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Fix It Or Forget It?

October 3rd, 2012

Having a close relationship with others in the workplace is something that most people hope for when they take a new job; however, that can be turn into too much of a “good thing,” as Rachel* and Stephanie* each discovered.

Rachel* soon found out that the job she got was in a terribly dysfunctional place, much to her dismay, but she had decided to stick with it for a variety of reasons.  First of all, she had been without a job for nearly a year when she got hired, so she wasn’t eager to begin another job search.  It was very draining – both emotionally, and on her finances – to be out of work for so long.

Rachel was the sole breadwinner for her family since her husband had been injured on the job a few years ago and was home on disability.  Because her new job had health benefits that covered her children, she had resolved to keep it, regardless of how crazy the people became.

“I just told myself – nearly every day – that I wasn’t there to build a career, but to build up my family,” she recounted.  “And, I tried to avoid the really hateful people as much as possible.”

Rachel was pleased to find one woman who also realized what a defective environment they were working in, and they became friends.

“I was glad to have someone to eat lunch with, or simply empathize with at the latest insane directive to be announced,” she said.  “She was an oasis in a desert of hostility and incompetence.”

Over time, though, Rachel began to notice that all of their conversations centered around what some manager or co-worker had perpetrated, or who was the stupidest, meanest, etc. person of the day.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Rachel clarified.  “It really is a terrible atmosphere, and incredibly dysfunctional. I think I’d have lost my mind if I didn’t have my one friend to bolster my spirits, while the whole world seemed to be crashing in, almost on a daily basis.”

On the other hand, Rachel felt as though a friendship needed to be about something beyond shared misery.  They didn’t talk about anything else it seemed, such as movies, sports, news – nothing.

I suggested that Rachel start asking her about her kids, husband, what she did over the weekend, etc.

This proved to be difficult at first, because it was clear that their mode of communication had fallen into habitual complaining.  Rachel noticed this was the case, since even her friend’s starter conversations would begin with her children’s problems, or what was wrong with her husband’s workplace, etc.

They would have to talk for a while, until something positive came up, then Rachel would ask her to elaborate on that item – then she’d ask for an update the next day, or later that week.  It took a concerted effort on  Rachel’s part to Fix It! and get them out of the habit of defaulting to only discussing problems and complaining, as though nothing ever went right.

Eventually, Rachel was able to have less of a gloom and doom atmosphere – and more of a friend – in the work situation she chose to accept.

Stephanie* was pleased to get hired out of school into a small nonprofit where the Director of Development was willing to mentor her.  She and her Director were the only fundraisers on staff, and she realized that it would be a lot of work – and that she had a great deal to learn, but she was willing.

In the first two years, things went very well, she believed.  She learned a lot and became good friends with her director.  He took her under his wing and taught her many things.  Because it was just the two of them, he confided in her, and she made sure to keep his confidence and show her loyalty.

As a result, their organization was quite successful in substantially exceeding their goals.  The Executive Director was so pleased, she decided to hire an additional gift officer and development assistant, doubling the development staff.

Stephanie knew she had grown in the last two years, but it became much more apparent to her by how much when the new staff members arrived – and the director relied upon her to help train them, which she was happy to do.

Then, several problems began.

The Director of Development didn’t realize how much of the day to day operations had been handled by Stephanie . . . until she was explaining it to the new staff.  He began to second guess many of her instructions – in front of the new staff.

“I couldn’t figure out if he didn’t understand, didn’t agree, or was just intent on showing everyone who the boss really was,” she said.  “Either way, it was insulting.  How did he think we surpassed our goals?”

Stephanie tried to speak to him alone, personally, and explain the need for doing the operations a certain way, etc., but discovered that their camaraderie and previous way of communicating on a more personal, intimate level had disappeared.

“Apparently,” Stephanie said, “We could only be ‘buddies’ when he was imparting wisdom to me, but it couldn’t possibly work the other way around!  I felt pretty stupid when I realized this!”

Although Stephanie was pleased for the time she had previously spent learning her trade, she decided that she had outgrown her organization – and her mentor – and that it was time to Forget It!  We began her job search, and within less than a year, she found a different job, so she could continue growing.

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.

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

Similar Posts:

Idalee* and Janet* have difficulty socializing at work

Ursula* and Vivian* have bosses with unhealthy expectations

Maude* and Niles* assess their essentials on the job

              

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