Lessons From A Late Colleague



Relationships with the people you work with are funny.

You may be really close to someone that you work with, but work is the only place you ever see them. Yet and still, what you learn from them will impact you well after the job is done, you’ve both moved on, and never see or hear from them again.

A colleague of mine that recently passed away is in mind as I write this post, I guess you can say we were part of the same circle for years, and I learned a lot from them through direct teaching and observation. I learned about things I should and shouldn’t do. While I was always aware of this fact, their recent passing just places a seal of finality on it all. It shows me the importance of applying all I’ve learned not only to impact decisions I make at work to affect my professional outlook, but more importantly, my life as a whole.

This colleague myself, and others we consorted with all used to echo the same ideas to one another during times at work when things seemed bleak. “Life is too short,” we’d say, “we’re not going to let small stuff bring us down.” We all hung in there to grow our paychecks so we could to pay our bills and provide for our families, maybe even do a little bit beyond meeting their basic needs. But when people say that life is short they don’t know just how close the end might be, and it’s closeness seems like more of a vague possibility instead of a looming reality.

The happy ending can’t wait until the end of this post. This colleague was let go from the company we worked at together. They had been distraught for months prior to their termination. I will never forget that we took a walk around the parking lot one day during  break, and I mentioned to them, “Hey, so-and-so, you know I had a dream that you were fired.” They sighed a bit after hearing this because over the years, they’d been told dreams about them self by me or other co-workers that came to pass. Anyway, the writing had been on the wall for a long time. Anyone could see that it would likely happen sooner than later. After it happened, this person chose not take any of the calls from me or our other close colleagues as we tried to express our sadness for them, and we never saw them again. It was understandable, and we all moved on with our lives. The last time I was contacted by this person, it was through a brief text message months later which read something like: “If you’re wondering how I’m doing, I’m great, and I’m very happy.” I was able to find out through Linked In that not too long after their cruel firing they’d landed a great job with the title they’d been vying for all along. And I use the word “cruel” loosely. Because when anyone is in the mode I’m about to describe, they should only expect to make enemies with the people that they wish would promote them.

The fact is, and what I’ve learned not only from this colleague but through others’ and my own experiences, when you are not happy in your job you must find a way to leave as closely to immediately as possible.  I know this sounds like it could be irresponsible when you have bills to pay and a family to support. But it’s not, if you position yourself properly to never rely on a paycheck to begin with. Live below your means, save as much money as you can. Don’t be desperate for payday to come every other Friday because you love things. Consuming more than needed is not enjoyment or luxury; in fact it’s slavery.

Should you dread going somewhere every day so that you can survive to the point where it affects your mental and physical health, your relationships, and self-worth? I don’t see that as being responsible, I see that as degradation. And it ruins your reputation. When you don’t like your job, you have the potential to become:

  1. A poor performer
  2. Full of negativity
  3. Unmotivated
  4. Lazy
  5. A gossip

And so much more, unless you walk an extremely straight line. When every day at work is like stepping into a boxing ring, staying straight is not easy. We all like to think we’re tough, but we’re human, right? We can only take so many punches before we get knocked down, knocked out, or fight back. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to spend every day fighting. I like to be at peace, enjoying what I do.

Is this weak? Personally, I feel it’s the opposite of weak. Life is short, and we don’t know just how short it will be. I don’t want to be miserable everyday for five years at work waiting for my big break in an unfavorable situation. In doing this, I might just turn into damaged goods. I might become so used to being unhappy that I have a hard time turning a bad attitude I’ve acquired into a good one. Or I could become so accustomed to feeling underappreciated that I can’t get motivated again, even when I should be. I want to avoid getting into a rut at all costs. I feel I’ll help my new opportunity by meeting it halfway, taking a chance and venturing out, making it easier for it to find me. Here’s another thing I’ve noticed, and is just an opinion, but sometimes it’s easier to fill an empty space than to remove something and replace it with something else.

Results are about intention. If someone says they want to leave somewhere and I don’t see them get up and move, I start believing that they actually may to stay. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve known that have left a job without a new one to go to. They complained that they’d been searching so hard for months and couldn’t find anything, while they wasted away, feeling tortured at work. Then one day they couldn’t take the torture anymore and had to walk away, seemingly hopeless. Within weeks, they had something comparable or better. It’s funny how it worked out when they were able to place the energy and focus that was needed on making the change instead of that thing that made them suffer.

I’m not saying to go around burning bridges, be distasteful, or inconsiderate to an employer. Give appropriate notice if the circumstances allow, do your best until the last day, earning what you’re paid for, and don’t destroy future possibilities with negative feedback upon your exit. If they didn’t listen to you while you were there, they likely won’t listen to you as you’re leaving. If you’re leaving, their problems should no longer be a concern to you. They will eventually figure out what they’re doing wrong and what they’re doing right on their own.  So, in conclusion, life is too short.  Too short to go around making enemies. Too short not to enjoy what you do every day. Too short to not try and reach your full potential as often as possible, loving as much of the journey as you possibly can.

Footnote: I wrote this thinking fondly of the colleague that I’ve mentioned.  We had many laughs and good times. No person is perfect. I’m thankful for what I’ve learned through them including good things that I didn’t mention in this post….may they rest in peace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *