I know it seems impossible, but some of my most valued life lessons were not learned in a classroom. I left school very early in my post-secondary education to work. In the 14 years since, I found out a lot about the “real world” just by being an observer, and occasionally a participant. Here is a list what I have learned so far that I know will carry me through to my next stage of life.

1. Resignation letters are for resigning only. 

When a person leaves a job on bad terms, it is tempting to use a resignation letter as a final, “piss off!” (pardon my language) to one’s employers. However, the reason for writing a letter of resignation is to inform the boss that you are leaving. Do not call names, use foul language, or, heaven forbid, tell the employers how they should do their jobs. Even if you believe that your boss is far too cocky about being the captain of a sinking ship, it is not your place to say anything. You’re leaving, so it’s not your business anymore. Instead, say thanks for the opportunity and give them enough notice for them to find a replacement for you. Leave the airing of grievances for Festivus.

2. It’s not them, it’s you. Sometimes it is them, but mostly it’s you.

I didn’t really enjoy working until I learned how to take responsibility for what I did. That doesn’t mean I took the blame for things I didn’t do, or got involved in other peoples’ drama. I made the decision to take an unbiased view of what I contributed to the culture at work, and I found out that I am openly dismissive and unfriendly towards any person whom I think has a strong sense of entitlement. Which is questionable behaviour to have among my peers, and even worse to have towards leadership. In order to change the culture, I had to change my actions. Blaming everyone else for my reactions didn’t get me anywhere.

3. If you don’t hog the credit, you can’t take the blame.

I’ve always been a leader, but there are a few things I don’t do well; delegate and take credit for success. I’m not the attention-seeking type, so my first instinct is always to take whatever attention is paid on me and deflect it towards the people who helped me succeed. (Don’t get it twisted: there were always people who helped me succeed) I did this for two reasons: 1. As I mentioned before, I don’t like unnecessary attention, and 2. If a task goes wrong, the one responsible for the failure is whomever takes the credit, which is usually the leader. On the other hand, if the task is executed by a team, the entire team shares responsibility.

4. A person cannot motivate anyone he/she feels is inferior.

My parents both went to college. My mother has been a nurse for almost 40 years, and my father was an independent contractor who designed and built houses, restaurants, and apartments. My mother also worked as a  retail salesclerk, and my dad was a janitor. The fact that my parents worked in many different professions helped me to approach each person’s part with equity. I don’t think that the head of an organization is more important than the janitor. (If you think I’m kidding, just watch what happens when the custodial staff goes on strike.) Every person’s role is equally important, and when anyone behaves as though his or her role is more important than someone else, that person jeopardizes the harmony of the entire group. If a person is not relatable and down-to-earth, he or she cannot expect to be able to motivate anyone.

5. Personal feelings are best left at home.

Approximately 10% per cent of the time, I base my decisions on how I feel about a person. (My “gut” is never wrong) The other 90% I base on efficiency and outcomes. Like most people, I enjoy spending most of my  time with people that know and love me best. However, I also like getting things accomplished, and if given the choice, I’d rather work with 10 enemies that I know will get a job done, than 10 friends that will most likely goof off and be a distraction. I had to leave my personal feelings on the shelf at work because they inhibited me from being objective. In the end, I was more productive because I was more concerned with the completion the task than I was with the interpersonal drama.

6. Rewards are great, but it is better to be motivated by something other than what one may gain from success.

While I cannot stand unnecessary fawning and performance-based reward systems, I like occasionally to be recognized for a job well done. However, the lure of praise and prizes is not what drives my performance. I do a good job because I like to do a good job. I’m thorough because I don’t like to take short-cuts, and I work hard because I’m paid to do it. If a person places all his or her emphasis on the future reward, he deprives himself of the experience of the present.

I have learned plenty more life lessons at work; 7.Even if it is the truth, referring to a supervisor as a ‘self-important half-wit’ is always wrong. 8.Avoid the employee lounge if you don’t want to hear people complain about work. 9.Be kind to all customers, even the mean ones. 10. Stay out of situations that do not directly involve you, and remember that your job is a way to earn money. It is not your life, so do not allow what happens there to crush your spirit.

That’s my two cents.

Until next time,



One thought on “6 Things I Learned About Life From Working

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