At my first job, after my postgraduate studies, I had a colleague called Olga. Her surname, age etc. are not significant here but she was one of the kindest people I have ever met and thinking of her I would like to talk about the kindness of people who have nothing to gain from helping you.
Olga was in a way my mentor, although none of us thought of it like that at the time. I might have had the knowledge to do my job well in the company where we used to work but I had no clue about working environments, co-worker relationships, how to deal with demanding bosses or how to balance work and personal life. She woudl make me take breaks when she could see that I was about to crash (and I wasn’t able to see it for myself), she gave me counsel about how to deal with difficult situations and the responsibility of my position in the company and she would make fun of me as if I were her younger sister.
I think that it was her who influenced me and taught me, without knowing it, that not only you have to be good at what you do, but you have to be nice to others and help as well, even when you don’t have anything to gain from them. This is why I always try to help people who are interested in a career in translation and why I became a mentor in the Women on Top mentoring program.
As my career progressed, from that company to others and then as a freelancer, I have met a lot of types of people and co-workers. The notion “toxic environment” was not so popular then and workplace bullies were sometimes bosses or co-workers.
Although I can’t claim I have managed to stay immune to arrogant people’s criticism and definitely not all of them were bad (I am really lucky that I am able to say that some of my most valuable friends were made through work), I am convinced that kindness at work (whether in an office or as a freelancer) is one of the most important principles.
Of course, and this is something I have learnt in the worst possible way, too much kindness can be exploited by others and sometimes we have to be strict: both with ourselves, and the things we accept, and with others. What do you think? Is is important to be nice (and with nice I mean many things, kind, good to your co-workers, easy to work with) or do we have to be firm in order to be acknowledged at work?
PS. Thank you for taking the time to answer my short survey in the previous article! I’m really interested in your opinion and your support to this blog makes me very happy <3