Thou shall not be vindictive

Updated: Mar 14


Don’t allow your environment to change who you are. Ask the LORD for wisdom to help you respond to each unique situation appropriately.


To all those who suffer in silence – I see you. Stop it. Ask God for wisdom and find your voice!

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For a little over a week, I’ve felt my spirit lead me towards career-related posts and not just purely faith. So this new segment is me being obedient and I hope you enjoy it!


I was having a conversation with a friend earlier this week and he said something that struck me “the moment you allow your environment to change who you really are as a person that’s when you’ve truly lost.” Deep right? Absolutely.


You see, in several industries December is usually what people term as “review season” or “bonus season”. Some people are actively seeking five star polished reviews from their colleagues and simultaneously trying to minimize their developmental points in a bid to appear like a shining star. Others are looking to pay back someone who annoyed them earlier in the year by writing something nasty in their review so they appear less than stellar. Honestly, it can all be a lil’ bit toxic.


I was moaning to this friend about something which was bothering me. I had worked with someone who was beyond painful to work with and I didn’t want this person to go and write horrible things about me to make themselves appear more stellar and me, less so. Beyond the review I was interested in ensuring that me and this person had a cordial relationship so we can actually get work done together.


I’ve heard so many stories of people who have to endure working with painful people at work. I myself have had my fair share (tbh huge share) of painful people. I mean the big bullies, the condescending shawties, the passive aggressive ninjas, the ones that are “Einstein’s” that know very little, the ones that teleport you under the bus before the bus even comes. You get my point. These characters are very common at work and honestly, in everyday life. So if they’re so common, how do we work with them? More importantly, how do we keep them from causing us to become rotten?


In life I believe in operating from a place of grace and love but let’s be real! It’s never that easy. People can really push your buttons to the point that you want to scream. However, something that really rubs me off the wrong way are vindictive people. You see the characters I described above? Most times, those people who inflict pain on others turn out to be the most vindictive people in organizations.


Anyway, let’s go back to the review story. So why was I moaning? Well you see whenever I do a project with that 'painful' someone and it’s not smooth there’s always an element of worry and / or fear that seeps into me. Why? Because:

  1. I know me and this person don’t work well together.

  2. I may have to endure working with them again in the near future.

  3. They could write untrue things about me.


We are going to ignore number 3 because that’s the weakest worry. In fact, I put it there only to make this point – that is not something I can control so worrying about it is a waste of my brain cells. Let’s focus on what I can control – 1 & 2.


Why do I care about 1 & 2? Well because nowadays I’m always trying to protect my peace particularly at work. I’m very intentional about minimizing the energy I expend on people or tasks that rob me or leave me in a lower state than I was previously. In the past I’ve experienced the negative effects of consistently working with toxic people and it took a toll on me.


But hold up. Do you know why though? Because I did the single most unintelligent thing ever – I did nothing. I would usually grit my teeth and say or do nothing because I felt my voice wouldn’t be heard. That my dear friends is a big NO. If you’re doing that currently, it’s time to make a change.


So now I’ve decided that I won’t be like old Tumi again. I’ll speak up and negotiate set ups that are healthy and conducive for me to thrive. After all, isn’t that what we want? A healthier environment breeds higher productivity and better ideas.


Given all that I’ve just explained it became clear that I needed to voice my concerns with this person. I can’t just do nothing! Neither can I go crying wolf to my superiors every single time because to what end? Is it every time something happens I will start howling? How do I take ownership of the situation and establish a cordial and working relationship with this colleague? I’m also not keen to wait for review season to air my views – I’d rather say and clear the air.


So here’s what I decided:

  1. Have a conversation.


They say that the key to having healthy relationships is having honest conversations about what is and isn’t working and learning to work through this. Now within a professional setting not everyone knows how to do this with boundaries so it won’t be that easy. But this time I opted for having a conversation using this angle – to get feedback about how the project went.


