The Requiem of Positive Thinking: Part I – The Employee

Listening to my boss and Positive Thinking - Got me unemployed for 6 months!

Listening to my boss and Positive Thinking – Got me unemployed for 6 months!

This is probably going to be an odd blog post for me in the respect that I have been “mentally” writing this for a few weeks now.  Even though I am considered quite articulate, putting into words the emotions and ideas have been a challenge for me on this one. I think this will appear to be a bit more of a serious diary entry, rather than a blog this time – so thank you for bearing with me.

What is interesting about this post to me, is that I usually write with a clear end goal in mind.  In this case, I am actually not sure what that is – my thinking is that as I write away it will somehow unfold. So another apology in advance – please keep up with my writing that may drift from topic to topic, I want to keep this as raw and uncut as possible.

As I write this post I am 34, I started in the professional workforce when I was about 19 – and did most of my University Undergraduate and Post Graduate work around that.

I grew up a big “positive thinker” and as I moved through my life “realism” has kicked in – and since I have been approaching things in a balanced manner my life has completely improved in almost every area.

One area of strange concern to me has been my corporate / employee career – for my whole life, my career has been ironically my own “goal of success” but really ended up being an elusive oppressor.  I now completely love what I do now and I can contribute to others and enjoy the work – but my whole life has had a very “master / slave” relationship about it. That is, I would start out as the “bright eyes” hardworking guy putting my life and soul into many corporates and getting a very small return on that back.

As a qualification, before you think I am attacking the whole workforce – of course not! This could easily be a reflection of me on perhaps being too sensitive, looking at things in an absolute manner or perhaps me being attracted to the wrong employers due to my own “mindset issues”. I once worked with this fantastic man by the name of Mike Davey – General Manager of Wrest Point Casino in Hobart, one brilliant and kind man – obviously had a job to do, but always protected the underdog.

In fact, when I moved from Hobart to Sydney – my original business ventures all were a spectacular failure and I had to go and get a job again. This kind man was referee for me and everything – helped me when I was down!

Conversely, early on in my career – I also had the opposite experience.  One employer I worked for – I would work long hours, reply to abusive emails late at night, finish work at 11PM all to be at my desk 7AM the following morning – and then to top it off, when I finished up with them they falsely accused me of negligence to get out of paying me my entitlements.  All as it was so they could keep all the money they could, at my expense despite the years of dedication and service. I recall that one was painful and very demoralizing and it was the beginning of the end for me when it came to positive thinking.  I felt sorry for myself, angry, confused and cheated – and many more dark emotions.  That started my career on a tough path – I remember I thought it was a “one off”, but it became the start of many and my first “requiem of positive thinking”.

What I found was scary about what I have been through – was that I met many people who had it worse than me.  That is, they weren’t “Jerry Springer” people or bad people many are kind and good-natured university educated, the religious (i.e. Christian, Muslim, Jewish – all faiths), charitable etc – all had some things which although weren’t illegal (expect in some cases) companies did some horrible things to them.

It wasn’t always intentional however, yes – some of the people who do the firing are pure sociopaths, but some as well are good people who are put into a position where they have to be the grim reaper for their company.  I remember I was at Ansett Airlines (if you are not from Australia it was a premium airline from years ago that crashed within days after the downturn from September 11) – they were a company with some great staff, but they financially weren’t stable.  They had employees I think with 40+ years experience who had never worked anywhere else.  I knew this one guy on the line at the Tullamarine Melbourne Base – it was so shocking, he committed suicide (hanging at his house) to deal with the pain.

This is one example of where it’s no ones fault, bad stuff happens to all of us.  What I am more concerned about / appalled by – is that when good people are screwed over by bad people, i.e. it’s someone who has clearly taken advantage of another party.  One top solicitor I know in Sydney – she is extremely intelligent, hard-working at had a great job at a small law firm.

One of the bigger public firms that you would ironically think are “more ethical” and all that hired her on a 6 month probation. When she went on, they asked to bring her clients (which she did and is common practice) and they spent lots of time telling her how wonderful she was.  This included public praise, dinners and everything.  Once they secured her last client (1 week before her probation), they fired her!

It turned out it was all a rouse designed to get her clients.  They knew what they were doing right before they hired her and guess what – 100% legal!

I remember one ironic one – I was worked for a “community”, “Not-for-profit” and it was one of the most evil organizations I worked for.  I worked for the casino in Hobart and they  ironically were fantastic and very ethical and this was the other extreme.  petty, abusive and it had a reputation for that.  I remember going for the job, not wanting it – and they kept chasing me. I even said no originally and they did the sell job on me.  My brief was to get someone in, train them up, build processes and guess what happened when I did that – they sacked me! So the trick was to use me for my knowledge, set things up then get rid of me.

