When I worked for my not-so-great-boss, I secretly loved it when the staff said they'd rather work for me, than for my boss.
When I started working for her, there was a clear demarcation between those who liked her, those who didn’t, and those somewhere in the middle.
As I witnessed her interactions with those aligned with her, I denounced her for having favorites, and told myself that I would never do that. I told myself that I was a professional, that she was not, and that I would never pick sides.
As time went by, though, and I found my relationship with my boss on a downward slope, I ended up spending more and more time with those who didn’t like her. I found myself joining in the gossip. I found myself complaining about her to people who also complained about her.
I had picked sides.
When my boss went to Africa for a month to volunteer, I was in charge, and one of the teachers, who was in leadership training, became my assistant principal.
I clearly remember the day when he said to me, “You know, if you were the Principal, I would love to do my internship here, but if you aren’t, I guess I will look elsewhere.”
I wish I could say that I chided myself for knowing what I had started, but I didn’t. I CELEBRATED. I had created a contingency of followers--people who wanted me to be the boss and not her. And, oh, did that feel good.
I loved knowing that some of the staff preferred me to her. I loved knowing that some of the staff thought that I would be a better leader than her. My EGO soaked it up and basked in the glory.
What I had unknowingly done, though, was drive a deeper wedge between myself and my boss.
When we resort to picking sides, when we resort to gossip, and when we resort to "us versus them" thinking, it only further escalates the issues. It doesn't help resolve or even transform the relationship or the conflict. It only exacerbates it.
Whether it be within your own home, within your extended family, within your larger community, or within the political landscape, celebrating being "better" than someone, or having "better" values, may feel good in the short-term, but will end up costing you in the long-term.
If you were to be truly honest with yourself, how is your behavior or simply your thinking contributing to your challenging situation?
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION LESSONS FROM A CHILDREN’S BOOK
For the past several days, my daughter has insisted on reading the book “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,” and if you know anything about 3 years olds, one time is not enough.
After the 5th or 6th read, I started seeing the book through the lens of my work, and through the lens of conflict.
If you don’t know the book, here is a brief summary.
A father, his 3 children, and their dog decide to go on a bear hunt because it is a beautiful day and they are not scared. All along the way they encounter various environmental challenges--long grass, a river, mud, a dark forest, a snowstorm, etc, and with each challenge the refrain is “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to go through it.”
I think I could recite the entire book by heart at this point :)
So, what does this have to do with you and your work situation?
Your happiness at work is the bear, and it is your job to go hunting for it. It may not be beautiful, and you may be scared, but that doesn’t matter. All along the way you will encounter various challenges--criticism, rejection, humiliation, the cold shoulder, anger, yelling, etc.
With each challenge you cannot go over it, or under it, so your only two options are to turn around and go back, or go through it.
In the book, the family never turns their back on the quest to find a bear. They keep at it, despite all the obstacles, and eventually they succeed in finding the bear (only to run away--but that’s not the point.)
The fact of the matter is that it isn’t just your work happiness that is it stake. It’s your ability to provide the very best to your community, clients, or patients. It’s your sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-respect. It’s your other relationships, that are struggling because of all the stress and anxiety you are carrying with you.
I know all about it.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t choose to go through it. I turned around, went back, and hid under the covers.
Please don’t do the same. If you truly love your job, just not the people you work with, it’s time to nip this in the bud, and get back to doing what you enjoy.
What is your hunt going to look like?
Community. Connection. Collaboration.
Yes, I said it.
At the time, though, I never would have dared admit that to myself or to anyone else for that matter. I didn’t see it, nor did I want to see it.
But, the fact of the matter was that she had the job that I wanted, and she was two years my senior, so it wasn’t like she had loads more experience than I did.
Add to that, the fact that she was often not around, while some days I felt like I was running all over the place doing both her job and mine.
Add to that, the fact that she lived in a penthouse apartment with a view.
If you were to write it as a mathematical equation, it would look something like this.
JOB I WANTED + OFTEN ABSENT + KICK ASS APARTMENT = MY JEALOUSY
There were probably some other things lurking around the corners too.
But here’s the thing, we often don’t realize that we are are jealous. We feel anger or resentment, or any other range of negative feelings, but we don’t bring it back to jealousy, even though it seems to be the core of the matter.
In the past few weeks, while coaching my clients, I have come across a range of situations where I believe jealousy was at play. Here are some examples:
Sometimes jealousy is about what other people HAVE that we don’t. (Position, money, etc.)
Other times jealousy is about who other people ARE, and we are not. (Different values or ways of BEING.)
My jealousy of my boss was a combination of the two.
Your jealousy can lead you in 1 of 2 directions:
My jealousy started as the former, and turned into the latter.
Where is your jealousy taking you?