[Blog 33] The Chief Guru Chronicles 108: You Are What You Eat… And Who You Surround Yourself With
There’s a saying that goes, “Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel. Energies are contagious.”
This is especially true when you are young and impressionable, because those who are in close proximity with you—family, friends, colleagues—tend to be people that you look up to and inspire you, as well as people who will have very large implications on how you will turn out to be as a person and achieve greatness.
Most of the time it’s about selectively surrounding yourself with a prominent figure or role model who you attempt to emulate. You hope that somehow or other, their positive traits will rub off on you and inspire and motivate you to pursue your dreams or goals. In some cases (like mine), it’s about who you are willing to tolerate with because being around them constantly reminds you of the person that you do not want to become.
Early on in my career, I was once blessed with a wonderful boss, one whom I showed much gratitude towards for training me relentlessly and taking the role of my mentor. He showed me the ropes and taught me intrinsic qualities of honesty, perseverance, modesty, humility and the significance of quality when it comes to work. Thereafter, I moved on to pursue my next milestone in an industrial plant where I became part of a small HR team of 4. As you might have guessed, I wasn’t as lucky this time.
My new boss was unfortunately all kinds of weird and bizarre—an unruly mish-mash of incompetence, greed, sloth, ignorance, absurdity and temperament in one single person. He had a habit of delegating available tasks to me every chance he got and consequently held me responsible each time something went wrong. Every mix up, whether big or small, was seen as a result of my oversight while all the favourable outcomes were accredited to him. Not once did he make the effort to instil his knowledge; all my queries were simply refuted with a “Go find out yourself.” Each day, he’d come waltzing into the work place way past the reporting time of 8:30AM, yet he’d be caught scurrying out an hour before the end of office hours at 5:30PM and not a second later. On days when his superior wasn’t present, I was lackadaisically asked to helm the meetings which he’ll only turn up for during the last 15 minutes for the mere purpose of wrapping up the discussions.
Soon enough, I had to take his place for all the meetings and corporate activities that were conducted after office hours and during the weekends. He purely wanted to be on the receiving end of good news and had no care to lend me a listening ear or garner any feedback about any of my undertakings. Finger pointing and self-righteousness—both were his strong suits. Ironically, I put up with him for three years and lived to talk about it. It was during those trying periods that I developed a sense of resilience and confidence to face any sort of ultimatum. I also picked up crucial emotional intelligence and networking skills that would later benefit me greatly in life. While many thought that I was placing my career on the line by putting up with my boss’s appalling and atrocious behaviour, I was more keen to look at the whole episode from an entirely different perspective and dimension; one where a golden opportunity was being presented to me at such an early stage in my career and I was simply paying my “tuition fees”.
On hindsight and lightheartedly, I am very thankful to be placed in such a predicament. While they might have not been particular motivating or invigorating, my personal experience with dysfunctional management behaviour were indeed very insightful lessons which has helped shaped who I am as a boss today. If you have not done so in a while (or ever before), perhaps it’s time to hit pause and take a closer look at the people that surround you. Reflect on how significant they might influence not just your day-to-day interactions, but also your long-term career goals. Chances are, they might just dictate the direction towards where your life is going.