Work: haters broke me down, mentors built me up

People can make your work environment pleasant or miserable, they can build you up or break you down. For the most part, I’ve had good work experiences but there are two that broke me down to the point I almost quit. That’s not right.

My Two Nightmares

My supervisor made my life miserable

So, when I was 21 years old in my second job, I had a great boss for 3 months. Then he notified me that he and his family were relocating to the U.S. I was like, you’re leaving me! And he said, you’ll be okay. You’ll have a new supervisor soon. Well, my new supervisor, who was in her forties, was my worst nightmare. It felt like this woman’s sole purpose in her life was to make my life miserable. She disliked me with a passion.

She was nasty to me but I was never nasty to her

I dreaded going to work. I was sad, depressed and stressed. Every day when I got home I cried to my mother. I told her that I was going to quit. Ma consoled me and encouraged me not to quit. She said nothing last forever and this too shall pass. Not fast enough for me. But I’ll tell you that although this woman was nasty to me, I was never nasty to her and I treated her with respect. I made sure to do my work with excellence so she couldn’t have anything over me.

Did she have to take her anger out on me?

Anyway, all this time I was actively applying for other jobs and 1984 I got another job. Alleluia! I will say to her credit that she gave me one of the best reference letters I’ve ever received. Later on I found out that she was going through a nasty divorce… but did she have to take her anger out on me?

During this experience I knew of God but didn’t know Him so I was not praying to Him to get me out of that situation. But Ma was praying for me and God heard her prayer, and He delivered me from evil.

Blatant racism from three women on my team

Let’s fast forward to 2001. My family and I relocated to the U.S. in 1999. I started working after a year, got promoted to supervisor. Two offices that were located in the same county merged and two of the women from the other office were going to join my team. Well, to my surprise, one of the women I hired on my team turned on me and joined those two women against me. It was a nightmare!

I feared for my life

Things got so bad that I feared for my life, it was very upsetting. Every day I talked to my husband about it, crying, and he was extremely upset and worried about my safety. This was my first time experiencing this type of blatant racism. So, one day I just couldn’t take the disrespect anymore and I called our HR Manager and told her everything that was happening and that I didn’t have to put up with this, and I quit. She was shocked and asked me not to quit, to give her time to investigate and find a solution.

These women hated me with a passion

Then one day my Manager came into my office and told me that I looked very sad and depressed and he was concerned about me. He said that he felt bad about the whole situation. But to be patient because corporate was taking the necessary measures to get this resolved. I told him that these women didn’t know me but hated me with a passion and the only conclusion I came to was that they didn’t want a black foreign woman with an accent as their supervisor. He immediately dropped his head and shook it.

Well, the three women left the company. God is good! I remember my Manager walking into my office with a smile after the last one left, saying, “Debbie, they’re all gone. Now you can build your team.”

The difference between this experience and the previous one is that this time I knew God and I prayed to Him and my husband was praying too. God answered our prayers. He delivered me from evil again. Yay!

Key takeaways

  • Prayer is powerful!
  • Pray for yourself and for family and friends when facing difficult times. Pray without ceasing. God hears your prayer and He will answer.
  • Talk to someone when you are going through difficult times. It really helps. In my first experience, I talked to my mother. In my second one, I talked to my husband and my HR Manager. Talking helped me keep my sanity and not quit.
  • When you’re going through a difficult time, please know that it will pass and things will eventually turn around and will get better. I know, when you are in it, it does not feel that way. But be patient, and trust God. Nothing last forever and this too shall pass. Don’t give up. Hang in there!
  • Be there for loved ones when they are going through difficult times. They may not say it, but they need your love, support and encouragement.

Thank God for my Mentors

As I said before, I’ve had mostly good work experiences with my supervisors and co-workers both in Panamá and the United States. In my professional development years in Panama, God blessed me with mentors. They built me up and they significantly contributed to my professional development and success. I worked in high pace, high tempo, high pressure, stressful, time sensitive environments, and my mentors prepared me to work efficiently and effectively no matter where I work. The best part is that what started out as professional relationships turned into priceless personal relationships which I treasure till today.

Paper talk

Carmen was my Civilian Pay Supervisor (1985-1987). She’d tell me, “Debbie, papelito habla (paper talk).” Meaning, write down everything (memo for the record) because the day of tomorrow when there is an issue and nobody remembers what happened, you can refer to your memo for the record and no one can dispute it. I admired Carmen’s confidence, straightforwardness, attention to detail and her meticulous way of working.

