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Fix It Or Forget It?

December 10th, 2010

Gloria* had so much turmoil happening in her personal life when she took her current job (divorcing an abusive husband and battling for custody) that she didn’t really notice how denigrating and rude her boss was for some time in comparison.

Not only did the workplace situation pale in comparison, but Gloria constantly strove to keep her personal life separate from the office, which wasn’t always easy.  Not only did the stress of her divorce weigh heavily on her mind constantly, but her ex would purposely inconvenience her with rescheduling times to pick up the children, or call/visit her office, etc., to deliberately upset or humiliate her.  All of this put her in a position of being overly apologetic or accommodating, which ended up feeding the director’s sense of entitlement over her, she later realized.

“At the time, though, I felt there was nothing else I could do,” Gloria explained.  “I couldn’t very well have won custody of my kids without being employed.  And there are only so many battles you can fight at once.”

Once the whole sordid mess was done, however, when Gloria had won custody and her ex-husband was no longer a constant thorn in her side, she discovered while focusing more on work that her director really had very little respect for her and what she did.  He seemed to prefer her in a state of vulnerability and distraction, since she was more easily manipulated.

It began with various projects, when she would present proposals and he felt the need to question multiple details, ad nauseum.  In the past, she’d simply change whichever parameters he’d suggest, but now, she’d take the time to point out why some of them were necessary or better to do this way.  He didn’t seem the least bit interested in doing anything the best way (or why) – only in repeatedly correcting her.

In fact, she’d notice that when she began to demonstrate confidence in her skills, he’d start to show interest in her personal life, asking how things were going at home – as if he wanted to push a button of emotional distress, or something.

That’s when Gloria decided to Forget It! and we worked on finding her another job.

“It became clear to me that he wasn’t really interested in my family at all – only in ways to exploit my vulnerabilities for some sort of ego game he was playing!”

Herman* got a job at an organization that touted itself as being multicultural, but once he came on board, it became clear to him that this wasn’t necessarily the case.  Although his non profit organization’s mission wasn’t religious based in any way, he noticed during his orientation that certain department head staff members had pamphlets sitting on tables in their offices, promoting this or that about their faith.  Others wore prominent articles of clothing, pins, buttons, etc. with religious messages or slogans.

Herman felt slightly uncomfortable about this.  Each of these people in his large organization were fairly high up in middle or upper management, and all of the religious materials were focused on one religion, which happened to be not his. He wondered if others felt excluded as well.

Later in the year, Herman joined an office planning committee and helped organize a summer picnic as well as other activities throughout the year.  As the holidays approached, however, he noticed a sarcastic tone as the committee discussed those festivities.

Some people on the committee would talk of the office Christmas party, then sneer and say, “I mean holiday party.”  The implication clearly was that anyone not celebrating Christmas was putting a damper on the party by forcing inclusivity.

He also noticed other signals sent by the company in general, such as an additional floating holiday being allowed for employees to use, but only between Christmas and New Year’s, without regard to anyone celebrating Chanukah, let alone any other holiday or vacation needs.

Although Herman was still relatively new and didn’t feel the need to publicly debate these details with the committee or upper management, he also felt that he couldn’t do nothing about it.  It disturbed him more and more that the atmosphere seemed to support the notion that there was one main religion to be discussed and anyone else should simply check the other box or remain silent.

Herman decided to Fix It! in his own small way by joining in the festivities, much more extravagantly than he otherwise would have typically.  Part of the holiday planning that the committee had was to include a door/cubicle decorating contest for the office.

Alongside everyone else’s santas, reindeer, trees, etc., Herman lavishly decorated his office door with dreidels and everything Chanukah-related he could find!  He also purchased plastic dreidels to add to the games for the office party and taught others how to play, rewarding them with chocolate gelt.

Not only did many people enjoy having a new game to play at the party, several people quietly approached Herman after the party to thank him for his efforts to make the holiday party more of a holiday party this year.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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