No matter how tempting it is to speak ill of your old employer, don’t do it. Seldom is work a panacea of lollipops and fuzzy koalas. Not even the nicest, hardest working, and best performing worker can escape the barb wires of work politics. Why? Because even though you might be a good person, other people may hate you for your work flexible hours, your race, your sex, your compensation, your title, your looks, your age, your political stance, or even your religion.
One of my book interviewees was a fella named Bob who got in at a respectable 7:30am every morning for five years. He seldom called in sick and was an overall solid performer. Bob always stayed past 6pm while the rest of his colleagues left by 3pm. His colleagues hated him because they had to get in by 4:30am in order to get on a daily 7:30am EST morning call with New York. Every morning Bob walked into the office one of the colleagues would shout out some snide remark to make Bob look bad.
“Hey look everybody! Bob just got in!” or “Good afternoon Bob!” or “Thanks for coming into work today Bob!” were common phrases. Bob’s colleagues were clearly miserable for getting in so early and used Bob to vent.
Although Bob laughed off his colleagues’ constant derision, deep down Bob was hurt and annoyed. Bob busted his ass every evening long after his colleagues had left. He didn’t make fun of his colleagues for leaving before 3pm while he stayed behind for another three hours on average.
One has to wonder, “If a tree falls down in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I think not. Even though Bob worked past 6pm, nobody was in the office to see. It’s all about creating positive perception at work.
Not only was Bob ridiculed on a daily basis, he was also ganged up on by his other colleagues when it came time to doing business with existing customers. Bob worked on a smaller product and was outnumbered eight to one. The herd mentality of ganging up on others is a dangerous phenomenon that is growing at school, online and in the work place.
After five years of misery Bob shot me an e-mail to see if I could help him out with his exit.
EMPLOYEE RAGE IS DANGEROUS FOR BOTH
Like a patient to a doctor, Bob finally let go and opened up to me about how he truly felt about his company.
“My office is full of pompous, miserable assholes who thinks the world revolves around them!”
“Every time I do the work to win an order, I get pushed aside by a colleague in another product who claims the credit.”
“Every person my office manager hires is a white male just like him. Everybody looks the same in the office, yet they claim to be a supporter of diversity. Meanwhile, all the assistants are Asian women. What a freaking joke!”
“The office manager can’t even look me in the eye for more than 10 seconds while speaking to me. He’s constantly fidgeting and looking left and right like an uncomfortable weasel who got caught talking behind another’s back.”
I could see the fire in Bob’s eyes as if he was on a mission to write a tell-all book. Luckily for the employer, I calmed his nerves and told him about the pitfalls of going apeshit. Luckily for the employer, Bob doesn’t have a massive blog to telegraph all his stories either.
At the end of our month long consultation, Bob was able to successfully negotiate a separation package worth about six months of pay and find another job with a competitor six months later. In a twist of fate, one of Bob’s oppressors at his old firm got fired soon after Bob left and applied to work at Bob’s new firm. Needless to say Bob’s nemesis got denied and is still looking for work one year later.
REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NOT SPEAK ILL OF YOUR EMPLOYER
* It’s an employee not your company. Whenever you feel grief at work it’s usually at the hands of a particular person or set of people. Seldom ever is it the company that is causing you misery unless your company’s name is MCI Worldcom, Enron, or Zynga. The large majority of your colleagues are probably good people who are also dealing with their own issues. In fact, the more miserable the employee the higher the propensity to take out their frustration on others. If you paint everybody who works at your company in the same bad light, chances are high that you will end up offending and hurting innocent colleagues who have nothing to do with your oppression.
* The world is small. Let’s say you rip Zynga for being a sweatshop and a place were executives get to sell shares at all-time highs (like they did at $12 in the Spring of 2012) while prohibiting everyone else to sell as well. Yes it is unfair to let employees hold the bag while executives cash out for mega millions. However, chances are high that Zynga employees will leave to join other companies in your field which you may want to work. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve overlapped with people I’ve worked with over the past 13 years. They could become potential employers, clients, business partners, poker adversaries, fantasy football league buddies, etc. The internet has made the world infinitely small. Be careful.
* Nobody likes a complainer. Complainers are the worst. They are the ones who congregate around the water cooler whining why they didn’t get a raise or a promotion. They then start badmouthing other colleagues who they think are undeserving of their pay raise or promotion. If you are labeled as a complainer or a hater, nobody will want to work with you. Complainers/haters are the virus that drags down company performance and morale. They try to take others down because they realize they can’t move up on their own merit. A manager will always worry there’s something that’s making a complainer dissatisfied. A manager knows that complainers have a higher proclivity for quitting. They suffer from wanderlust where the grass is always greener. As an ex manager, there is nothing more frustrating than spending a year training someone only to lose that someone to a competitor.
FORGIVE AND MOVE ON
If you simply must speak ill, then make sure you differentiate between the person who you feel ill towards vs. the organization that once gave you employment. Very few people stay at one place for their entire careers anymore. The job market has almost turned into a mercenary type of marketplace where people constantly go to where reward is greatest. The people who you despise may end up holding the keys to your employment future.
I’ll never badmouth my old employer because I’m forever grateful for them taking a chance on me when I was just 24 years old with only two years of experience. Without my employer I would not have been able to build a financial nest egg that has allowed for the financial freedom I experience today. My old employer enabled me to canvas the world for investment opportunities and meet a ton of terrific people I call some of my closest friends. Being able to work is a privilege, especially in an economy where millions of people are still unemployed.
Old colleagues need to stay professional towards departed colleagues as well. What goes around comes around. It always does.
Recommendation For Leaving A Job
If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training. Since you got laid off, you’re also eligible for up to 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.
Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance. I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 180 pages from 100 pages in the 3rd edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.
Be Your Own Boss Instead
If you feel you’re not getting paid what you’re worth and want to boost your income, start your own business online on the side! It used to cost a fortune and a lot of employees to start your business. Now you can start it for next to nothing with a hosting company like Bluehost for under $4/month and they’ll give you a free domain for a year to boot.
Brand yourself online, connect with like-minded people, find new consulting gigs, and potentially make a good amount of income online one day by selling your product or recommending other great products. Not a day goes by where I’m not thankful for starting Financial Samurai in 2009. Here’s my step-by-step guide to for how to start your own website like mine in under 30 minutes.
Updated for 2020 and beyond.