Shut Up! – How being told to be quiet in the workplace was the root cause of feeling worthless in my career and life.

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Joseph Meyer

06 March 2022 0 comments

For many who read this you may be able to relate to this, but for some you are part of the problem by feeling it necessary to tell those in your workplace to be quiet, not speak and even to shut your mouth. Sad to say I have been told this and even quite recently.

For most my career I have been told to be quiet, you are not speaking unless spoken too and this came from co-workers and even managers.  I remember one time on a call with a client I was told by an equal co-worker non manager that I was not speak and she didn’t want to hear me to keep mute.

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This piece is not to point fingers but to bring awareness that this still happens today in companies across the globe, especially in our culture here in the U.S. It is in our culture we are told companies are all knowing, especially managers, but sad to say this far from true, many managers don’t know anything but put in positions they have no place being but are put there because someone felt they deserved the position.

Thinking back on the past

I can go back to most my career and I had a few employers each unique in their own right but I often was told to put my head down, don’t rock the boat and I listened. Part of the reason I did this was because this is what I was told as a child growing up by an verbally abusive grandfather who many times people justified by saying that he acted that way because he was old school and just to accept this behavior. This acceptance of his behavior which still affects me today because it was done to me from the age of five until adulthood and although he has passed on those behaviors still haunt me.

First and foremost, employers and any employers are not all knowing, but they do a lot, but we have to remember they are run by people who are very much flawed in many ways like myself but we certainty try our best not to be flawed. Going to the best schools, getting top education does not make those who manage us or run companies better than us, many just had better opportunities and had privileges that many of us don’t have. I will not take away the fact that they probably worked hard to get where they are at today, but so have I and many ways when the odds were against me.

Culture of part of the problem in the workplace

Sadly, our culture is taught that we must be go getters, burn the wick on both ends and do what it takes to get ahead even if that means stepping on a few necks to the top. I know not all of us do this but many do.

For all my employers I have the best intentions of working hard, being a good employee and being a productive member of the team. But in that process of being a good solider I was often disrespected, lied too, and treated invaluable.  Today although I love my role and the company I am apart of I too have had the best of two worlds, a manager who affirmed me, encouraged me and supported me and I also have had a manager who treats me like I just started my career and not as a professional but as someone doesn’t know how to do my job although history has proven I am good , even great at my job. Being that I work with clients, they survey my performance putting me at 96-100% satisfaction rate, but sad to say that is still not good enough.

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Today my approach is to keep trucking, do my job and in all honestly if the company feels I am not valuable enough to them they can of course let me go and another employer will hopefully see my value. But we all need to see our value for ourselves.

I have value from a professional standpoint having worked with clients and customers over twenty years, I have a bachelors and an MBA along with lots of skillsets. As you see I am not an idiot, but there is one problem many employers have with me, I talk to much.

Shut up or else

Yes, I am a talker, and I am not afraid to say I love to communicate, its who I am. I love to explain how I feel, be vulnerable, emotional. I have been told recently I am too emotional and to stop being so emotional, that clients do not care about what I have to say and to stick to the script, basically to shut up and do your job. My job is to talk to clients, communicate, teach them and train them which is what makes me great because I also teach students to be the best version of themselves and not fall the for the same traps, I have been apart of.

I will not be quiet anymore, for most of my life and career I have kept my head down doubting my value , self-worth and even me as a professional, but no more and we as people must stop allowing others to dictate and tell us what our value is to them, Who cares what a manger or co-worker thinks of your value, their opinions are worthless unless they help to build you up and not tear you down.

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I know that managers and co-workers will give us feedback and even criticism that we all must take. When this is provided to you, accept it but don’t accept it. What I mean by is to think if the feedback is meant to help you be better or is some ideology /methodology that only that person believes because they were told from a company standpoint everyone must believe. We do not all have to believe the ideology of any company, we are not robots, we are not soldiers, we are people all striving in many cases to bring profitability to a company and many times we don’t even see the financial rewards of our productivity. Yes, we get a paycheck, benefits but for most that is not enough, we all want more. We all want to be valued, trusted, and respected in the workplace but often we are not, but taken for granted.

Working for others is a business relationship

We must all remember working for any employer it’s a business relationship, we work and in return we get paid. But its not one sided, we work and produce for an employer but often that is still not good enough, but companies want robots at times, but be good little boys and girls and just act and do what we are told.

I do my job, I do it well, but even today I am told in not so many words I am still not doing what I am supposed to, so when is it enough. For many we keep going, working, and going on business as usual while employers mistreat, disrespect the worker.

