I was new to the corporate world and was really excited to get stuck in which meant that I was willing to do a lot more than most people to make a good impression.
A highly popular international company had hired me as an IT Consultant and we had been bought into work in the field moving from site to site in order to roll out a huge IT system across all of our company’s branches including all franchises.
One of the franchises I had been at for a couple of months had requested another presentation to the board of directors on this new revolutionary system that we were rolling out.
I lead the presentation with a co-worker and a manager from my head office who was sent to overshadow just in case the room became hostile (we were in a way forcing the new system on them).
As I had been working at the site for around two months I had a good relationship with all of the employees and the senior management team.
As a result, my presentation was less formal and had a number of quips which were well received as they were related to the site’s daily challenges; all of which I was well aware of having been there for some time.
The presentation had gone well and we had received an overwhelmingly positive response at the end of the day. As I left the site and headed to the car park I made a point to say goodbye to my co-worker and the overseeing manager. Upon shaking this manager’s hand I noticed that he held onto my hand and did not let go.
He had started to apply more pressure whilst turning a shade of pink with dark eyes that stared directly into mine.
Feeling a little confused I looked at him quizzically as he growled at me saying ”Only I get to make the jokes around here, not you. Don’t you forget that.”
The following day I was called into my manager’s office and was informed that there was a complaint of misconduct against me by a senior person from the management team.
I was fortunate enough to have a very understanding and wise manager so I explained what had happened to me the day before.
My manager looked at me sadly and said that she would like to apologise for his behavior and that it would be best if I was to just keep my head down and try to not get too noticed from now on.
What I didn’t know at the time because of my naivety was that this particular manager was the best friend of the director in charge of the whole project.
I didn’t last much longer after that and in a couple of months, I was informed that my contract would not be renewed.
The corporate world comes with its own rules and sometimes if we’re lucky we learn these before losing key positions. Other times you learn them after making mistakes which is still a learning experience just a more painful one.
Below are the three rules that I wish I had known at the start of my career which would have saved me a lot of grief and anguish.
#1 Never Outshine the Narcissistic Master
One of the biggest mistakes I personally made earlier on in my career was not fully realizing that all organisations, large or small, are made up of people with emotions, feelings, fears, and insecurities.
If you make the mistake of getting in the way of these, you will be severely punished by those in positions much higher than your own.
Many times bosses have huge insecurities which the average joe may not realise or even notice on day to day basis.
Bosses/Managers are always wondering if they are coming across as capable in their work or whether someone else is taking the spotlight away from them, or even if there is a possibility another might one day take over their position.
Many bosses/managers are vain and insecure to the point that they cannot stand people gravitating towards anybody else because it makes them feel less about themselves (and I’ve had plenty of conflicts with these types of managers).
If you are a naturally charming and charismatic person (like me) then you have to be extra careful around your boss and his closest allies. Meaning, when you are with your boss and his nearest & dearest, you should behave in the way of a student in front of his master as corny as that sounds.
You should show humbleness and a keenness to learn with an openness for constructive criticism. This is what I have found to be the kind of behavior most admired by bosses.
However, do note that I didn’t mention anything about being submissive as it is still extremely important to keep your dignity intact, but you should be aware of the ego’s in the room and be confident in yourself to lower your status in front of those who are slightly senior to you.
The skill that needs to be developed here is to know when to dial down your capabilities, charm, and wit and when to turn it up.
Different bosses/managers have different levels of anxieties and insecurities so this will take some practice in knowing what is the right level. However, at the same, it is extremely important that you establish boundaries as they are a mark of self-respect which takes us to the second point.
#2 Don’t be a Mr. Needy Guy (or Girl)
The problem with most employees and myself at the beginning of my career was that I was too nice. What does it mean to be too nice?
There is a certain aura that is emitted from the person who is too nice and we usually can smell it from a mile away. Trust me it’s not a nice smell and it often has people running in the opposite direction.
Usually, those that are too nice or try to be really nice, subconsciously enter into a hidden contract with everybody they meet. Their contract is simple… If I am nice to you then you will do something for me.
Normally, when a guy is overly nice to a girl… he expects her to go on a date with him. An employee is overly nice to his boss… he is expecting a raise and promotion. A customer is overly nice to a cashier… he/she is expecting a discount.
I’ve oversimplified it to illustrate the point but you get the gist of it. How many times have you caught yourself or even others doing something they usually would not do or something you know for certain they don’t want to do, yet they have done it?
