As I start to close things off with this chapter of my life and get ready to embark on a brand new chapter, I have started to reflect on my 35 years in the workplace. What have I learned that I can pass on to others? Or, have I learned anything? Sometimes I wonder, as I continualy make the same mistakes over and over again. My biggest problem is trusting people and giving them the benefit of the doubt. That has invariably come back to bite me.
Life Lesson #1
Everyone has their own agenda. No matter how nice they are, how caring they are, they do what they do according to their own personal agenda. Sometimes their agenda isn't obvious to you. Their agenda might not be obvious to them. But everybody has an agenda they work towards. This affects their perspective on everything. Sometimes it marries with yours and often times it doesn't. It's not a personal attack if they disagree with you. It's just that they are working towards a different agenda. If we all had the same agenda, life would be pretty boring.
Life Lesson #2
Every workplace has at least one emotional vampire that sucks out all your energy. You find yourself slipping into the role of caring listening board. This is similar to being an ironing board, where the emotional vampire smoothes out all their problems on you. At first you just want to help. Then your brain explodes with expletives as you see them make their way towards you, expecting you to drop everything and be there for them. When you have no more energy left, they discard you like a used tampon and you are left wondering what you did wrong. The truth is you did nothing wrong. You were there when they needed you and now they've either overcome their problems or found someone else to leech the life-blood out of. This is one of the lessons I never learn.
Life Lesson #3
Every workplace has a drama queen who blows everything out of proportion, embellishes incidents and events and loves being the go-to person for gossip of what's happening around the workplace. Never trust this person fully, no matter how nice they are to you. If you give them just a snippet of a juicy titbit, someone will confront you with a whole different story. A story, that you might not even recognise as originating from the snippet you shared. The drama queen is addicted to drama. They do not have a filter. They might come across as well-meaning but in truth they are just a gossip. If they promise not to tell, rest assured they will tell - 100% they will tell. Not only will they tell, they'll add on streamers, silver bells and other paraphernalia to make it more dramatic. Gullible people will believe them, no matter how improbable their version of the story is.
Life Lesson #4
Every workplace has a snitch. Where the drama queen does it openly, the snitch does it sneakily. The snitch thinks they are some kind of super-spy and it's their role and duty to keep the boss informed of all the goings on happening in the workplace. This is usually not done out of malice, but to win brownie points with the boss. To show how much better they are and this often comes from them having low self-esteem. Reporting on others makes them feel important. They don't have any loyalty to you, remember that.
Life Lesson #5
Every workplace has a master manipulator. They manipulate others around them to suit their agenda and carry out their tasks for them, so that they always come out as innocent and squeaky clean. They will manipulate the snitch, the drama queen, the emotionally vulnerable, anybody and everybody who will do their bidding. These are the workplace sociopaths, pretending to be your friend while planning your downfall. They don't have a conscience. They don't care how their manipulations might bring you down. It's all about them, their hidden agenda, their self-interest. These are the most dangerous people in the workplace, as behind their charming smile and willingness to help, lies a mastermind plotting, plotting, plotting. At first they are difficult to spot, but when you analyse different incidents and join the dots, they become quite predictable and you can plan accordingly.
Life Lesson #6
Cherish the people who stand by you and are your friend during thick and thin. These are lifelong friends, keepers. Be there for them as they are for you. They will be honest with you and sometimes tell you things you might not want to hear, but they do that out of love, enabling you to be the best you can be. They want you to shine, not bring you down. True friends.
Life Lesson #7
Steer clear of the naysayers, negative nancies, hope stealers, constant whingers and complainers. These are the people who only see the potential problems and never see solutions. They dominate meetings and drain the positive energy, taking focus away from silver linings and placing it on reasons why it can never work, why it is certain to fail, what can go wrong, why you shouldn't do it and so on. While it's good to have these people around to point out potential pitfalls, sometimes their negative energy can be a bit much. Ensure that you surround yourself with a balance of positive and negative energy.
Life Lesson #8
There will always be over-achievers. Don't compare yourself to them. You have strengths they might not have. And if they are good at everything then kudos to them. Focus on your strengths and areas where you can improve. Measure yourself against your potential, not against over-achievers. You don't want to dampen your spirit. You can only do your best at the end of the day, so aim for that.
Life Lesson #9
You're always going to come across someone ultra-competitive or consumed with professional jealousy. They will make snide comments and try and one-up you at every given opportunity. They need to be the winner even if you don't realise you are in a race. If you are not a competitive type that's okay. Sometimes the world needs doers rather than winners.
Life Lesson #10
Make sure you have a sense of humour and make time for a little fun. This revives your spirit when things around you get you down. When you lift others up and make them smile it boomerangs back to you. Bring joy to your workplace.
Life Lesson #11
Everybody is replaceable. Nobody is indispenable. When you leave you will eventually be forgotten. Don't take that personally. That's just the way it is.
Life Lesson #12
Don't dwell on past slights, comments, backstabbing, etc. Brush them off and throw them up to the universe. Karma is a bitch. If you don't throw them up to the universe, Karma can't step in and take over.
Life Lesson #13
Always look at the big picture and have back-up plans. Never just think of one solution to a problem. There are many different ways to eat a banana. When you have back-up plans you are ready for most of the curve balls that might get thrown your way.
Life Lesson #14
It is okay not to like everybody and it's okay if people don't like you. You can still be professional and treat people with respect and kindness even if you don't like them and they don't like you.
Life Lesson #15
Be prepared to challenge yourself and sometimes take risks. You don't know what all you can do if you never try. Sometimes you might fail, but other times you will succeed against all odds. Failing is not the end. It just means you can't do it yet. The time wasn't right. Don't give up.
Life Lesson #16
Be prepared to walk away if you are constantly feeling depressed and the workplace is becoming toxic. Don't let your workplace steal your happiness. Toxic workplaces can have an adverse effect on your health. If you are dreading going into work each day, then it might be time to look for sunnier horizons. Nobody will be proud of you for sticking it out and getting more and more depressed. Don't concern yourself with what they think anyway. You need to do what is best for you and your mental health.
Life Lesson #17
Get yourself a hobby or passion unrelated to your work. Be creative. Find something that brings you joy. This will revitalise your spirit.
Life Lesson #18
Always make sure that you have something to look forward to. This gets you through the darkest days. You get overcome by the dark if there is no light ahead. You don't want to stumble around, unable to see opportunities, overwhelmed by darkness. Make plans. Sometimes you need to create your own light at the end of the tunnel.
Life Lesson #19
Don't rely on others to help or be a solution to a problem. If they come through for you that's great and be ready to celebrate. However, experience has shown that people invariably let you down. If you can do it yourself, that should be your first move. But at the same time, if someone reaches out and offers to help then take them up on it. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness.
Life Lesson #20
Live every day as if it's your last day on earth. What do you want to be remembered for? Do it. Spread love, joy, kindness and happiness wherever you go. Be positive. Be resillient. You can do it because you are great. Believe in yourself.
Cindy Vine is a mother, teacher, author currently working in Norway, waiting to move to her forever farm in Portugal. Cindy has a Youtube channel which documents her travels and journey to buying a farm in Portugal. You can find out more about Cindy's books on her website or on Amazon.