It did take a good couple of nasty turns at work to realize I had been giving away some of the best years of my life in exchange for little more than a financial pittance . One day you’re the best-thing-ever-to-happen-to-this-organization and you’re up there gathering admiration and plaudits, next day you’re been ostracized and made into a pariah by the very same people that only yesterday had you believe you were worth your weight in 24 carat gold.
Honestly: I did not see it coming. Not that I could not see the very narcissistic traits of some of those above me, encouraging a plethora of employees to swirl around them in adoration (and ultimately doing all the work those peacock-like admirals of their industries were simply too lazy to do themselves). I did smell the toxic demeanour of those colleagues who would spend their entire days whining about everyone and everything but doing nothing to make things better in fear of things would just… change. I did from the very beginning and to some extent I must admit I did play a part in it. Never have I licked anyone’s ego or sucked up to a boss, but I have been complicit of being part of the ecosystem where those events were taking place. I did and now that I look back I can see I could have found a way out of it much earlier. Maybe in my thirties. Yet I didn’t. There was always a promotion to look forward to, a big transformational step for the company in which of course I was at very epicentre of - so how could I possibly let everyone else around me down by walking away, by putting me first, by acknowledging that I was not comfortable with the role I was agreeing to play??
Worst of all, what would happen if I was to become unemployed at my age. What about the bills. Who would employ a guy my age with, let’s face it: not such a long list of accomplishments and/or accreditations. You look at job adds and it seems they’re looking for a cross between Stephen Hawking and The Rock!
Where am I to go from here?
Harshest part about being used and abused at work is that it just happens. It is made plain and obvious than, although somehow needed, you are no longer wanted. The silence, the lack of communication, emails not replied, phone calls not returned. The conscious void created around you can be far worse, way more damaging than a loud row with a colleague or a bollocking from the boss. Because is meant to make you doubt about your very core foundations. Is meant to upset you about something that “it’s only in your mind”. The boss is just busy. That colleague is just being himself/herself. Why the need to get alarmed. Clearly you are just making things up. Perhaps is time you look for a different occupation as YOU are damaging the atmosphere within the team. And of course you do doubt.
I am telling you it’s time we silence them.
Yes it is not as easy as just walking: I get it. I myself I am not quite free just yet, even if emotionally I am dragging myself out of the tunnel.
But I am confirming that you are 45 AND employable. 45 AND confident. 45 AND in the best shape of your life. For that is the approach required to take the first step into cutting yourself free from the spider web.
My brother: that promotion may come or not, but believe me with the bigger bucks will come bigger misery. You will not be “safe” even if moved to another department/closer from home/better working hours as you are still playing somebody else’s game. That toxic waste you carry home stuck under your shoes not only stains your kitchen, living room and bedroom with filth but will stop you from being a good husband/partner/parent/brother/son. It will undo your decisiveness. It will tarnish your kindness and will draw across your face a fake smile your loved ones may come to accept but just do not deserve. It will affect you in the bedroom. It will make that belly and that double chin only grow larger and your strength disappear.
Your home environment needs you to be decisive and kind. They need you to be humble and vulnerable and emotionally awake. They need you to be fun. They need you to be sexually driven and protective of all the small things that make your family and community ultimately what it is.
For that you need to claw back and re gain what is yours. If you cannot leave that desk empty right now, or return to base and give back the keys of your company vehicle then it is time you understand you are NOT to indulge toxic individuals around you by playing their game and falling prey to their mind-devouring antiques any longer. Be there (for now) but cross the days until you make the move to the next level just like a prisoner counts the hours to get back to the light. Cheesy that may be… but it is time you roll the dice and start playing YOUR game on YOUR board.
Focus on creating that exit plan. I do suggest you aim to have an emotional escape tunnel that brings oxygen into your days while things do materialize. Have something tangible to hold onto, just for yourself, as a true validation of the change. Stick to a better diet. Aim to work smarter (not harder) than everyone else around you. Get the pilgrim charming cloak out of the wardrobe and wear it with pride once again. Press those dumbbells like they’re going out of fashion. Run that extra mile on the treadmill.
It is not your fault your work colleague has failed himself/herself by giving in into self-pity and cowardice. It is not your burden to bear that your superior believes a productive work environment can only be achieved when their ego is being stroked and everyone around them keeps their heads down in fear of the boss’s self-proclaimed rightfulness and anger.
Take control of the unsafe zone. That area that chips away the prison wall one square inch of concrete at a time (re join Linkedin, start talking to people your age about what they do for a living and how they got themselves there). Kick your procrastination right in the balls, even if just 10 minutes at a time and actually write down the list of things you COULD be doing right now.
Because you may be past your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, but you are still here.