An Ode to Ignoring Toxic People

Photo by Pixabay

We are often told that communication is key.

People advocate the importance of openly sharing your feelings with your partners and friends, thoughts with colleagues, and so on. That’s absolutely true. You should. But what they don’t tell you is that sometimes, communication does absolutely nothing.

You can talk all you want, but your effort is lost if the other person is not ready to listen.

Communication can be key. But with the right people.

Try talking it out with a toxic person – someone who wants absolute control over the situation. They might demean and insult you for sharing your thoughts. What do we do then? Should we communicate more? Will that lead to better results? Sometimes, maturity is cutting off such people from your lives without lengthy dialogues when you realize things will not improve by talking.

It is not popular advice – to ignore. But it has its powers. Ignorance is indeed bliss when you know talking will not yield fruitful results. You can save yourselves from getting hurt when you choose to ignore. I sure did not believe in the power of quiet when I was in my 20s. I ardently believed each and every problem could be resolved by talking. In the process, I bared my soul, talking about my insecurities, frights, and pain with people who did not deserve my empathy or trust. I over-communicated in the hope that they would be more kind once they understood what I was going through. Some ended up using that private information against me. A piece of advice – unless you are absolutely confident about your relationship with this other person, do not be vulnerable and reveal your negatives. They just might misuse it. Communication is key. Again, with the right people.

When you ignore toxic people, you take away their right to infuriate you further. You are making them lose control over you. You are suffocating them because they are satisfied only when you retort. They want you to be affected by what they say. These are the people to watch out for and consciously avoid interacting with. You are not liable to hold any sort of communication with them. You end up saving precious energy this way and can divert it toward more productive interactions.

With experience, you know who such people are and how much effort you are willing to spend on them. You start to understand when things get “too much,” and you eventually start holding back. It’s something, unfortunately, that the 20s won’t teach you. We don’t learn unless we experience the same thing multiple times because it’s by rote that lessons get drilled into our brains. You experience similar people again and again till you learn how to deal with them in the future – that’s the way of life. No amount of advice or posts (like this one) will stop someone from thinking or acting how they want. Only experience can help you – it’s the best teacher, after all.

An Ode to Moonlighting, Sunlighting, and All Kinds of Lighting To Keep Your House Lit

Employee Mental Health Office Joke

If you aren’t yet aware of the term “Moonlighting,” here’s the definition – it’s you working for another company once your regular day job is over. Lately, many CEOs in India are losing their cool over their employees moonlighting. They feel cheated because they want their subordinates to function at their best capacity during day time. Yes, it’s mostly the CEOs and the high-level management already receiving big paychecks who are vociferously campaigning against moonlighting. Any surprises there?

I can’t help but think, why would companies want to micromanage the after-work life of an employee? The office in itself is a breeding ground for micromanagement. If the employee’s daily work is suffering because of the extra responsibility they took up, yes, they should face the consequences. Quality of work shouldn’t be compromised. But in companies like Wipro, employees aren’t getting sacked because of their work quality – it’s purely for the reason that their employers found out their “dirty” little secret. Employees should be warned if their quality of work is far below expectations – whatever reason it may be – moonlighting, sunlighting, or rainlighting. But snooping around to see which employee works secretly to earn an additional income is downright obnoxious and toxic.

Some founders and CEOs are partners in multiple firms but do not face the consequences. The culprit is always the layman trying to earn those few extra bucks. Money and power rule the world. This universal truth holds even here.

The empathetic approach would have been to ask the moonlighting employees at Wipro how much they would need to stop working two jobs. This wish is idealistic since companies would be unwilling to pay that much. The companies want to have the cake and eat it too. They will do bad (paying low) but do not want the bad consequences (employees looking for better opportunities).

Let’s look at the positives of moonlighting (if done correctly):

  • The employee gets additional income.
  • A creative person needs an outlet. A second job that fulfills this criterion can boost such an employee’s spirit. It would make them happy to continue the daily grind the following day, even if the current job is not fulfilling those creative needs.
  • Employees will not be frustrated that their company is unwilling to pay extra. Frustration and financial stress can deteriorate work performance more than moonlighting.
  • A company that accepts its employees’ needs will earn a good reputation overall. Its employees would be willing to work much harder for them.

The cons of moonlighting:

  • If done incorrectly, i.e., the employee doesn’t get enough time to rest, the quality of work can suffer in both jobs. This is something that can easily be corrected, however. Balance is key.
  • The high-level management. I am unsure whether the big bosses will ever come to terms with it. It might be because they are overthinking it. It’s only recently that companies have deviated from the usual archaic work style and are embracing the digital. Previously, the high-level management used to overthink work from home because they were worried if work would ever get done. But covid taught everyone that it is possible to complete their work at home by leveraging the power of the internet.

On this world mental health week, let’s hope our employers reflect on what an employee’s mental well-being actually means to them. Does it mean cutting off their freedom? Does it mean micromanagement? It’s certainly not free yoga classes or an unlimited amount of eatables. “A happy wife makes a happy life” is a famous adage. In the case of organizations, “A happy employee makes a happy company” would be apt.

