I Reached Out To A Former Colleague Who I Had Not Gotten Along With
and the result surprised me
Four months after leaving my previous job as a content writer at an agency, for the first time, I texted my former colleague (let's call her Amy) who I did not have a great rapport with, because of a random post.
A few days prior to our conversation, I came across my former CEO's Instagram account. She posted a few photos of her with the team at a trade show and Amy was not in any of them. As the CEO's personal assistant, Amy should theoretically accompany her everywhere.
Out of curiosity, I texted her asking why she hadn't been traveling with the company. Amy replied that she had already resigned in May.
This came as a huge shock to me.
While we were working together, Amy presented herself as a passionate employee who boasted about being a workaholic on social media. She used to upload photos and videos of her still working at 2–3 AM several times. During a few internal meetings, she would rave about how great the company was and how proud she was to be part of the team, as a way to encourage us to work more. In a way, she was like a mini CEO to our team.
This personal image made me shy away from interacting with her. Our work mindsets were completely different. I believe in work-life balance. No amount of money is large enough to make me willingly stay awake past 11 PM to finish a task and disrupt my personal life.
So I never initiated any conversation with her. All of our exchanges seemed awkward and forced. Amy and I were the two first members of the digital marketing team and worked with each other the longest but I never felt completely comfortable sharing my personal stuff with her.
But then, Amy quit only four months after I had handed in my notice? That's utterly strange.
It turns out that Amy did not enjoy the workaholic's life at all.
In fact, she had experienced multiple burnouts without ever being fully recovered. She constantly had sleepless nights, which explained her working until early morning. Amy was maxed out.
But that wasn't the most surprising revelation.
Amy told me that the reason why she could muster the courage to leave her job was because of my resignation:
"Your leaving made me realize that I have a choice to put my mental health first and I don't have to pressure myself into living like the workaholic I thought I was."
All this time I had assumed she was truly enjoying working based on her social media updates, without ever truly checking in.
I judged her too easily and turned my judgment into a fact too quickly without any intention of reconfirming my assumption.
Had it not been because of that random post from my former boss, I would never have figured out how everything is not what it seems. Someone's social media accounts do not reflect who they really are.
Had I not reached out, I would never have been proven wrong and gained an unlikely friend.
Had I not texted her, I never would have known my action could have such an effect on someone else's life and felt grateful that my one year working there had more meaning than just selling products.
Humans are so wired to hold on to our pre-existing beliefs that we fall prey to confirmation bias. Sometimes, a reality check or an abnormal action like messaging someone you didn't like can give us fresh insights, help us combat biases, and open ourselves up to adopting new perspectives.
And it's really refreshing.