No matter how tempting it is to speak ill of your old employer, don’t do it. Seldom is work a panacea of lollipops and fuzzy koalas. Not even the nicest, hardest working, and best performing worker can escape the barb wires of work politics. Why? Because even though you might be a good person, other people may hate you for your work hours, your race, your sex, your compensation, your title, your looks, your age, or your religion.
I know a guy whom I shall call Bob who got in at a respectable 7:30am every morning for five years. He seldom called in sick and was an overall solid performer. Bob always stayed past 7pm while the rest of his colleagues left by 5pm. His colleagues hated him because they had to get in by 4:30am in order to get on a daily 7:30am EST morning call with New York. Every morning Bob walked into the office one of the colleagues would shout out some snide remark to make Bob look bad.
“Hey look everybody! Bob just got in!” or “Good afternoon Bob!” or “Thanks for coming into work today Bob!” were common phrases. Bob’s colleagues were clearly miserable for getting in so early and used Bob to vent.
Although Bob laughed off his colleagues’ constant derision, deep down Bob was hurt and annoyed. Bob busted his ass every evening long after his colleagues had left. He didn’t make fun of his colleagues for leaving before 3pm while he stayed behind for another three hours on average.
One has to wonder, “If a tree falls down in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I think not. Even though Bob worked past 6pm, nobody was in the office to see. It’s all about creating positive perception at work.
Not only was Bob ridiculed on a daily basis, he was also ganged up on by his other colleagues when it came time to doing business with existing customers. Bob worked on a smaller product and was outnumbered eight to one. The herd mentality of ganging up on others is a dangerous phenomenon that is growing at school, online and in the work place.
After five years of misery Bob shot me an e-mail to see if I could help him out with his exit.
Like an old friend, Bob finally let go and openend up to me about how he truly felt about his company.
“My office is full of pompous, miserable assholes who thinks the world revolves around them!”
“Every time I do the work to win an order, I get pushed aside by a colleague in another product who claims the credit.”
“Every person my office manager hires is a white male just like him. Everybody looks the same in the office, yet they claim to be a supporter of diversity. Meanwhile, all the assistants are Asian women. What a freaking joke!”
“The office manager can’t even look me in the eye for more than 10 seconds while speaking to me. He’s constantly fidgeting and looking left and right like an uncomfortable weasel who got caught talking behind another’s back.”
I could see the fire in Bob’s eyes as if he was on a mission to write a tell-all book. Luckily for the employer, I calmed his nerves and told him about the pitfalls of going postal. Luckily for the employer, Bob doesn’t have a massive blog to telegraph all his stories either.
At the end of our month long conversation, Bob was able to successfully negotiate a separation package worth about six months of pay and find another job with a competitor six months later.
* It’s an employee not your company. Whenever you feel grief at work it’s usually at the hands of a particular person or set of people. Seldom ever is it the company that is causing you misery unless your company’s name is MCI Worldcom, Enron, or Zynga. The large majority of your colleagues are probably good people who are also dealing with their own issues. In fact, the more miserable the employee the higher the propensity to take out their frustration on others. If you paint everybody who works at your company in the same bad light, chances are high that you will end up offending and hurting innocent colleagues who have nothing to do with your oppression.
* The world is small. Let’s say you rip Zynga for being a sweatshop and a place were executives get to sell shares at all-time highs (like they did at $12 in the Spring of 2012) while prohibiting everyone else to sell as well. Yes it is ufair to let employees hold the bag while executives cash out for mega millions. However, chances are high that Zynga employees will leave to join other companies in your field which you may want to work. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve overlapped with people I’ve worked with over the past 13 years. They could become potential employers, clients, business partners, poker adversaries, fantasy football league buddies, etc. The internet has made the world infinitely small. Be careful.
* Nobody likes a complainer. Complainers are the worst. They are the ones who congregate around the water cooler whining why they didn’t get a raise or a promotion. They then start badmouthing other colleagues who they think are undeserving of their pay raise or promotion. If you are labeled as a complainer, nobody will want to work with you. Complainers are the virus that drags down company morale. They try to take others down because they realize they can’t move up on their own merit. A manager will always worry there’s something that’s making a complainer dissatisfied. A manager knows that complainers have a higher proclivity for quitting, changing departments, or job hopping. They suffer from wanderlust, where the grass is always greener. As an ex manager, there is nothing more frustrating than spending a year training someone only to lose that someone to a competitor.
If you simply must speak ill, then make sure you differentiate between the person who you feel ill towards vs. the organization that once gave you employment. Very few people stay at one place for their entire careers anymore. The job market has almost turned into a mercenary type of marketplace where people constantly go to where reward is greatest. The people who you despise may end up holding the keys to your employment future.
Being able to work is a privilege, especially in an economy where millions of people are still unemployed.
Old colleagues need to stay professional towards departed colleagues as well. What goes around comes around. It always does.