But you see as a junior, if you position it as “I just want to learn what I can do better” a nasty person will pour out a laundry list of things they don’t like about you* and it may be far from helpful. So a better angle is to ask to have a conversation to discuss the project and then within it you slip in things that bothered you.

Smile and have the hard conversation 😉

Let’s do a lil’ bit of role play.


Emma: the overseer

Didi: the junior


The plot: Didi and Emma worked on a project together. Emma has high attention to detail, is thorough in her work and manages projects well. However, Emma is oftentimes rude, passive aggressive, condescending and often times brash. Emma would also give feedback to Didi in public which can make her feel small and undervalued.


After the project, Didi reaches out to Emma and asks her for coffee. They both go for coffee and during this time Didi says this “I’d like to get feedback on what we worked on. I know it’s a stressful job and the tight deadlines can make things even more difficult. It oftentimes felt like we were clashing or on the verge of. What kind of feedback can you give me so that we can work better with together and can ultimately deliver higher quality work to our clients? I’m always keen to learn how to grow and develop myself professionally.”


Now you see starting with that may lower Emma’s guard and if Emma’s “unique” she may subconsciously whip out her laundry list (hopefully not). The best part is Didi DOES NOT have to assimilate every single word of whatever she spits out particularly if it’s nonsense. Not all feedback is good feedback!!! So Didi listens attentively and takes the constructive feedback that can genuinely help her develop into a better colleague. The other bits – she feeds to the dogs.


After Emma’s speech, Didi then says, “there’s actually something I wanted to check with you and I think it’s important to share so there’s always an open line of communication between us and so we keep working well as a team.”


“From my perspective, on some occasions it felt like the work I was doing wasn’t appreciated. For example, I noticed you would give me feedback or openly criticize my work in the presence of the whole team. As a junior trying to learn from you, this oftentimes makes it difficult for me to feel confident coming to you with questions or things I don’t understand. I’m always super keen to learn from my seniors and keep delivering high quality work for our clients so I wouldn’t want this to be the case.”


Okay not word for word but you catch my drift. It’s always nicer when it’s positioned towards how it’s hampering your personal development as opposed to saying “you hurt my feelings and you’re a BITC….😇”


Okay sorry dad (God) no bad language on here! But I hope you guys get my point. I’ll caveat all of this and say there’s no one size fits all solution. This is just me saying sometimes having a conversation is the best thing to do.


2. Don’t retaliate


Have you ever heard of a person named Joseph in the Bible? Or even Jesus? These two men need to adopt suffering as their middle name. Why? THEY SUFFERED. You know what blows my mind? Jesus never once mentioned the past hurts to His disciples. He simply shook it off and kept loving.


Well, I’m no Jesus. Sometimes if I’m not loudly voicing how someone has annoyed me, in my spirit I am giving them Yoruba woman eyes from top to bottom. Rubbish and nonsense. So what I mean is we are human. However, as Christians we are also called to be like Christ so why don’t we take a page from His playbook?


In this context, I told my friend that I wouldn’t be surprised if this person turns out to be vindictive and goes to write horrible things about me on my review. He told me to let it go. Have the conversation, flag with my superiors if necessary but I shouldn’t retaliate. I agreed. Some people may see this as foolish or passive but I actually cannot go down such a path.


When you start trying to equalize with your tormentor you yourself have become a tormentor. Did you catch that? Read it again!


As for me, I TRUST in the Lord! I also know that eventually the truth always comes to light so there’s no point in me being vindictive to ensure it happens sooner. I’d rather protect who I am as a person than to try get even with a mean person.


Anyway, at the end of the day I opted for these 2 points in navigating my situation and I hope this helps you. Please note this is not an exhaustive list of what to do when faced with a mean person. Even the approach above may not be appropriate. The most important thing I want to say is stay true to yourself and don’t allow people or your environment change you.


One last thing:


“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.””

Joshua 24:15 NIV

Love always,

T

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