Friday, July 8, 2011

The Worst That Could Happen?

Dear Madame L,

Hi, I'm the person who wrote about my bad/weird boss, and I want to let you know how that worked out. 

First of all, I didn't quit, which was one of the suggestions you made. What good would that do, anyway? All the time and effort I'd put into that project would have been wasted.

Secondly, I simply realized that while all life events change us, and working in an unpleasant environment for any period of time can change one, and did change me. Dealing with this difficult manager had turned me (temporarily, of course) into an extremely hesitant and anxious person. 

Here's an example: I sent this bad/weird/difficult manager/boss an email message a few months ago asking, in the least confrontational terms possible, for a reply to a message which I had sent him a week earlier. It took me hours to pick up my courage to write that email message, and then it took me another half an hour to get around to checking my email to see if he'd replied.

Talk about a lose-lose situation: If I write the email message, he'll be angry and defensive. If I don't write the email message, he'll tell me later, when everything goes south, that it was my fault for not reminding him.

So I asked myself, what's the worst that could happen? Either way, I set myself up for a nasty-gram. Thinking through it that way was what helped me get around finally to sending that message --- and then realizing that putting it off wouldn't soften the blow helped me get around to checking for a reply.

And guess what: No reply. Was I relieved? Not really. I was on tenterhooks again, as I had been all week since I sent the original message.

So, Madame L, here's the good news: I've learned to deal with this by going back to the more wholesome and fully rounded human I was before starting to deal with this person. I do the things I would be doing if all my interactions with him were finished, the things I had unwisely set aside for way too long.

For example, I called my Relief Society president a few months ago and asked if I could be a visiting teacher again. (I'd asked to be released from that calling when I was working long hours and most weekends on this job, and had let myself continue to be overwhelmed with feelings of being too rushed and busy to spend time with my sisters, and suddenly realized I needed their influence in my life.) And what a blessing it has been to spend time with my LDS sisters. I even carpooled with a group of sisters to the Portland Temple, got to know some I hadn't interacted with before, and renewed friendships with others.

And here's another wonderful example: I've hosted two little parties (so far) for my Primary class. At the first one, we ate pizza and decorated sugar cookies, and made Mother's Day cards and gifts for their moms. At the second one, we ate quesadillas and made Father's Day gifts for their dads.

Yeah, so, the worst that could happen? Hah! That already happened, and I'm over it now, and moving right along...But my point is that doing all that helped me gain some perspective about my situation and that bad/weird/difficult boss/manager. And getting that perspective helped me stick it out and....FINISH! Yes, I'm done. I'm out of there.

So, thanks for your advice, and most of all for reading and responding. Because that's mostly what anyone needs, isn't it, an understanding ear, a shoulder to cry on --- not necessarily some definitive answer.

Best (as you always write),

Over It Now

 Dear Over It,

Thanks for writing! Congratulations on sticking it out and finishing it. Please note that Madame L did not actually advise you to quit, but to finish as soon as possible, and that's what you did.

Good luck,

Madame L

1 comment:

AskTheGeologist said...

There is a graduate school equivalent to this situation: a tyrannical adviser.

I know and have counseled a Saudi who was literally driven out of one university after four years of hard work on his PhD. I had known him in Saudi Arabia and encouraged him by saying that *I* knew he was capable, and not to let a JERK make that evaluation - at least not BELIEVE the Jerk. Mansour changed to another university and completed in another 18 months, and has thanked me each year since then via email. He's now a department chairman in Riyadh.

The first three rules of grad school are:
1. Get the Hell out as fast as possible
2. Get the Hell OUT as fast as possible
3... you get the picture.

We all have these ugly things in our lives. Sometimes we have no say in getting out: cancer, divorce, etc. Sometimes we DO: and I commend your reader for sticking it out. Very tough, that.

A crucial lesson we get in this life is to NOT let ANOTHER person's evaluation of us decide OUR understanding of who we are or what we can do.

Another crucial lesson is that no matter what our past history says, we can ALWAYS step up higher, get smarter, become more effective, GROW... but it usually requires getting through a good long period of high stress and nastiness.

But your writer has learned that there IS Light at the end of the Tunnel... and got there by pure grit and determination.

That last piece is what counts 100 years from now.