Obviously no ethics and this has been thing thing I have been debating quite a bit with myself:

– Are they just purely evil scum-bags? Akin to rapists lurking on innocent women at train-stations or bandits from the early days? Do they get satisfaction out of other people suffering?

– Are they just self-centered? That is – they only care about themselves and what they can gain.  If being nice to their grand mother or selling someone into slavery makes them money then all good? That is, they will only cause suffering if it benefits them in some way?

– Are they truly messed up? That is – they think they are wonderful through performing a range of mental gymnastics, while everyone thinks they are messed up?

I think there are combinations of these of course, and I can think of people who fit into many categories.  I had this line supervisor that was certainly evil in nature.  They were bullying (and I have had people bully me who were not “evil” in nature) but what separated this person over the rest was that you could tell the enjoyed it.  That is, in the case of this person – whenever they dominated someone, proved themselves “right” (or at least to themselves), or yelled at people – an evil smile could come through.

Whereas, in one job (this was a few years ago, the worst job of my career) a “good” person did something bad to me.  That is, they just wanted to get rid of me right before probation (this was the place that sold me the job and told me 1 week prior how great and valuable I was) and the CEO made up some lies about me.  The HR Manager who was actually a “good” person backed those lies – and then told me one-on-one he was sorry.  I could tell deep down that he hurt himself doing that, and I know that he did it out of fear – not out of getting a thrill.

One that ripped me off on some of my employee entitlements, I wouldn’t think they are evil – but in the category of just purely self centered.  If being nice to me would make them money, then great – if killing me would make them money then great.

On a positive note, when I started my career I had this fantastic line supervisor by the name of John Voudouris.  He was this really kind and good-natured family guy.  He had a very strong code of ethics and I remember that I was moved side-ways into another division.  I then had this really mean manager who blamed for a whole lot of stuff that was hit fault, and John was there to help me out! It worked politically against him in the company to support me – but he did it.

On another funny note, years ago one of my employers was trying to get me to misrepresent one of their properties (i.e. basically make illegal claims about it’s quality and claim it confirmed to a certain scheme where it didn’t).  Really bad stuff and the owner and HR manager at the time were busy “telling me to do it” – I didn’t do it, they threatened to fire me and I stuck to my guns (as the legal penalties were far worse than anything they could do to me).

My story isn’t that unique though! I know plenty of people that have had way worse things happen to them and even though one can accuse me of “thinking too much” or “being overly sensitive” it’s a common problem these days.  I am all for capitalism – but one trend I have noticed (especially in Sydney) is a real “dog eat, dog world”.  I meet lots of people who have been fired, kicked out, lost contracts with funding held, been sexually harrased by bosses – only to be countered by a defamation suit and the lists goes on.

Interesting enough when I was working as a marketing manager in the pre-GFC world – I could do an easy $120K + / year.  These days, getting $90K + / year as a corporate is a challenge.  Before I got my business brains together, it was very demoralizing thinking that “all my skills had gone to waste”.  Although I had grown up being a happy little corporate with my self-esteem tied to my bosses opinion of me, my biggest mistake was being too slow in realizing that my skills in this space weren’t viewed or held with the esteem they once were.

I always did what my bosses said for years and in many cases – I got punished for it.  In fact, when I started undoing this thinking and actually doing something for myself (i.e. my own business), the financial and mental rewards have been there! This is the bit that has been frying my brain:

My Old Teaching – Be all positive, live for your boss, and be frustrated poor and unemployed.

My New Paradigm – Work hard for your job, but live your own life and build your own equity.

In that previous job where the “not evil”, but very “gutless” HR manager supported lies to feed me to the dogs, in the space of 1 week I went from thinking I am great and valued – to not having professional employment for 6 months!

This was the first (of many) big cracks in my thinking – I was taught to always love your boss and do what they say and this time my family and I got punished for it.  So an interesting concept – when I was younger I used to look around and think “This is all isn’t right” and then I would use tons of “positive thinking” and pretend everything was fine.

Being broke and 30 changed lots of my thinking! So that is my part I for now on “the requiem of positive thinking” my mini-blog within a blog.  I am not sure what is going to come next, but if you can relate to any of this – you are welcome to drop me a line at my wesbite or comment below!

Hope you enjoyed this one – took me a while to get the words out, so hope it made sense.  Thank you from Edward Zia for the read!