Maybe it’s high time our companies stop being preachy and finally walk the talk. Sometimes we need more than just freebies.

Update as of 18th October: TCS has been the most empathetic so far. To quote the COO, “The consequences (of taking action) will be that the person’s career will be ruined. Background check for the next future job will fail for him…We have to show some empathy.” Kudos to them for pointing this out.

Update as of 21st October: Employees at Infosys are now allowed to take up external gigs under some conditions. Better something than nothing!

An Ode to Finding a Passion Outside Work

Photo by Pixabay

Recently, I talked about the distress I experienced due to excess work. I felt exhausted, working day in and out, and was in severe need of some me-time. I had been “at it” for two years since the start of the pandemic, and I was close to burning out.

Thankfully, I got some time out recently – when my manager went on vacation. I was ecstatic at first. There was no urgent work; it almost felt like I was also on holiday. But then I started experiencing something that I had never experienced in my two years of pandemic-induced erratic work hours – the insufferable boredom that comes with having no work. Was it a withdrawal symptom, a side-effect of having burnt a copious dose of after-work oil? When you finally get some breathing space, you have no clue what to do with it. You are left grasping at straws.

The first few days of zilch micromanagement felt like a dream to me. But by the second or third week, boredom took precedence, and I started actively looking for tasks to self-initiate. A few questions that crossed my mind –

  • Is this what retired people go through? They are relaxed and happy the first few weeks of retirement, but many develop a sense of despair later on.
  • How can I stop myself from feeling this way?
  • Why do we always have to be on the move? Why are we so averse to relaxation?
  • What is the optimal amount of work you need daily to keep yourself happy?

Of course, I do not have the answers to all questions. I am not a researcher or scientist. I apologize if you came here looking for answers. However, I can tell you something from my personal experience:

I am happiest when I have at least half a day’s worth of solid work. The type of work that requires my complete attention, work that takes my mind off all kinds of distractions. When I am consumed by an optimal amount of work that meets my skills, I enter this state of flow that ignites my happy hormones. This “work” that I am talking about is not just restricted to office work; it can be anything – cooking, playing a sport, writing, learning, dancing, singing. The point is that it should be something that is immersive and consumes your entire interest.

It might be why experts recommend having a passion outside work. Once you’re retired, this passion will keep you alive and kicking. For workaholics, finding that excitement outside work might prove challenging. They hardly get the time to pause and seek activities that may have the potential to improve their quality of life in the future. One possibility for such plodders is to go part-time post-retirement in context to their work (maybe consulting). But if you have decided to step away from office work, as most of us plan to do post-60, finding yourself a cause or a passion becomes imperative.

We feel our best when we are in service or when we can provide help in some way. Finding your “Ikigai,” as vouched by the long-living Japanese, is essential to one’s overall well-being and happiness. I am not yet sure what my Ikigai is. I enjoy writing, but I haven’t yet sat down to see if I could write for half a day, nor do I know if this exercise would cater to my emotional health eternally. I did some sewing the other day. It made me feel alive. Maybe Ikigai can be a bunch of things – a heady concoction of multi-colored magic beans that contribute to our general well-being. You can embrace each of them as per the mood and season, mix and match, exercise portion-control, and tuck them away in your customized, personalized happiness jar. All it takes is some time to figure out what those magic beans are.

An Ode to Surya Namaskar & How It Helped Me Manage My Heavy Periods

Photo by Elina Fairytale

Since it is International Yoga Day, I thought I should narrate my own experience with Yoga. I have an on-and-off relationship with it. The irregularity has nothing to do with the practice but my own laziness. I prefer walking. But each time I do Yoga, I am impressed by its benefits.

I started Yoga as a form of exercise to supplement my walking. At that time, I was unaware of the health benefits as the only reason I chose Yoga was to tone my body. I initially went through some basic asanas for beginners and then slowly shifted to Surya Namaskar. It involves 12 steps akin to providing sun salutations.

In one month of doing Yoga, I noticed the following:

  • It strengthened my neck muscles and helped prevent a stiff neck
  • My back pain reduced
  • And the most relieving of all – my periods became more manageable

I cannot comment on whether Yoga helped tone my body because I wasn’t committed enough to try it regularly. The stress is on the third point – how it helped ease my period flow.  

I recently shifted to menstrual cups, so half of my period-related issues got resolved with that step. Before Yoga, I used to have 3-4 days of heavy flow. During the months I diligently practiced Yoga, my heavy flow reduced to 1 day. My period cycle was shorter and more manageable. This is a big win for me. But mind you, you cannot do Yoga just once and think your periods are manageable for life. I have to do it at least twice or thrice weekly to see the positive effects. I skip Yoga during periods because I do not wish to subject my body to stress and stretches at that time.

If you are facing any of the problems I mentioned, I would highly recommend trying Yoga.

Happy International Yoga Day!