I understand no employer is perfect and all of have a choice to leave and go somewhere else, but really should we have to if employers and even co-workers/managers followed suit. I believe if we work for an organization we can have longevity there, support the company mission and be productive members of the company and many of us do. But again, how much must one give and wait for the respect to reciprocated and often times doesn’t come but we take it anyways.

Each of us are unique, have value which often times we forget and listen to what employers tell us what value are is but we shouldn’t. Let stop believing the lies we are fed whether intentional or not and realize that we must stop putting our head down, stop being quiet and told to just shut up because like many you still grow to an age and for me it’s been over twenty years I have accepted this behavior and cringe it took me this long to realize my value.

If I could speak with the young Me

If I could go back to the young Joseph, I would tell myself to cut my own path, don’t depend on a company to form our path in life and career because often times employers are one sided, which is what we can do for them and not what they can do for us.

Again, for many out there you many disagree but I would seriously look yourself in the mirror and think long and hard, was it hard work that got you where you are today or was it because you bowed to the employer/coworker to their expectations. Some may not care how they go where they got today, and many don’t realize their privilege whether its their education and or even their race that got them where they are today.

I have nothing to be ashamed of but often feel shame for the college I went too, my background and even my race made to feel that I don’t meet a manager’s expectation for what they want me to be. I am not playing the race card but understand all characteristics of who we are matter and play a role in how we are treated, regardless of if a person says they are not racist and treat everyone equally, but really don’t.

Ageism exists and many will experience a lack of respect

I have come an age where I am over 40 and ageism has begun to affect me and my career because I am no longer youthful and because I am made to feel like I am going to retire tomorrow which I am not, but again another form of valuable in our culture today.

What this have to do with this piece, basically that it’s another form of worth employer’s places on us due to age and something that I can not change but exist today.

We can all do better in life, for ourselves and especially in the workplace to really treat everyone with respect, be slow to criticize and disguise it as feedback which many employers do.

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I have a voice and will use it

Stop tell works to shut it, that our voice has no place with the customer, the client, our voice matters. The reason I feel I was told my voice doesn’t matter is because it won’t make the company profitable anymore then its already being made. Our voices, what we have to say of course as a place, but I have always used my voice to affirm and make a client, a customer better which is how it should be used.

I will continue to read the room in my career and in life to speak when I feel it will help and not bring down someone which many are quick to do today. I will continue to bring positivity to the classroom, to my clients and customers because frankly that is who I am not. I will not be told to shut up any longer and NONE of us should be accepting this, lets all stop living in fear of how our employers view us and remember how we view ourselves.

My legacy will know better

On a positive note, here is my daughter Mikaylah, she is nine years old, my future generation. I will not let her repeat my mistakes of feeling worthless in your life and work. I will teach her to make her own path and not rely on companies to tell her what path they see for her; they are unqualified to do so anyways. I will teach her not to put too much stock in people’s opinions of her because those are worthless to value herself, respect herself and if a company doesn’t see her true value go somewhere else.

Let’s do better

I would like to think companies, co-workers and managers can all change for better, but often times will ignore what I am saying, its ok I am used to it by name. I know many of you will not agree with what I am saying and many of you will justify the employer’s position that they are just too busy, focused on the bottom line and that its up to us individually to change and accept the way things are. I am certainty not the problem, but I have no issues in being better, growing and taking feedback and applying to my work and life, but will employers do the same.

Many of you will say I should just keep my head down, don’t rock the boat and things will get better in time, something I hope for but rarely happens. I have my faults like anyone else, but not to the point where I should be told to shut up. Organizations have their flaws, sometimes major ones they are unwilling to recognize and correct so who is the culprit of the problems and where does it begin and end.  It will take both parties working together to get better, but as we have seen today organizations see their side only and want to enforce their side on those who work under them instead of creating partnerships within the organization.

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Hopefully this enlightens some of you to look within and see how you can grow and not let anything or one stand in your way, because you have the power. Currently I am working towards studying and eventually taking the PMP exam to get my project management certification, another milestone I hope to accomplish this year. I will never stop being a better me and I am unwilling to let anyone tell me or make feel I am worthless because I am not.

Keep striving being a better version of you and don’t let those in your workplace deter you or slow you down, you owe it to yourself.

Be joyous, spread cheer, be positive in your life and workplace because that will make all the difference in your life and those around you, I stand by this in my life today.

Godspeed everyone!

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