I’m back on Reddit with a newer account and use it mostly to keep up with the local news. I find Reddit to be a good source of what’s happening out in the world around me. A question popped up in my time feed and it triggered me. I am triggered. I typed out a long winded response and still have some things to say about it.
The question was:
Redditors age 50+, what are some timeless business lessons you’ve learned over the course of your career?
The more I typed, the angrier I became and it seems I have a lot of unresolved issues about a former job that I worked at far too long. It was this job that drove me over to the edge and I had a mental breakdown almost exactly one year ago from stress of dealing with it all. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, when I saw my latest Xray results, that I realized getting sick was a bit of a mixed blessing. I know that I’ll never be able to return to the workforce like I did before.
Here is some sage advice that I wish I had known when I took this job.
Your coworkers are NOT your friends
This rings true for many jobs I’ve had. Over the years, I met some wonderful people at jobs that would later become some of my best friends today. But be very careful about who you let into your inner circle. People will play dirty when shit hits the fan. If they feel they will get fired or are in trouble, they will take down others with them. For me, I was the scapegoat of things that were not my fault.
One person that I thought was a trusted friend turned on me in the last months of employment. I learned later on, that she went around to everyone on my team and told them that I refused to do any of my work or didn’t do anything all day. She forgot to mention how many times I asked her if she needed help. The issue was covering my planned days off and she started to resent me for it.
She started sending nasty emails to me from work when I was off on medical leave and I kept these as proof of bullying in the office. Anything I told her in confidence, she went straight to management and complained about it. In the end, I felt the sting of betrayal. It’s to the point that I know I can never work in an office setting again.
Likewise, if someone is gossiping to you about others in the workplace, they are talking about YOU to your colleagues. A meddler likes to get involved and will spread rumours. Why? Probably because they off on it. They love the attention whether it’s negative or positive.
We’re really a close family here at work and forced socialization
TikTok has taught me that this a dangerous statement and should be avoided at all costs. And it’s true. Every office that I worked for that claimed they were “like a family” turned out to be one of those most toxic environments to be in. No thanks. I already have a family that drives me crazy. I don’t need to be with people for 40 hours a week.
The office loved social events. They had a social committee and always asked if I wanted to be part of it. I told them right off the back and said no. I need my downtime. I’m here to work. I’m highly introverted and social activities make me anxious.
Over and over again, I was called into my manager’s office as someone would complain that I wasn’t pulling my weight in setting up at these events. I was told that it looked bad that I didn’t attend potlucks.
We had a fun day of games and were playing charades. The staff were FORCED to go up and act out stupid little skits. I begged the managers to let me sit in the back and keep score. It was brought to the group’s attention that I had asked for this. They loved to humiliate staff.
It was actually brought up in a performance meeting in HR. At that point I said, “social events are not part of my description. I’m here to do the work I’m paid to do. If these events are mandatory, then that should be in my job description.”
Be your own advocate for promotions
If your boss hasn’t talked to you about a promotion within 2-3 years of being at the company, you’re not going to get one. Good managers will spot a hard working employee early on. When you have your performance reviews, plan out your goals beforehand. Look into some relevant courses to show you are serious. Be your own advocate.
I was on the path to a promotion into program services, and this was shot down when I started becoming ill. This resulted in disability discrimination.
Know your worth
Work smarter, not harder. If your company offers you a promotion in the form of more work but at the same pay, your company does not value you. They will pile the work on until you reach you breaking point.
This happened to me in the first year and I tried to fight it. I knew this game. I told them that the work I was already doing was at a higher level than I was being paid for. I had a special set of skills in event planning and they recognized that. But instead of promoting me into a higher paid position, they decided to slap me on with more work. Suddenly, I was reporting to two teams and my time was split. This was very challenging for me.
When you work for two very different teams with very different management skills, you are doomed for failure. It was a model that just did not work. And it resulted in me getting burned out very fast.
Employers will push you until you learn to say no. Once you stop being agreeable, they sometimes will retaliate. This happened to me and they started taking away the work that I loved until had nothing to do.
I had one job where this happened. After I left, they wound up splitting the work I was doing among three people. They had no idea how much had been piled onto my plate.
Make yourself indispensable
Become an expert in your field, whatever that field may be. Take courses on your own time. Tutorials. Chat with others in the field and learn from experts. Develop some skills that no one else has in your office and become the key contact for those skills. Think of it as a skillset. Knowledge is power. It really is true. The more skills you have, the more hirable you are.
There are lots of places online you can take courses. I was doing some Coursera courses but decided to get back into music. Why not. I have 40 years of expertise.
If your coworkers stop chatting with you one day out of the blue, something is up. This happened to me and I found later that I was sabotaged by a coworker who I thought was a friend. I won’t go into details here, but let’s just say when I found out, I had a nervous breakdown. A full on breakdown to the point that I applied to go on disability and I’m still here. I’m still in therapy and will be for a long time to come.
My own manager stopped talking to me in the mornings. I was supposed to do rounds and chat with people in the morning but I could never find anyone at their desks. They were in meetings without me. They assigned work without me being part of discussions. I was left out of important emails. I was being shoved out of a job that I had been done for years.
I started documenting everything. Any requests, I sent by email. Any meetings in person were followed up by an email summarizing what had been discussed and agreed upon. I responded to all emails with clear details on next steps.
I noticed that in the last days, I was getting a lot of emails from one manager that were very pointed about things I had done months ago. I knew in the back of my head, that she was logging everything for HR. And I knew that with all the closed door meetings, that I was going to be called into HR very quickly.
And sure enough, that happened.
I’ve held onto this for over a year, afraid to share my story. I’m on disability leave now. But after a conversation with my therapist today, she said that as long as my medical documents show that I have a disability, I can stay on it. She said she had former colleagues that had bene on LTDI since 2013-2014 and they won’t ever be able to go back to work.
I know after this experience, I’ll never be able to work in an office setting again. I’ll never be able to hold down a full time job. I’ll never work in corporate or government again. It was too soul crushing.
I was a good employee. I was good at my job. I was over qualified and should have been promoted early on. But nope. Several years went by with the promise of it, but it never happened. I watched as other coworkers moved ahead while I was ignored.
Then I got sick. And sicker. To the point I felt like I was doing to die in 2019. I should have been in the hospital. I’ve never had a chest infection that bad before. And then the hypermobility worsened. The anxiety kicked in. And the migraines too. And here I am.
I don’t know if I will ever be able to work again. I’d like to. But my field doesn’t pay enough money to live on. And for now, I write, and work on music on the good days. When my physical and mental health allows.
And on those other days, I just thank god that I have benefits.
I’ve been trying to work and live with this disease for over twenty years. I was misdiagnosed. My pain was dismissed. I was told to just lose weight. I was given anti-depressants for the anxiety. Pain medications for back pain. They just shove you full of pills without getting to the root of the problem.
Well the root of the problem is ME. I wasn’t faking this illness. I only just learned all the conditions that come with living with hypermobility.
And so now.. I’m just taking things day by day. And hope that others can learn from my mistakes.