It’s been a long hot minute… since I sat down and wrote something! If you’ve read my lasts posts, you must’ve noticed how I got disinterested… at everything in general really. I couldn’t quite pin down what it was, but at the same time I knew why. I was finishing my period of notice (I hope I’m saying it right) at my previous job. During that time, it felt like I mentally and emotionally shut down and that my body and soul had to take the time to recover. It sounds worse than it was, but I also needed to take my time to adapt to my new job. I’ve been telling myself I needed to get back at blogging. But I just couldn’t motivate myself to start writing (because it didn’t feel like I had much to say), but then again, I couldn’t even motivate myself to bullet journal, draw, paint or even be interested in Make up.
If you can recall, months ago I stayed quite vage about what was happening in my life. But I’m ready to talk about it, because I’m at a good place right now. I’ve experienced at my previous job humiliation, self doubt, racism jokes, sexist jokes, lies, being about almost the only person staying late to finish work, people (well no, it was especially one specific person) taking credit for things I did and people (well especially that person again) letting me take the blame for things I didn’t do, jealousy… This caused me to wake up at night with palpitations, to dream about e-mails I still needed to answer, to get up with stone legs and drag myself every day to work as if I had to push myself forward through crashing tides. I was cranky all the time and the only thing that kept me going was my passion for make up and this blog.
It might surprise you for what I’m about to say, but I’m very grateful for this experience, which lasted about 4 years of my life and got to a climax last year. After this period, I’ve made some very precious friends and that’s truly what matters the most. Out of respect for the people who work there (the colleagues with whom I got along very well and understood me), I will not elaborate about the juicy details, because this is not what this post is about. I just want to share with you what I’ve learned from it and help you if you’d find yourself in the same situation.
Just a little side note though. I’m not claiming to be a coach, psychologist or anything, nor am I saying that this is THE way of working. I’m just saying that it works for me. Here are 10 things that I’ve learned:
1. Know when to say NO
Saying NO was for me was one of the hardest things to learn. As it was my first job, I wasn’t sure how and when to say NO, especially to my boss. I didn’t know what was okay, what was not. I also didn’t know what I was supposed to be able to do in a period of time, what was expected. Also, I’m the type of person who likes to help out people, so obviously some people picked that up quite fast. Look, it’s not because they ask you nicely, that you have to blindly do it. I’ve heard it all before: But Sarah, it only takes you 5 minutes to do it… Yes,… well there are only 12 times 5 minutes in an hour. And when you get more than 12 mails in an hour, you don’t do anything else beside answering mails. I’ve learned to gently say: “I’ll show you how”. The important thing is to learn to see the difference between a colleague needing your help (because they can’t do it) and someone wanting your help (because it’s convenient).
NOBODY knows how much you work, how much time you put into something. I used to feel bad about the fact that I couldn’t achieve what was requested of me. Never did I even consider the fact that if I didn’t get around doing my tasks had something to do with me taking on too much work… Certain people yelled at me that I wasn’t performant enough, that I didn’t know how to organize myself and I believed it. Now I know that I AM organized, I just had too much on my plate.
Of course, saying NO to your boss is a whole other matter. Not saying anything and accepting all the work and then not making the deadline, even if you work 50 hours a week, is not going to cut it. It’ll explode in your face, maybe not now, but it will… But I get it, declining something from someone who is incredibly demanding and persuasive is extremely difficult. Here is especially the HOW that’s important.
2. Know how to say NO
You’ll understand that saying straight up NO to someone can just come off as being aggressive :p. Hell, I would be hurt if someone would say that to me when I ask for help. Also don’t start nagging about the load of work you have. Everyone thinks they have a lot of work.
When I need to finish several reports, but don’t have time for it because of other priorities, I’ll say something like: “Look, I know it’s urgent. But this week I can only spare 2 hours for this subject. Please let me know which report you need first. The rest will have to wait until Monday.”
When you get additional work and you know that you won’t be able to fit it in your agenda: “I understand it’s necessary, however these and these projects are my priority right now, which takes up “this much” time per week.”
Very importantly, when you’re trying to say NO to your direct responsible, you have to know exactly how much time you spend to do each task. Never say: I don’t know, it’s difficult to say,… Because you’re the only one who can know this. If it can vary depending on several factors than give an approximate time. Also always take some margin…
If you notice someone tries to take advantage of you: “I will not do it for you, because that is not my job. But I can show you how.”
3. Be aware of the different communication styles
Each person communicates differently. On the internet, you can find many articles discussing these different categories in detail. Personally I prefer the following grouping:
You need to take this in consideration for each colleague. It’ll help you tremendously with the communication and it’ll prevent misunderstandings.
Some people are very relational and emotional. Some only care about numbers and results. Don’t take it personally in any way, it’s a communication style…
Me, I’m an Analyzer. I’m someone who thinks of different possible scenario’s and I like to have everything written down, pro’s and con’s, structure. I need to prepare meetings to a T. I panic when I haven’t… I don’t like to react on something when I don’t have all the info.
4. Have respect for yourself!
There was a time, I couldn’t open up my mouth or I was already tearing up. I hated it, when my voice would come out thickly, when I’m trying to be professional and serious…ugh… But no more… How, you’ll wonder? To be honest, by crying a lot, by experiencing a lot of things, by being yelled at a lot and eventually just nog f*cking care anymore. That’s how far they had gotten me.