This nice guy/girl problem is a huge pandemic right now and it is one of the reasons why so many people are miserable in the modern world.
This is because the nice guy has gone into a subconscious contract with his girlfriend, his boss, his landlord, his family, his boss, and literally every single person he’s met. The funny thing is nobody knows that there is an unspoken agreement there, so why would someone make an effort to reciprocate.
The nice guy/girl problem comes from an abundance of neediness and the first goal should always be to eradicate this state of neediness. Neediness is the state of excessive desire for affection, recognition, attention, or reassurance.
What most don’t realise is that this kind of behaviour repels people instead of attracting them. Neediness is a larger topic on its own and will be covered in much more detail in a future post, but below are a few ways we can begin to destroy neediness in ourselves:
Have Some Self-Respect Man
Seriously, why do you feel the need to always downplay your skills and talents, and please others around you? No matter what the situation, always keep your self-respect and dignity intact.
It does not mean that you do not take criticism or feedback gracefully because you should, but in a manner where you are not sacrificing yourself in the process.
I have been in meetings where I have seen someone keep their dignity and also very graciously accept they messed up, but I have also seen others lose their confidence and self-esteem after making a mistake and walk out with their head in their hands.
Of course, be careful around the narcissistic master, but know in your heart who you are and where you stand as a person.
What you need to always remember is that nobody will respect you the way you respect yourself. We are always teaching other people how much they should respect us, which is usually directly proportionate to the respect we have for ourselves.
So if you want others to respect you, start by respecting yourself and make sure you…
Know Your Purpose at Work and in Life
If your main purpose in life is to succeed in the workplace and climb up the corporate ladder to become CEO or Director, so be it. If your main purpose is outside of the corporate world and enjoying life or pursuing another art, be it.
Whatever your goals or dreams are in life, firstly make sure you know exactly what they are, and secondly, make sure you’re doing everything you can in your power to reach those dreams.
You only get one shot at life and this is your only time so why waste it on other people, because reality is nobody is coming to save you and nobody is coming to give you the dream life you want.
When you have a purpose in front of you, you have a mission in life and all the other little things fall to one side, which is how it should be. This leads me to…
Realise You Dont Need Anyone
You really dont need anybody. Right now in the modern world where we no longer live in tribes and no longer have to be worried about being eaten by a carnivorous land mammals you are the master of your own universe and your own destiny.
Remember this is different to being intelligent around other people who can make your life miserable (like your boss or a neighbour), but it is about knowing in your heart that even if everybody was to be removed from your life, you would be okay.
When you truly meditate on this fact and let it overtake you, you will feel such a sensation of freedom like one you have never felt before. And finally..
Value All Over Yourself
Know what gives you value and then add more of it. Keep adding more of it. A valuable person is someone who is of high caliber and worth, and the most beautiful thing about this is that we can be as valuable as we want to be.
When you’re focused on being the best version of yourself, all of the other concerns of those around you no longer matter.
This is and will always be a painful process but unfortunately, part of the package as one of my favorite quotes says, ”Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor” (Alexis Carrell).
Because it’s painful waking up early and working on your goals, it’s painful going to the gym especially on days when you don’t feel like it and it’s sure as hell painful walking away from a one-sided relationship where your self-esteem plummets each day. As painful as this can be, doing all of the hard things, continue to add value to you.
#3 Set Boundaries
You are not meant to take abuse or be mistreated in the hopes that someone will eventually see your value. When I was in my IT Consultant role, I used to battle with constant egos and narcissism in the office up to the point where I thought that it must be a pre-requisite for any management position in the company.
However, what I noticed was that my co-workers who would snap back whenever they were given a hard time were the ones that the management team had the most respect for and eventually learned to treat as equals.
Just like you teach other people how to respect you, you also teach other people where your boundaries lie. Remember these words: it is in many people’s interest to keep pushing until they find your boundary line and when there is none they will keep on pushing until they feel some resistance.
When those boundaries are established early and often, you’ll see a dramatical change in behaviour towards you.
# Bonus Rule – No Job is Worth Your Misery!
I wish I could have said this to my younger self because it would have saved me a lot of heartache and pain. In many of my roles in the corporate world, I enjoyed what I did but I was not treated right and was stepped on many times.
I had made a lot of mistakes and as a result, I was paying the price for being too nice and too accepting of others’ behaviors towards me.
Remember, if it is costing you your peace of mind, then it is costing you too much. Abandon ship and find a new captain or better yet build your own and pave your own path to a better future.