Mac McPhail Contributing columnist
November 3, 2013
You never know where, or from whom, you may get some advice that may be valuable to you in the future. So you’d better pay attention. For me, it was from an old auditor in a rundown N.C. Revenue office down in Whiteville.
I had probably been working for Revenue for about a year. While working in the Lumberton office, they had asked me to go down to Whiteville for a couple of weeks and help out in that office. One of the revenue officers there was out sick. I didn’t mind it because it was a change of pace and some new territory to see.
During that time, I would go by the office there in the morning to pick up my work for the day. When I went by the office one morning there was an old Revenue auditor from Wilmington sitting back in a chair talking. Back then, it seemed to us collectors that most auditors spent a majority of their time doing just that. While I was gathering up my files and information the auditor asked me how long I had been working for Revenue.
“About a year,” I replied.
“Are you planning on staying with the Department?” he asked.
“Probably,” I answered. (I did, for 29 years.) Then came the advice that would prove valuable to me in the coming years.
He leaned even further back in the chair and said, “I’ve been working for the Revenue Department for a long time and I’m going to tell you something. If you work for Revenue long enough, somewhere, somehow, they are going to do it to you. And they’re going to do it to you good. They probably won’t mean to do it to you. But they will, because it’s what they think is best for them. When it happens, and if you stay long enough it will happen, how you handle it will determine how you make it in Revenue. You can complain, gripe, and have a bad attitude, and end up nowhere. Or you can deal with it the best you can, have a good attitude, and you’ll do alright.” (That may have not been exactly what he said, since his language may have been a little more graphic. But he sure got his point across to this young revenue officer.)
And he was right. A few years later, I was up for a promotion to a management position in a larger office. Even though I was more experienced and qualified, another person got the job. I later found out that there was some political pressure involved. (Not very surprising since we are talking about state government.) I was upset, but I remembered what that old auditor told me. Yep, he was right, they had done it to me. Now how am I going to handle it? While I was unhappy about it, I didn’t complain or have a bad attitude. My supervisor and the folks in Raleigh noticed that, and it improved my relationship with them, and it helped me later when new career opportunities came along.
Over the years, supervisors and administrations came and went. And there were a couple more times that I felt that they did it to me. This was especially true when the Department started consolidating and closing field offices. But I tried, as best I could, to keep a good attitude and handle it in the right way. And, just like the old auditor said, after 29 years, everything ended up alright.
I’m sure many of you who have worked with a company for many years can relate. But I have also learned over the years that what the old auditor said to me was more than just true about the N.C. Dept. of Revenue and work. It’s also true about life. Stuff happens. And sometimes that stuff seems unfair. It may be a job. It may be a relationship. It may be your physical body. What ever it is, what has happened isn’t fair. But that’s life. If life was fair, there would be no such thing as seeing-eye dogs. Somewhere along the line life will do it to you. It’s the result of living in a fallen world. It will, or has, to each of us. So the question is, “How are you going to handle it?” Are you going to gripe, complain and have a bad attitude? Or are you going to have a good attitude and handle it the best you can?
The old auditor was right when he told that young employee many years ago that having the right attitude when things at work were seem unfair would make all the difference. Here’s another old guy giving you advice right now. The advice is that having the right attitude when life seems unfair will also make all the difference.