Surrounded By Small-Minded People? Chances Are You May Be One Yourself.

Last week I resigned from my job.

Why?

I didn’t hate it. It was actually my 6th year with the company, and I enjoyed working there more often than not. I respected the values they stood for, and, well, I needed the money. It was as good a job as any.

So what happened? To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know. That is, not until after I’d actually resigned.

Up until that point, I’d deluded myself into believing that I was being totally overlooked for promotions and perks, and that my work was not being appreciated. How did I get that feeling?  That was all my little group in the office had talked about for the past couple of months. We cribbed about other people’s success, belittled them when the boss praised them and, well, generally bitched about most things, most of the time. In the weeks leading up to my resignation, it was a real negativity-stew, beginning in the morning and reaching a simmering broth by the end of each day.

The final straw came the day my boss called me in to speak to me about my ‘habitual lateness and slacking’.

Seriously? ME? Everyone came late! I could count on one hand a number of offenders who were worse than I was. Everyone spent too long at the vending machine and everyone took too long making their rounds during different parts of the day. Why was I the one being zeroed-in on? This was the height of unfairness. The boss hated me.

All kinds of things raced through my mind then. My colleague, the young blue-eyed boy (the one everyone loves to hate) must be behind this. Of course he was. And there were others, too. Some of them probably in the same circles I travelled in. I wasn’t going to put up with this anymore. I was right. They were wrong. I could get a job anytime and at any place I applied to. 

I went back to my cubicle in a huff, typed out a scathing resignation and sent it off without a second thought. Done and done. With that, I packed my stuff and walked out.

Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

I knew I had to find another job soon, and I started applying to all of the places my friends and I had often talked of, which were a zillion times better than where we were at; all the places which would value our services and offer us a pay package that would make others in the office green with envy.

I set about my work and applied to each one in turn. The whole process took less than a day. Then, I sat back and waited.

After a week I hadn’t heard from any of them. Not one. Time to follow up in person. 

“We’re exceptionally busy at the moment. Could you just send us a CV and we’ll get back to you?”

This was the most common response.

Hello, why do you think I’m here? You didn’t reply to my mails.

The worst scenario was with the biggest competitor to our company. I walked in with a swagger and leaned over the receptionist’s desk and gave my carefully practiced spiel with finesse.

She gave me a look – was it condescending or snooty or sympathetic? – I couldn’t quite read it – and said, ‘If you are a good fit, we will call you. Thank you for stopping by’.

Wisdom dawns.

I locked myself down at home and, after an overdose of tears served with popcorn and ice cream, the light suddenly dawned. This is something heart-felt contemplation can do to a person — turn on the light — and in my case it came on with an illumination so bright it was nearly blinding.

All of a sudden I realized just who was to blame for all of my missed opportunities and flagged moments at work, and it wasn’t my blue-eyed co-worker or any of the others from my inner circle. It wasn’t even my boss.


It was me, of course. No one had forced me to be negative, no one had held me at gun point and asked me to gossip my time away. I had done that all on my own. I was as much, if not more, to blame than all my so called friends. I thought carefully. How many times was I the one to initiate the long bitching sessions – in office – when we should have been working? How many times had I snuck in late and asked my friends to cover for me? 

I had gotten so caught up in the details, over time, that I had completely failed to see the bigger picture at hand. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that office politics and the resulting forms of discrimination weren’t, and aren’t, at play — just that I had allowed myself to reach a place where I was completely separate from it all, and everything, everything, was someone else’s fault.)

Looking at it in this light I suddenly realized that it was a great job for a fresher like me. I had the opportunity of learning many things. A lot of freedom was given for individual expression and growth – I had just misread and misused the situation – cribbing when others succeeded and not realizing that they had succeeded because they were doing a good job.

Something else came to me as well: my boss had called me in for a closed-door session to tell me to pull up my socks – he had not insulted me in front of my colleagues. I was the one who had blown my fuse and over-reacted.

Come to think of it, it had been five days since I had stormed out after sending in my resignation. Up until this point I had been so focused on getting a different job I’d never even checked to see if there’d been a response from my ‘ex’ boss.

In the light of this epiphany, I jumped from the couch, popcorn toppling, and rushed to the computer to check my mail.

Another chance – a fresh lease on life!

Sweet relief.

I must not have been the first to leave the office in such a state, because the response I received from my boss was surprisingly understanding while at the same time feeling somewhat rote.

I take it that you must be going through some personal problems and that you are under a lot of stress. That’s why you did not take my suggestions positively. Don’t worry. Take some time off to think about what you want to do. If after a week off, you feel the same way and wish to resign, send me another resignation letter. Otherwise, welcome back! I feel you have great potential. Let’s work on it.

With eyes wide open.

In hindsight, I don’t regret what happened, or any part of that eventful week. If it hadn’t happened, I would’ve never realized that I was doing something wrong. I would’ve continued looking at the world in the same way and experiencing the same results.

I went back to the office a different person. I had no qualms in apologizing to my boss and asking his guidance on how I could work on my strengths and of course on my weaknesses. I suddenly saw things in a different light – I could see only possibilities and good things waiting to happen.

What about my little group?  I still talk to them – we’ve had some great times together – only now, when the topic turns to something I don’t want to be a part of, I either take up a silent stance or take my leave and walk away.

I script my own success story.

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Shanti is a seasoned educationist who has been a front runner in the educational renaissance in India. An avid traveler, proverbial bookworm, and an extreme foodie, she writes passionately about all that is wonderful with the world.