If you feel wronged, call them out! You might think, it won’t change anything anyway. Perhaps, but have at the very least some respect for yourself. If someone has said bad things about you behind your back, has taken credit for the work you did, has humiliated you,… you need to tell them that you know about it, that if they have something to say or comment about your work, they should say it personally to you, so you can at least do something about it or take it in consideration in your work. Because at the end of the day, you just want to do a good job.
Don’t EVER let anyone take credit for your work. I’m not the type of person to go around and yell, look what I’ve achieved, look what I did for that person,… I’ve known some colleagues who did this, it’s like they needed to validate they’d achieve it all. I dislike that, because I believe in team spirit. I believe in working together to achieve something big. But hell to the no, am I ever again going to let anyone take credit for my personal achievements.
5. Don’t answer offensive e-mails right away
It’s tempting to answer an e-mail in which you’ve publicly been offended or humiliated. This will happen at some point. You’re colleagues are not your family or friends (even though, some could become that), but you spend so much time with them, it’s bound to happen. The last thing you want to do is defend yourself with a minimum of information or answer something emotionally. First thing to do is let it cool down. Don’t answer when you’re angry. Then gather your information from your history and state very objectively how, when, what happened with some clear data.
6. Always be sure about yourself and your actions
Always keep the history of relevant e-mails. You won’t remember what happened a while back. But often, it’ll come back to you, even if something happened like 8 months ago.
Some people are very smart with these kind of things. I used to get a lot of oral orders, never written. When months later I had to explain and defend myself (when obviously it went wrong), that person would conveniently forget that he had ordered me to do so. I have not encountered such vicious behaviour at my new job. But with what I’ve seen the past 4 years, I’m always a little bit guarded.
7. Use the phone
Oooh, how my previous boss would’ve loved this one. He’d always say that I should pick up my phone and call more often… You might think it makes you lose a lot of time explaining things on the phone and that sending an e-mail is faster. Chances are, that people would read through your mail (often not even all the way) and that it would disappear somewhere in the pile of things to do. But when you need things to get done, people tend to feel guilty when they hear your voice, several times a week… You’ll get things done faster on the long run.
However, always confirm after your phone call by e-mail the things you’ve agreed upon, so that afterwards no one can blame you that you didn’t request something in time…
Talking on the phone is also a great way to say something that you don’t want to have written somewhere. Just sayin’…
8. Why people talk behind your back
Nobody’s perfect, so of course people will talk or make comments about you. But that’s not the type of bad talking I’m discussing right now. There’s the type of mean vicious talking behind your back, that is just toxic. In my case it went like:
– “that little engineer of nothing, she’ll never find a new job by the end of May” (yeah, if you’re reading this, I heard you…).
– “You see, I did it all by myself. I don’t even have to be an “engineer” to do this/that”.
– “Oh, she’s so stupid to let her new boss send a package to this address”. (which was just publicity by the way (a notebook with my name printed on it)… What a moron!)
Grow up dude (guy of, what, 45-ish?)!
That person was my direct responsible, to whom I’ve always answered respectfully. I’ve never pretended to be better or smarter in any way. But he’d still talk behind my back, perhaps because he couldn’t help it. When someone talks so often to other colleagues about “engineer this, that”, I’ve come to realize it’s because they feel deep down a little bit intimidated about that aspect. You wouldn’t mention it constantly if you’re not continuously thinking about it. I never felt I was better than anyone, just because I became an Bio-engineer. It’s a job like any other… but because he continued to make those comments, I’ve come to believe that he himself unconsciously felt inferior. And that’s just plain sad. Because it means, he himself judges that he’s less worthy.
9. Choose your “friends” wisely
Some people are just friendly and some people are genuine. But most colleagues are not your friends, so if you make the mistake to open up to the wrong person, it might just travel around and right to the management, which is what happened to me.
My BF and I were going through a very rough patch. And I was caught off guard. My colleague spilled everything to my boss. That… wasn’t his information to share nor my boss’ business.
But then on the other side, I’ve met some wonderful people, who’ll be friends for life!!
10. Know when to leave
Last but not least, know when to leave!! I stayed 4 long years at my job. I learned a lot of things when I was there, but the most I’ve realized only when I was gone from that toxic environment. Because I stayed there for so long, I didn’t have an objective view on my performance anymore. So much things had happened that I couldn’t think rationally about it.
When you have the feeling that you’re losing faith in the managers and that their policies seem hollow to you, it’s waaaay past time for you to leave. From the moment this happens to you, you’ll never be able to have fun doing your job again. And you won’t be able to do it good either.
It was only after I left, started at my new job, that I started to build up trust in myself again. I never imagined it would take this much time to heal. Everything they made me believe about myself in my previous job started to crumble… I started to open up again.
If you’ve made it until the end of this page!! Congratulations haha, you’re a very concentrated person and thank you for sticking around!! I feel very relieved about writing this post. All this time, I felt like I was keeping something from you guys.
I also had forgotten how great it felt writing my thoughts down… Such a liberating feeling!!
I really hope you’ve found this post interesting or helpful in any way or maybe even entertaining. If you’re experiencing some rough patches, always feel free to share and talk about it. You’re definitely not alone!!