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The Last Straw

Posted by Didi Gorman on

It was the last straw; I’d had enough.

On the face of it, it wasn’t a big deal, but it was a big deal for me. I had put my soul into that project. And again, there was no sign of appreciation.

It wasn’t just any project, either. It was a one-person project which I had willingly undertaken without pay, in order to support the company I worked for at the time.

But I couldn’t put up with the lack of support anymore, what with the countless hours I had put into it at the expense of my free time and all those sleepless nights where I lay awake doubting whether I could pull off that kind of project all by myself. But I did. I pulled it off despite the lack of support.

Later, when I decided to leave that workplace, my peers were surprised. “Did we do something wrong?” they inquired. “You didn’t do anything,” I replied. Which was true. They really didn’t. Which was precisely the problem.

There had always been this lack of response in that workplace, a sort of indifference or a lack of appreciation, which I had never quite managed to fathom, and which had been gnawing at me, in the back of my mind, from very early on. A company culture of sorts.

As soon as I was entrusted with that project and started bringing results, it was taken as a given that I would simply carry on bringing in the numbers, with or without support, with or without a word of encouragement, whether I struggled or not. It was that indifference which really got to me in the end.

When the project was done and it became clear that our sales almost doubled as a result, I was really hopeful. Perhaps this time, at last, my efforts would be recognized. There was a buzz in the media about that project and an outpouring of congratulations from other branches of the company, but still, my own colleagues – to whom the project was dedicated – kept silent. I had no way of telling whether they were impressed or indifferent. I felt ignored. I’m sure that deep down they weren’t ungrateful, but whatever they thought, they kept it to themselves. I guess they were simply not accustomed to express much. I can only assume that despite their silence, they were quite delighted to enjoy the fruits of my work.

Oh, correction. I got it wrong. I’ll recap. Not all my peers kept silent. One of them did, in fact, direct a comment at me after the project was done. But it wasn’t the kind of comment I had hoped for. It was petty, dismissive and disapproving, and completely shook me up. I could have handled that criticism if I had any other show of support from my other peers to balance it with. But there wasn’t any. My efforts had been taken for granted. Again. One time too many. The discrepancy between the success of the project and the lack of moral support was simply too much. It felt like rejection, and it was the last straw.

The story I’ve just told you happened many years ago but the impactful lesson has stayed with me all along: Silence is not a neutral thing. It’s powerful. It’s insidious. It has the ability to erode one’s enthusiasm, to wither it altogether. On and on. On and on. Until you can take it no more.

**From The Last Straw, a short story by Didi Gorman**