I spent a lot of my productive years trying to hack a way through the middle management jungle. It was not a pretty sight. My tenure was pockmarked with anger, resentment and a clutch of mediocre staff appraisals. My career began to resemble the war-torn battleground of the Somme. Sarcasm was my trademark as was belligerence and downright stubbornness. It was little wonder then, that senior management was dismissive if not hostile. I know I had the talent to go far, even in those days I had enough wisdom and self-awareness to understand. It was not the people around me and above me that were at fault, it was me. My reach was oftentimes exceeded by my grasp and truthfully, I was the problem. My days were numbered in the corporate pile, and I knew it.
I found myself staring out the window in management meetings, planning an escape. My musings became doodles on a page which became scratchings and sooner than I realised, before me lay the kernel of an idea. As the company barons droned on and on, a book began to take shape, deadlines were pencilled in and a publisher was found. In that blissful ignorance, noticed by all but me, the dark clouds were gathering. There can be fewer things in company politics that hurt more than a stab in the back by your colleagues. But when the knife called betrayal is pushed in and then twisted by your boss, the pain is felt even deeper. Although I was hurt in the process, retrenched even, I would not bow. Corporate life from Afrox to Zenex is universally unfair and the duplicitous mail clerk is just as dangerous to fellow workers as is boardroom treachery. It is the law of the jungle, it was not about me.
I look back on it now and realise the pathway out of that stifling jungle was well planned in advance, and because of that I could find workplace redemption. Few details were missed and oftentimes I had to endure humiliating management censure. “What is the matter with you, Tom? Your mind is not on your job. I’m sorry but I cannot justify your raise.” Ugh. You are so right, I’d think to myself. My mind is elsewhere. In this jungle daily, I was becoming a gnome and Churchill was right – the greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes. Humility taught me not to fight back, seek revenge. Humility taught me also to shift my focus from self-pity to positive action.
I have been on my own as a writer and publisher for 25 years and was able to travel more than I could have had I been trapped in the corporate pile. I have been more involved in my children’s schooling and social development, and therein I found my redemption. I may not be a rich man, but I know I am a happy man.