It sucks to be out of job, even worse to have lost one and then get a clear picture of how you could have survived termination. My buddy found himself in this awful situation a week ago and misery does not begin to describe what emotions he is battling.
We went through a list of what he would have done differently as he readies to go back to job-hunting. Lessons from that, and from my other working friends (many of whom whine and complain about their jobs), have I chiseled down to this workplace survival kit.
A workplace is not a family house where life happens in a known setting and follows an almost natural course. It is a maze, of a very complex nature. Dedication, tact and artfulness about sums it up. But then in such devious terrains, you rather sit home if you cannot add a pinch of ruthlessness to that equation.
Hardwork. No one would employ you without expecting that the job would be carried out with some level of dedication. The first thing you have to bring to a workplace is dedication and hardwork. You don’t have to like the job to be dedicated to it. Our dream jobs are not always available and in their absence life ticks away and we have to live on what is available. (I would like to get paid for a reading schedule of 7-10hours a day but no way in hell is that going to happen till I hook up with someone top-ranking at Penguin or The New Yorker and dreaming for that day doesn’t come with food stamps.) That there is a need for a certain job in the first place makes dedication a given and that the job gets the bills paid should be about enough incentive. At least, in my case, till I have a chance at that hook-up or write that bestseller in my head.
Observance. This is not observation in doing the job (that is part of dedication), but observation of the workplace, especially the people. Knowing the people you work with is key to survival. Find out that boss who is easily threatened, that colleague who is the fiercest competition, that cleaner who is sad and that typist given to office gossip. Find out the different cliques that exist, and if there is an ongoing vendetta. Find out the level of camaraderie that exist. Your approach to anyone should be according to your observation of them.
Gain Trust. Do the best to gain as many people’s confidence as is possible. Be aloof in doing so. Be the guy that does not judge, the one that is highly efficient too. Gain that respect that make them say, “There is something to him.” They don’t know what, but are enamored even in that not-knowing. Something they wish they had.
Silence. In no place is silence more golden than in a workplace. Don’t be known as the one with the mouth, a great undoing. Chew a gum if your mouth needs exercise. People have agitations regularly about work, but do yourself a favour and keep your agitations to yourself. There is absolutely no provision in a workplace for voicing your frustration, not to your superiors, and most certainly not to your subordinates. If you need to whine about anything, that is what family and friends are for (you have listened to them do same so they shouldn’t have a problem returning the favour). And if it bad enough that you need to throw a tantrum and punch someone, wait till you get home, go into the toilet and I hope you have a mirror, stationary.
Friendship. “Your friend is your enemy” is not an oxymoron in a workplace. It is a gospel passage, true and eternal. If you need to be friends with everyone and tell them your life’s story in a day, stay home. Don’t be friends with anyone, not anyone’s enemy either. Never get too close for gossip. It is a workplace not your kindred meeting. If there are cliques, stay away from taking sides, as well as if there is a conflict. Try not to my bosses’ favorite, you will soon invite envy, but make sure to be in their respect and awe. Be nice enough, not overly. If your ass-kissing doesn’t establish an independence, and only dependence, avoid that strategy.
Snitch/Listen. Poke for others’ frustration, subtlety. Make general allusions, nothing direct, and let them spill their gut. It is a game of the mind and no one has to explain it to anyone, every workplace is unique. You have to know who to know how and when. Remember who said what, about who, and when. Information like these come in handy when unexpected. If you need to keep a diary for this, well done.
Competition. Healthy competition is good. Make effort to work my way up the rungs, diligently, honestly and in commitment. But when the competition turns dirty, never away from it (if such events make you uncomfortable, stay home). If it has a survival-of-the-fittest likeness, please sign up. Eliminate competition that would eliminate you if they had a chance. And if you cannot handle being the competition, remain in a grey space in the background. Infuse your slander in jokes, and in offhanded ways that the information would be remembered without any association to malice and scheme, and you have perfected the skill when the bit of information is remembered and you are not remembered as the source.
Credit. Never do any work for which another person will take credit. Do not accept to help anyone do their work, neither should you offer any help. When that shift roster is done or that wall is painted well and there will be no indication that you did it and the Thank-You will be given to someone else, count yourself out. Your hustle is different from theirs. Remain in your lane and leave them in theirs. If there is a crossover, in my case for instance, my Mbaise ancestors will be mad at me.
Most importantly, you are not indispensable so do not delude yourself. The job was there before you, it certainly will be when you are gone. Unless you are Mugabe.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Goldenkb