Humility doesn’t apply at work

Brian had been at the company for only one month. But the Managing Director (MD) was already in love with him. They were socialsing, talking strategy, and making small talk.

And all that was grand until Brian started subtly assigning me tasks. Subtly because he’d say things like “if you have time this week, could we go over this and that?” with the MD in copy.

And I would gladly oblige like the team player that I am. Then one day I walked into a private meeting in which the MD was redrafting the organogram. He had put me under Brian’s supervision.

I was incensed. My heart started beating through my ears. For about a week, I focused on being angry. Angry at Brian. But even more angry at the MD. How could he do this to me?

To suddenly make the newcomer my boss after the diligent way I had worked? After all the ideas I had shared and successfully implemented?

But once the anger subsided and I started thinking clearly, I realised that I had three choices.

To quit the job; to become a disgruntled employee; or to make things better. I couldn’t quit because as we often joked at work, I didn’t have a rich man.

I couldn’t become a disgruntled employee because those are the ones who let anger build up until one day when they show up with a gun and shoot everyone.

So then, I was left with one choice; to make things better. This required accepting that I had played a part in the way things turned out.

Yes, I worked diligently but did the MD know just how much I contributed or accomplished? After all, I worked quietly. I wasn’t keen on taking credit.

I was humble. I used “we” to talk about tasks I had slaved over and completed alone. I quietly came up with ideas and let people run with them as their own. As long as the company succeeded, I too, would succeed, right?

Wrong. Even if I contributed to the company’s success, it was evident that I was likely to stay where I was, earning as before, and now, being under the supervision of someone who, as it turned out, wasn’t better than me.

The only difference between us was that he knew how to talk. He knew how to pat his own back loud enough for the boss to hear. He wasn’t humble.

So I started being loud. I started sending emails using more “Is” than “wes”.” I corrected the MD if he attributed my idea to someone else. I said firmly: “Actually, I did that.”

I learnt that in the corporate world, everyone is there to survive. To eat. And if you’re not loud enough, you will get eaten. Or at least you won’t eat well.

I was right. Because the day I walked into the MD’s office and asked for a salary raise and a promotion, he didn’t question it.

 

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