Article by Wendy McCance
Have you ever stopped and thought about how those around you affect your happiness? I asked myself this question at my last job. I was working at a company that was extremely competitive and cutthroat. When I was interviewed I sat in a room with the hiring manager and assistant answering questions about my skills. Throughout the interview, the manager kept making rude remarks to the assistant. The assistant just sat there quietly taking the mean-spirited jabs of the manager and looked rather miserable in the process. My head said RUN and don’t look back. Unfortunately, I really needed a job and was hired on the spot.
I went home and told my husband that I had gotten the job. While he celebrated, I worried that what I saw at the interview was just the tip of the iceberg. How would I feel if that was the culture of this company? Was I strong enough to separate my work life from my home life? Would I be able to allow a toxic atmosphere to roll of my back for the sake of the paycheck? Would I be able to come home each night to my family without putting the stress of the day on them? The answers a resounding NO.
During my first week at this job, I was told numerous stories of all of the people who didn’t work out. Not a comfortable way of starting a new job. I was micromanaged by just about every individual at the company. I had the lowest position and it seemed that everyone liked to use me as a personal assistant. Not only that, but they pushed their personal style on me and expected me to act like them (hard to do when there are 20 some people expecting me to use their work style).
As the weeks rolled on, I was teased for my lunch choice (yogurt, berries, cheese, crackers and a granola bar). I have 2 autoimmune diseases and try to eat as healthy as possible. At one lunch break, a few women mentioned how they were obsessed with food and how it should be a question in the hiring process. If you weren’t passionate about your food and if you didn’t eat as though it was the last supper, you wouldn’t qualify for a position there.
From there it just slowly got more and more miserable. I heard how you were expected to give your life away to this company. People would compete over who would stay the latest and who spent the most time at the office on the weekend. Some of these women had kids. The majority of these women with kids were divorced and didn’t have a support system for taking care of their children. I would hear how they would stay till 10pm at night with kids younger than 12 at home. Or, the kids would get sick and they would pick them up, drop them off at home and have them fend for themselves. These people would compete to see who had neglected their kids the most for the job and they would be praised and put up on a pedestal.
There is an endless amount of stories from this job that I could relay (sadly). The point is that for me, it didn’t jive with my ethics. I would never treat people horribly by stealing their work and showing it off to upper management. I would never gossip or put another person down in any way. I definitely would never put my children second to any job no matter what the circumstances. After just under 6 months of stress that came home with me and affected my own family, I left. I had no job lined up, but physically and mentally I felt like I was losing myself.
I have found that the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on the way we feel and the way we act. When you surround yourself with friends, co-workers and family that are supportive and positive, you emanate those same traits. You hold on to your true self and lead a more productive, happy life.
When you surround yourself with negative friends, co-workers or family, it does rub off on you. No matter how tough and immune you think you are to the effects of the negative attitudes, you will begin to experience pessimism, exhaustion, a short temper and a low value on your day-to-day life.
I am not saying that this is an absolute. Look, I was a single mom working on 3rd shift at an auto plant. I grabbed time with the kids each day from 3pm-9pm and then they slept over at my mom’s house while I worked. I had no choice, I had to support my kids. I get that you don’t always have complete control over your place of work or the hours you work. I do know that there are limits and you are the one in charge of deciding when enough is enough. I was put on 2nd shift for a summer. I left after lunch and got home after the kids had gone to bed. I was miserable. I swore that if my shift didn’t change that I would find another job. At some point the kids had to come first and when I was on 2nd shift, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stand it when the kids went back to school. Only seeing the kids in the morning as I dropped them off for school wasn’t acceptable to me.
So, I am conscious each day of the choices I make. I surround myself with good people. I want to feel raised up by a strong support system not pushed down and stepped on by self-serving individuals. I realize that even the choices I make regarding how I allow my own family into my life is a delicate balance. There are people in my extended family that I tend to see sporadically because of the negativity they embrace. Spending too much time with them puts me in a bad frame of mind that isn’t healthy or productive.
As for a job, I now go with my gut and really pay attention to the warning signs of a bad job environment. I know that the more positive the people who I surround myself with, the happier and more satisfying my own life as well as my family’s life will be.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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