It starts slowly. You’ve been working in a company for decades and poured your energies into working diligently. In return, you enjoy the fact that you have a reputation for doing good work. The company’s management is aware that you’ve built up a large network both inside and outside the company and acknowledge your contribution in helping the company prosper.
In fact, during the next annual dinner for the company, the Managing Director singles you out in his speech and says, “Your effort and dedication has helped the company enormously.”
Blushing, you go up on stage to accept an award an deliver a short speech.
“Without teamwork, I would not have come this far,” you say. With hand on heart, you wholeheartedly add, “This award is for all of you,” and look with love at your colleagues.
A few months later, something changes. The people you thought were nice, turn their backs on you. Where colleagues would readily cooperate with you before, they will not now. Bosses begin to question the quality of your work and HR gives you a warning letter that your performance at work is below par.
In the course of the next few days, you wonder where you failed. You don’t know what you’ve done wrong. What red flags did you miss?
One day, you eavesdrop on your colleagues and learn that there’s a rumour going around the office that your contract of employment may not be renewed.
That night, unable to sleep, you lay on your bed and with only one question on your mind – “Why me?”
Your future seems bleak.
How will you cope with those younger than you?
Sincere friends have betrayed you.
Costs of living are rising. How will you pay for your children’s education?
And your parents?
You can’t breathe.
I confess that a similar thing happened to me a few years ago. I had the same thoughts, worries and anxieties. Today, I understand that what I went through was a form of workplace bullying. I understand that it happens because a person envies another person because of what he has. By becoming a bully, he hides his insecurity. Thank God that during my time, there was no Facebook or Twitter. So none of this bullying could happen online. Still, the negative emotions were all there. Soon, those around me began to notice that something wasn’t right.
“What is happening to you?” one of my brothers asked when I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. “Is there something we can do to help?” another one asked. A close friend said, “Tell me who it is. I will bash up the person who is doing this to you.”
Not wanting to burden any of them with my worries, I gave a standard reply which was, “Thanks. I am alright. Just the workload has increased.”
When I didn’t know what else to do, I made an appointment to consult SwamiGuru. I told him what was happening to me and shared with him all my worries. He listened patiently.
“What should I do, SwamiGuru?” I imagined that his advice would be to say a few prayers. Maybe, I would have to do a few poojas or take a flower bath. Even though I was prepared to him say that I needed to find a new job, I also knew that that was too drastic. Maybe, he’d say that all I needed to do was make a complaint to HR.
SwamiGuru sat back in his chair and said, slowly, “Don’t react.”
Huh? Don’t react?
I stared at him, speechless. Here I was thinking I would get a blessing about how to overcome things. A blessing that things will be ok. And this was all he could say to me? Did I come to the right person for advice? Maybe I shouldn’t have asked him anything. I mean, just two words. What did they even mean?
Slowly, I asked him for an explanation. In essence, what he said was that instead of reacting to this situation, I needed to respond to it in a proper manner.
“What’s the difference between a reaction and a response?” I asked. A reaction, he explained, happens without much thought, a lot of tension and aggression. A response, on the other hand, is thought-out, calm and doesn’t threaten anyone.
“Ask yourself two questions,” SwamiGuru said. “First, ‘Did I do anything wrong?’. Second, ‘Do I have a guilty conscience?”
My answer to both these questions was no. I should, therefore, be confident and let nature take its course.
“Truth is stronger than steel,” he added. “Whatever is right will eventually turn out right. Believe in yourself and be yourself. Surrender to the Divine and have faith. It takes faith the size of a sesame seed to move the Heavens.”
I walked away from this consultation with SwamiGuru with a sense of peace and calm I had not known in the long time.
Two things happened after that. First, I now share this two-word advice – don’t react – with the people who ask me for advice. Like I was when I first heard it, they too are surprised. Sometimes, they reply with something along the lines of, “Perhaps, this ‘don’t react’ solution is suitable in your case. Not mine.”
I respond by asking them to lift up one hand and then ask them, “Are your fingers of the same length?” When they say no, I reply, “Well, if they are not all the same, then why should there be a difference in your situation and mine?” Without fail, a smile appears on their face and they nod knowingly.
Second, my own situation improved by leaps and bounds. I didn’t react anymore to all the negative energies coming my way. Instead, I continued to work diligently and to the best of my ability. I am still working with the same company. Perhaps, the only change is that those friends who were supposedly sincere and helpful, the same ones who started the rumours in the first place, are no longer working in the company. I wish them well and lots of happiness. I am happy.
Albert Lai is a much-loved member of the 7C Family and has been an ardent supporter of the work we do at 7C Life RealiZation Centre.