Cool, calm and collective

Mr. Brown my Accounting Supervisor (1987-1990). Sometimes when co-workers would push my buttons and my ugly wanted to come out, Mr. Brown would say, “Debbie, no hagas que nadie te quite la dulzura de tu caracter (don’t allow anyone to take away the sweetness of your character).” And “There is a solution for everything, you just have to find it.”

Mr. Brown was a strategic thinker, a visionary and was always a few steps ahead, prepared to handle any situation. What impressed me was that no matter the chaos, pressure and the fact that everything was “urgent,” Mr. Brown was always cool, calm and collective. Never lost his temper, never raised his voice, always had a smile on his face and successfully took care of everything and anything.

Keys to good writing

Coleen was my Budget Supervisor (1990-1995). We had to do a lot of writing and she’d tell me that the keys to good writing were: write in plain English, be clear and concise, and write to the purpose and audience. This woman can write! I was amazed by her writing skills and her superb organizational skills.

And one more thing… every day Coleen looked impeccable, from head to toe. Her hair looked like she just came from the hair salon. She wore beautiful work attire, shoes to match and jewelry that perfectly accentuated. I use to tell her, “Coleen, when I grow-up, I want to be just like you.”

My work Mom

When I started working in the Accounting section, Abigail took me under her wings. She taught me everything she knew and she was one of the reasons I excelled. She is the only one who calls me Debilucha and till today says she is my second mom.

High work standards and work ethics

Rudy helped groom me into the budget/finance professional I am today, from Budget Analyst Intern to Supervisory Budget Analyst (1990-1999). He treated everybody with dignity and respect, had lots of patience dealing with different personalities, and had a knack to bring out the best in us but he didn’t play… okay. He had very high work standards and work ethics and he didn’t accept less from any of us. He was the Department Budget Analyst Supervisor and provided technical supervision to all the budget staff of the five divisions: Supervisory Budget Analysts, Budget Analysts and Budget Assistants. I acted in his position a couple times when he was on leave.

Rudy was my mentor and a great leader. I learned so much from him. I’ll tell you, we disagreed from time to time but it was always in a positive, pleasant, constructive and productive way. He was a great listener and would take our ideas, suggestions and recommendations into consideration when making important decisions and he was very supportive.

I am forever grateful to my mentors

I learned so much from these wonderful people during my professional development years. I am forever grateful to them for sharing their knowledge and all the support, tips, advice, instructions, guidance, and constructive criticism they gave me professionally and personally. They didn’t have to but they selflessly did. God blessed me with these people and many others along my life and career. I’m so thankful to God for putting them in my life.

Key Takeaways

  • In life we have good and bad experiences with people (i.e. family, friends, neighbors, classmates, supervisors, co-workers, Pastors, church members, etc.). The key is to learn from every experience, good and bad. And hopefully it makes us appreciate good relationships, be kind, not mistreat others, and become better people.
  • Thank God for the good relationships in your life.
  • Thank the people in your life for their love, support, help, patience, mentoring, listening ear, advice, guidance, constructive criticism, etc.
  • Be a mentor. Share your experience and knowledge with others. Help them be their best in whatever they do, i.e., waiter, mechanic, doctor, electrician, housekeeper, farmer, carpenter, lawyer, priest, salesman, engineer, foreman, gardener, fireman/woman, military, musician, painter, nurse, athlete, cook, etc.

Are you a hater or a mentor?

Ok, let me ask you… So which one are you? This is about life in general. Are you a hater or a mentor? If you are a hater… STOP! Use all that energy in positivity instead of negativity. Treat all people with dignity and respect. Now, if you are a mentor, building up people around you… Awesome! Keep it up! We need that!

The truth is, most of us who work, work because we have to, we have to eat, pay rent/mortgage, car loan, pay bills, take care of ourselves and family. And we spend more time interacting with strangers, i.e., supervisors, co-workers, etc. and less time with loved ones. So let’s try to make our work environment as pleasant, positive, constructive and productive as possible. Can we do that? Please!

If you have a mentor, someone who has been good to you, supported you, contributed to your success, please reach out to them today and tell them “Thank you!

Bible Reflection

“… Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5 NLT

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT

Say & Believe “Greater is Jesus in Me!

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