career sabotage is real and so is what your body knows

It’s useful, preferable and a good thing to acknowledge when you don’t feel safe. And I’m not talking about your life necessarily being fatally at risk in a literal sense, but in another way.

A way the compromises your authenticity … or that asks you to:

I’m talking about (not) feeling emotionally safe. Especially at work.

You can’t feel purposeful when you don’t have trust on the team you’re apart of. Like when you don’t trust your boss, a colleague or someone else you need to work with, you need to honour that in some way. In any way that honours you.

Here’s what I mean + what happened to me (because it might be useful to you):

Once upon a time in one of my previous lives in the field of Communications, I had written a press release based on information found on a commonly shared document via the office network. This means that I took the date and time of the media event I was writing about from this document that was supposed to be an accurate and updated source.

Only what I didn’t know was that the time of the actual event had changed. And no one thought to share. I didn’t think to verify because my work was going to get triple checked namely because it was the government and there was a “process in place.” And besides I was on day four of a new job still trying to get the hang of how things in the office worked and where they kept paper for the photocopier.

My colleague called and was evidently scared for me. I could hear it in her voice: “I’m so sorry I didn’t verify the time on the press release. I’ll try to make it okay for you with [the boss]. I didn’t mean for this to happen to you.”

Her tone felt strange. “Why would this be all my fault?” I naively wondered.

My boss and colleague had both checked the press release before it went to the press. Didn’t we co-create this mishap together?

I was however reassured that it really was all my fault from my boss who had a few choice words for me.

I was tempted – really tempted to think: “I could have or should have tried harder. I could have or should have thought of something that I didn’t.” That’s what I usually did to make myself stay in situations that were wrong for me in the end.

But you know what? This time that wasn’t the case. My body knew from the first day there that something was really, really wrong. And I totally don’t mean to gross you out here, but I had diarrhea for the whole ten days I worked there. This place felt different than anywhere I’d ever worked before.

It was Mind Game Central. And like it or not I was being sabotaged.

I didn’t want to lose my job/my pride/my confidence, but every minute of the work day I felt like I was failing. I remember thinking:

“I don’t want to be a failure. I don’t want things not working out to be my fault. I don’t want to be unemployed. I don’t want anyone to not be pleased.”

It was really like an alternate universe of existence because the job I had left previously felt so much easier than this one. I had to visit my old colleagues one day just to know that what was happening in my new job was not how the whole world now worked. From my former colleagues I was met with wishes to return, if only there was a job to return to. I never told them why I stopped by. It was just for me to know for myself that I wasn’t crazy.

Context for feeling good at work is no insignificant thing. And self-validation is a skill we all need to learn.

And after I knew that, I quit. As gracefully as I could. Because I’d never done it before:

I showed up with two copies of a resignation letter the next morning – one for Human Resources and one for my boss, who hadn’t arrived at the office yet and who might not be in that day at all.

At my desk, I began to redistribute the files and emails that I had taken over 10 days earlier when my phone rang:

“It’s [the Human Resources Director]. Would you be able to come see me briefly? We got your letter.”

I got off the phone and went. Not sure what to expect:

“So sorry …. [your boss] is impossible to please … [your boss] is never happy … this is not your fault … really, not your fault … I confirmed details of your letter with [a bystander colleague]go home and you don’t ever have to tell anyone about this … it means nothing in the grand scheme of things … don’t let this mean that anything was wrong with you … we will pay you for an extra week … we will not put that you quit on record … you have been treated poorly … so sorry … you were kind to show up to tell us.”

Not that I needed the validation at that point, but it was generous to receive. Maybe I got it because I had finally given it to myself. Nonetheless I accepted what I didn’t expect.

I went back to my desk and by this time my colleagues were in the office. [Bystander colleague] had given them the news that I had decided to leave. So they were nicer now.

“Sorry things didn’t work out,” I heard from the girl that wouldn’t tell me where the paper for the photocopier was, who had sweetly promised our boss that she would help me get oriented quickly to the office.

I could feel myself let go of this place immediately. This dysfunctional relationship was over. I went home after ending it. Took the Skytrain and then a bus.

Changed into my pajamas.

Made tea.

Listened to the traffic outside.

It was early afternoon.

A workday.

And I was set free.

My body and my bowels were totally fine. All of a sudden.

So what do you need to self-validate to honour yourself today?

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