“Be mindful of how you behave moving forward because eventually, you’ll become unemployable.”

Yes, once upon a time I was on the receiving end of these words. Once upon a time, these words cut deep.

To cut a long story short, a superior once tossed these words my way and I sat there, a little shocked and numb (it was a long week) and said nothing that popped into my head at that moment. I sat there, jumping out of my skin mentally and just nodded. And then it was over and I walked out of the office. Thankfully, within hours, the whole ordeal was over and I walked out of that workplace for the last time. Ever.

If I’m honest with myself, despite having a pretty stellar work history, this one experience knocked me about quite a bit. In hindsight, I can look at the situation, think of what I could have done better, acknowledge that I had actually done nothing wrong (last time I checked, choosing to move on from a role wasn’t a crime) and be at peace with myself.

After lots of self-reflection (hey, I’m a writer and an introvert so you can only imagine the amount of overthinking that took place there), I concluded my anger was caused by my own inaction. I felt gutless – instead of cringing through what was a terribly uncomfortable situation, I really should have valued myself, stopped this person dead in their tracks, spoken up and left the office.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of whisking ourselves back to that time and place and re-writing the history books. I must say though, I have never been able to find a satisfactory answer for this question:

Why did this person feel that it was necessary to crush my confidence during the last proper conversation we ever had?

I had resigned. The decision had been made. It wasn’t going to change regardless of what was said to me and trust me, this is one of many instances in which the line had been crossed. I wondered if this ‘superior’ (I’m not a fan of this word but you get my drift) considered this leadership. Is making someone feel small and completely inadequate leadership?

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In reality, at the time, I was so lost. If I’m honest with myself, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I could write but so what? How could I articulate what I actually wanted from a role or a workplace when I didn’t actually know? Why did this person feel as though I owed them an explanation and a heads-up as to why I wanted to move on? I believe both sides knew that I wasn’t the right fit.

Thankfully, the doubts that had plagued me after this experience are well and truly gone. I’ll never understand why those words were said to me but I often ask myself this question:

How would I have felt, walking out of that workplace, if that person had offered me words of support and something positive to take away instead?

As they say, it’s our experiences who make us who and what we are. I know that when I have my team, I’m going to dedicate my time to supporting them (even when their decisions don’t please me) and ensuring I know they are a person first and foremost.

What experiences have made a mark on you?

Sarah Cannata is the Editor-in-Chief of This Woman Can, an online hub and digital magazine for women and young people to help them realise and maximise their life and career potential. If you’re a woman or young person, we’re keen to hear from you. What kind of stories are you interested in hearing? Tell us by filling out our quick 5-minute survey – click here.