Life lessons for Gareth Bale: or what to do when you hate your job and your boss hates you

Driving to work the other day I heard about the poor misfortunes of Gareth Bale: sidelined in his job, hated by his boss and dreaming of escaping to a new job with a big pay rise – it reminded me of myself 10 years ago…

Poor Gareth Bale, the once golden boy at Spurs and now Real Madrid in Spain has been out of luck recently. For reasons that will be already known to sports fans and not cared about by the rest of us; he has fallen out of favour with his manager (Zidane) and the club management are blocking his escape from Real Madrid.

Don’t cry too much for Gareth, he’s reportedly paid £650,000 a week at Real – and hopefully his agent negotiated his contract in Euro and not GBP! He was looking at jumping ship to play in China for a reported £1 million a week but the president vetoed that. Now he’s stuck on the bench as Zidane doesn’t want him to play.

What would you do in the that situation? – it’s the £650,000 question

GFF’s experience

I was in a similar position myself around 10 years ago. I had recently joined a new part of the business after my previous business unit had a convulsion of redundancies and since I was a graduate and expendable but protected from being fired, I was booted out of one job in a good team to this new group. Same company but very different people.

I have always felt like an outsider and even more so when I joined this new team where my boss was someone that I didn’t get on with at all well. I didn’t really like my colleagues that much and the commute to work was much worse.

My boss had risen through the ranks by people leaving/retiring/not wanting to work with them and they a good example of the Peter Principle mixed with Tyrant syndrome. I don’t think that they were a good boss but they were quickly put into a position of major influence – and they had their pet favourites in the team that got promoted or got to do interesting, nice jobs and they had people that they didn’t like and we got treated like shit. I was shunted off to work on some 3rd party sleepy backwater operation that nobody else wanted to do.

It was a horrible experience and I felt stuck in my position. Although I had career opportunities elsewhere, my abusive employer probably wouldn’t give me a good reference and I’d never be able to find another job. They thought I was shit and that meant I was never going to leave, ever, EVER! (that’s what I felt anyway)

So I had a plan

My plan to get round my boss was to do the following:

  1. do everything that is asked of me
  2. do nothing else
  3. wait till they move on

Now, that was a great strategy! Fool proof and very positive, go getting the type of plan a thrusting young grad bursting with ambition and with great expectations!

Well, ok – it was a shit plan but at the time it seemed to make sense due to the company moving people every 4 years to a new job, all I’d have to do was wait another 18 months, my boss would move on and I’d be free! You can guess that it didn’t work like that. I was in this same position for almost 3 years working with a boss who couldn’t stand the sight of me and it was a real bummer for me and my career. If I had have cut ties and moved on I would have had moved on, learned, earned and not looked back.

Hindsight and what could have been

In some ways what happened wasn’t good but it was not all that bad. The sleepy backwater that I was working in with a 3rd party meant that I was able to get to see and know people from outwith my company and see how they work. I also got to get involved in some really interesting projects and got lots of experience and because of those projects, I was able to learn about technology areas and the people/companies who work in them. My experience of working in the sleepy backwater and working with 3rd parties and with those technologies were all critical to me getting a job in my current company and the contacts I made have become colleagues or customers in my current job.

Lessons for Gareth Bale

For Gareth Bale; I don’t know the full situation but there’s no point in being greedy. £650k a week is already more than enough – going after a 50% pay rise sounds good but will it make him happy? He’s a multimillionaire but probably miserable. Do you think that he’d swap some of his money to buy his freedom? I’m sure Real would accept €50m for him to walk way from his contract? Greed tends to make you swallow your pride.

Lessons for life

Looking back almost 10 years ago I can’t believe how stupid I was to let someone else control my destiny like that. I got lucky but I should have used my brain instead of luck. If you are in the same position – and many, many people are – you should just break away from an abusive relationship. Most future employers care about what you can do for them not what you did for someone else.

Sometimes in your life you’ll be in a bad position. It could be your fault, it could be none of your fault. It could be something so bad that it’ll test your faith in yourself, humanity, god or everything you hold dear. It might be something that you can make better again or something which will leave you permanently scarred or damaged. In times like those, I try to remember the word of Winston Churchill: “If you are going through hell, keep going!”


Thanks, GFF


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