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!

Being a Loner in an Extroverted World

Photo by RF._.studio

I have always been a private person, much to the chagrin of my friends.

In distress, as far as possible, I prefer to process my situation without involving a second person. Venting and ranting bring relief to many, but I regain my composure by pondering over my issues – the ifs, buts, and whys. Of course, this is not always healthy because I end up bottling my emotions and eventually bursting like a volcano.

I have lost friends or faced misunderstandings because people could not understand my introversion. I was never rude to anyone, but I simply could not find the energy to pick up the phone and keep in touch. This would upset those who expected more from me and wished to be in sync with my private life. Being a single woman, everyone is curious to know whom I’m dating, why I’m dating him, and what my future plans are with him. I find this intrusive, even if well-intentioned. Maybe I have no future plans with him, but would they understand that? Mostly no. To add to that, I never found the need to discuss my life events, scrutinize them, or share every little info with friends. I find the process exhausting and find it difficult to manage many friends as I get older. I am good as long as I have one listening, non-judging ear. Yes, even we loners wish to be heard sometimes.

In friendship, I realize that communicating regularly helps build a deep connection. This is why extroverts have many close friends. Keeping in touch comes naturally to them. The more friends they have and the more socializing they do, the more fulfilled they feel. Loners, like me, prefer to have that one good friend, with whom we can talk without restraint. We want to invest our energy wisely without draining out. This may give us an impression of aloofness as we are not actively seeking new friends.

What I find uncomfortable about discussing my life is that most would expect a follow-up story. If timely updates are not shared, questions arise. It is why numerous anonymous posts asking for advice are seen on Reddit. There are issues you are wary of telling your friends and family, no matter how close you are to them. You want to talk about them, but without the responsibility of being answerable to anyone in the future. I don’t have a problem sharing my life events, but it’s the questions thereafter I have an issue with – because you never know when they will stop.

My hesitation is not entirely inherent. I cannot put the whole blame on nature. It is part contrived as well. Experience has taught me that some things are better left unspoken. Recently, I let go of my inhibitions and, in a state of vulnerability, told a few friends at a party about my brother-in-law’s infidelity. I was feeling disoriented and needed someone to confide in desperately. I regret it now because what I did in the process of revealing something private was enable my friends to openly judge my sibling’s life, probably till the end of time. My brother-in-law and sister sorted out their problems, but the judgments did not stop. It is difficult to forgive and forget a terrible event in your life when there’s someone constantly reminding you about it. “My brother-in-law took my sister out for dinner.” “Oh, is it? (smirks and eye-rolling ensue)“. After facing the judgments, you hesitate to share your issues if you know there’s a remote chance that the situation might improve later. And what happens when you stop talking about such intimate parts of your life? Friendships become stale.

Self-reliance can be a boon as it teaches you to be independent, but it’s a bane if you wish to establish a solid network. I love to keep to myself most of the time but also love sharing ideas. These conflicting interests can prove overwhelming at times.

I sometimes envy extroverts. They come fully equipped into a world exclusively built for them. While they start life from ground zero, introverts have to start from minus 10. Introverts reach ground zero sometime later in life when they begin to understand the art of faking extroversion. Being an introvert, socializing never came easy. I have now learned to put up a façade of extroversion to please the people I love and work with, but I end up exhausted by the end of the day. I would wait to get back home and be myself. Finding a partner, who gets my true self, is difficult. They usually fall for the extroverted side I reserve for the world and back off as soon as they learn I am not all that. I have been called “weird” for not liking parties and being quiet. But now I am in a space where I get the solitude I need and a partner who is comfortable with my solitude.

According to Susan Cain’s Quiet, most introverts develop this dual personality to keep up with the extroverted world around them. Society expects them to be outgoing, jovial, and giving – such energy consumers for the quiet. It might be impossible for an extrovert to understand how much energy goes into socializing because mingling comes naturally to them. When the whole world is geared towards extroversion in all forms of life, an introvert has no choice but to conform and act as if they fit right in.

That Time of the Year Again…

Photo by Ylanite Koppens

My annual performance review is around the corner. And I wonder what surprise they have in store for me this time around.

If you have been following my blog, you would know that my last two performance reviews did not go well. It was a bit of a surprise to hear the managers say what they did, because at no point during the year did I receive any feedback from them. My mind automatically deduced “no feedback” as “good feedback.” But that wasn’t the case.

I am not sure what I would face this year, but I could do without the anxiety. I can only think, why can’t companies make appraisal time easier? The stress comes only when you’re given no clue about your performance.

Right now, all I can do to calm myself down is utter the golden words, “I tried my best.”

So will things be favorable this time, or am I in for a nasty surprise again?

Stay tuned.