I remember the day I realized I was "the mean one" in the office. I had just yelled at a coworker and told her it was useless to assign her any sort of work because it won't be done correctly or in a timely manner. The conference room went quiet.
The meeting ended, my coworker and I made a silent decision to stay behind and talk in private.
I started crying and apologized profusely.
I had always thought that tough love, direct approaches and honesty were what "got work done" and I had done this to my coworkers for over 5 years without realizing that I was hindering productivity, creating a negative environment in the office and nothing was getting done. I made a promise myself to try to heal this relationship and move forward as a more understanding coworker.
It didn't work. The relationship was broken.
For the next year and a half, we were cordial, but not pleasant to each other. I started learning to hold my tongue when frustration struck and noticed when other people were throwing shade at me. I considered it "karma" and took it for over a year and a half like the windshield of your car on a rainy day; just pushing the drops away and trying to keep it clear knowing that my actions have brought me to this position and I needed to learn from it.
I remember the day I broke down to a friend, saying that I knew I deserved the torture and negative words, but that I didn't know how much more I could take it. I knew it was karma but how long would I stay the human punching bag?
Being mean is easy
No one bothers you during the day, you can go "heads down" and take credit for the work you did alone. You can take lunch whenever you want because you're on your time, and someone is welcome to join your timeline but you're not budging. It's easy to call out what you see on the surface when a coworker doesn't meet a deadline or goals aren't fulfilled.
Is it worth it, though?
When that deadline is missed, did you know that your coworker was up until 1AM working on their part of the project only to loose their portion due to technical issues? When personal goals of doing a half marathon aren't achieved by your desk mate, did you know that they decided not to continue training because of the comments you didn't know they heard? When your direct report decides to stop blogging because you told them they were a bad writer, did you know it was their goal to write their entire lives?
Making a decision to change is hard
Promise me one thing, to remember your self worth and that change is always possible. Karma is real, but changing because of a realization and then taking a mental beating in the work place day-after-day is not karma. Karma (the direct definition) is the the effect of a cause or creating a destiny. When you make the decision to change; that is karma. Do not sacrifice your self worth because of your past.
I'm going to repeat that for you: Do not sacrifice your self worth because of your past.
Stand up for yourself, be the person in the workplace you want to work with and always have your mental clarity top of the priority list.
Coming from a place of understanding is hard
Talking about yourself, and being transparent is one of the hardest tasks you can complete. Asking questions and making the conscious effort to remember the answers is just as complicated. I started noticing when someone in the workplace would ask me questions and then stare blankly at me or take their phone out and not continue the conversation and it doesn't feel great.
Try this- make a note when someone's face lights up talking about any subject. Write in your calendar when you hear, "My son's birthday is March 3 and he'll be 1". Or, "I am thinking about training for my first 5K race in April", and ask how it's going. Listen.
Your workplace should be a safe place
Regardless of your position in the workplace- you have the opportunity to create a safe, creative environment for yourself and your counterparts. When something frustrates you, make the conscious decision to understand where the person is coming from or ask questions about why something came about the way it did. Go for a run, grab some coffee next door and then reevaluate your frustration levels at that time. If things don't improve, you are not stuck. You have the talent and the capabilities to move past any point in your life you need to.
It's not easy, being mean is easy, but it will be worth it.