During 2017, two people passed on that I’d worked with every day for almost 10 years. One of them had also become a dear personal friend, and both of them had been mentors for me.
You may be really close to someone that you work with, but work is the only place you ever see them. Yet what you learn from them impacts you well after the job is done and you’ve both moved on to never see or hear from each other again.
The two colleagues that are on my mind as I write this were people I learned a lot from through direct teaching and observation. I learned about things I should and shouldn’t do. While I’ve always been aware of their examples, their recent passings seem to make the meanings deeper than ever.
Now, I realize the importance of applying all they’ve shown me not only to decisions I make at work which affect my professional future but also on my life as a whole.
These colleagues and I worked together at a company with a bleak economic future. During the most disappointing times, we’d support each other, and prevent one another from losing hope. “Life is too short,” we’d say. “We’re not going to let small stuff bring us down.”
We hung in there to pay our bills and provide for our families. But when people say that life is short they don’t know just how close the end might be; its closeness seems like more of a vague possibility instead of a looming reality.
Both of these colleagues were eventually let go by our company. One of them had been really stressed out by the constant restructuring and finding himself under new management almost every other year. He couldn’t seem to get along with them, nor they with them.
I’ll never forget one day we took a walk around the parking lot during a break, and I mentioned to them, “Hey, so-and-so, you know I had a dream that you were fired.” He sighed a bit after hearing this because, over the years, he’d been told dreams about himself by me or other co-workers that eerily came to pass.
Anyhow, the writing had been on the wall for a long time. After it happened, he wouldn’t take calls from me or any of our other colleagues as we tried to reach out to him. It was understandable, and we all moved on with our lives. The last time I was contacted by him, it was through a brief text message months later which read something like: “If you’re wondering how I’m doing, I’m great, and I’m very happy.”
The second person I mentioned, who’d grown to be a close personal friend, always stayed in contact with me. She also found a job she was much happier in, but she confided to me that in other aspects of her life, she had lost her way. Not fully related to her career, over the years, she’d lost her sense of purpose. Knowing that makes me feel a sadness I’m still coming to terms with.
After feeling unwanted at work, then enduring a cruel termination, there are lessons to be learned. But I use the word “cruel” loosely because when you hate your job you can almost guarantee to make enemies with the people there.
Staying at a job you hate affects your mental and physical health, your relationships, and self-worth. It can also ruin your reputation. When you don’t like your job, you have the potential to become:
- A poor performer
- Full of negativity
- A gossip…
…And worse, unless you walk an extremely straight line.
When going to work is like stepping into a boxing ring, staying straight is not easy. We all like to think we’re tough, but we’re only human, right? We can only take so many punches before we get knocked down, knocked out, or fight back.
Personally, I prefer not to spend every day fighting. I like to be at peace an enjoy what I do.
The fact is, and what I’ve learned not only from these colleagues but also through other experiences is when your job makes you miserable, you must find a way to leave as soon as possible.
I know this may sound irresponsible when you have bills to pay, but it’s not.
First of all, you can position yourself to never rely on a paycheck to begin with. Living below your means and keeping a savings protects you against this kind of misery. You shouldn’t be desperate for payday to come every other Friday because you love things. Consuming more than needed is not enjoyment. In fact, it’s slavery.
Is escaping from a job from hell weak? To me, it’s not.
Life is short, and we don’t know just how short it will be. I don’t want to be miserable every day for years, just waiting for my big break that’ll never happen. By doing this, I might turn into damaged goods. I might become so used to being unhappy that I have a hard time turning my bad attitude into a good one. Or I could become so accustomed to feeling unappreciated that I can’t get motivated even when I should be.
To avoid getting into a rut, I can help a new opportunity by meeting it halfway, taking a chance and venturing out. Sometimes it’s easier to fill an empty space than to remove something and replace it with something else.
I’ve known people including myself that opted to walk away from a negative situation without having somewhere to go next. Within a short time, something comparable or better appeared. It’s funny how being able to place your energy on making a change instead of on something that makes you suffer can get you faster results.
As a recruiter, this is an odd opinion to have. And, yes, when I meet candidates that left a job before having a new one I dig deep to understand their story before agreeing to work with them. But sometimes, it has to be done.
I’m not saying to go around burning bridges or be inconsiderate to an employer. Give appropriate notice if the circumstances allow and do your best until the last day. Also, don’t destroy future possibilities by leaving negative feedback upon your exit. If they didn’t listen to you while you were there, they likely won’t listen to you as you’re leaving. You’re leaving, and their problems should no longer be a concern to you.
Life is too short to go around making enemies. Too short not to do something that matters to you every day.
Footnote: I wrote this thinking fondly of the colleagues that I’ve mentioned. We had many laughs and good times. No one is perfect, and I’m thankful for all I learned through them including the wonderful things that I didn’t mention in this post….may they rest in peace.