I still remember the day that I gave notice at my last corporate job. I was nervous, shaky and borderline nauseous. Yet I was also elated to be starting a new (and definitely comfort zone busting) stage of my life. When I explained my situation to my boss, she was thankfully awesome about it. We moved forward amicably and set about arranging for me to wrap things up before my last day two weeks later.
And then I had a totally bizarre experience with one of my co-workers that completely befuddled me.
My position was front desk reception. It was a super busy office, and fairly high stress (along with the requisite coffee and doughnuts, the kitchen came equipped with tanker sized bottles of Excedrin and Pepto Bismol). And because I was right there at the front door, everyone strolled past me as they came and went. Usually they would stop to chat, joke, or bitch about some client that was making them think “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” at 8:30 in the morning.
But after it got around that I had given notice, one of my cohorts started “joking” about my departure by saying “I hate you” or “you suck” every time she passed my desk. I thought it was odd, but tried to just deflect it with humor. Of course, she maintained that she was only kidding and her jabs were simply because she was going to miss me.
But when she kept it up day after day, I realized something.
She wasn’t kidding. At all.
During my time there, she had complained repeatedly that she felt overworked and underappreciated. As the breadwinner of her household, I totally understood that she couldn’t just quit on a whim. But whenever I’d suggest that she start casually sniffing around for other opportunities, she would roll out a litany of reasons why that was impossible.
The mortgage. The kids. The car. The bills.
She had no choice but to stay.
So, by informing me of my inherent suckyness, she wasn’t pining over my impending exit.
She was letting me know loud and clear that she resented me for leaving a place that she wanted to flee herself.
Why I couldn’t have served as an inspiration for change instead of just pissing her off, I have no idea.
She had many other talents beyond what she did for the company. She was creative, innovative and had a quick wit. I really liked her.
But it comes down to this. Whether it’s redefining your ideal work life or making works of art, there is one thing I’ve found to be sadly true of many people:
It’s easier for them to critique than it is to create.
Don’t sit down and write that book that’s been in your heart for decades. Go online and post about what a pile of crap JK Rowling’s latest bestseller is. You could certainly do better if you had her time, money, connections, etc. (Never mind that she didn’t always have those things, but I digress…)
Don’t go for the promotion you really want at work. Much more productive to sit around playing whack-a-mole with your supposed rivals, trying to guess their next move and shoot them down with some well placed water cooler gossip.
If you read my blog, I know you aren’t one of those people. But I know you run into them.
And here’s how I handle it.
I love Stephen R. Covey’s quote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” And I try to live by it, because I genuinely care about what people feel.
What makes them tick. Why they do what they do.
But sometimes, you just aren’t meant to understand.
Your only job is to offer encouragement. To affirm that they are worthy of the joy that only comes from being the authentic self that God created them to be.
If they accept it, great. If not, bless them and let them go.
And get back to creating a life that’s so awesome it makes the critics cringe.