreciates the position I’m in and the paycheck that helped to get me here but continues to tout…as I always have…that people should spend their time doing something that makes them happy. And a paycheck alone doesn’t make anyone happy.
I am a former employee that has and will continue to share her journey of self-discovery. A journey that has taught me there is so much more to life than I was living…that there are so many things I can do that I hadn’t thought of…that there are so many talents I have to hone. If you are afraid of people learning the same things about themselves, shame on you. That makes you a shitty leader…a shitty co-worker…a shitty friend…but most of all, a shitty human.
Do your job. Lead from your heart. Inspire yourself and those around you. Stop poisoning your own well, dumdum.