Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hello, I see the Assassians have failed...

Don't take the title too seriously, it's from a "pieces of flair" button on my Facebook profile and it's funny - really it's o.k, laugh.  I'm not on verge of hiring hit men (yet).  However, today's blog is certainly going to have an "frankly, I just don't like you" theme.  Is this the wrong way to feel, the wrong way to be?  I don't know.  Jesus said in Romans 12:14, ""Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."  I admit, I fall short of this direction.  I find myself often rebuking verbally those that I do not like.  It's a fact - sometimes, we just don't like one another.  This is a situation I think we can all nod our heads with and understand.  We don't always get along with other people and I don't believe we were designed to do so.  I've often attempted to live by a find just one thing good about the person rule to help me overcome my desire to be rude, and this has been a tremendous help when working with teenagers, but the older I get, the harder it is to dig so deep.  I'm certain that part of this is my heart has hardened with time decreasing my ability to tolerate rude, indigent, and down right nasty behavior, but some of it also revolves around the simple fact:  I don't have time for you if you're not going to be nice (or at the very least, cordial and socially polite).

Why spend time with those that bring you down, wouldn't it better to be around those that lift you up?  I think we can all say 'yes' quite enthusiastically.  Proverbs 22: 24-25 says ""Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself."  I interpret this verse as avoid those that infuriate you or you might become like them; hence today's title:  Hello, I see the assassins have failed...


In our personal lives, this is usually fairly simple.  We make choices everyday on who to befriend and who to avoid, however; at work this job becomes much more difficult.  We are often forced to be with those we can not stand and many times, tolerate their obnoxious behavior because it's the right thing to do.  Isn't it interesting how those that are so blatantly uncouth rarely get reprimanded?  While those of us that bite our tongue sit there and take it - I also know the Bible verse for this, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well" (Matthew 5: 39-40).  Isn't this a tall order?  It is...but everyday many of us do it.  We bite our tongues until they are bleeding to avoid being as crass and unprofessional as many around us.

Allow me to take you on a little story trip:   I have volunteered for several years now to help the senior class with Prom.  I am not paid for this and I am not sharing this fact so you feel I'm great in anyway.  I do this year after year because I enjoy the students, I respect the man that is the senior class sponsor, and I genuinely like to attend prom and see the kids in their formal attire; they clean up so well.  And every year it is a battle to deal with funds for decorations the students themselves have raised.  Prom is at the end of the year, this is no secret.  Often items have to be purchased after the date our bookkeeper feels comfortable with; also no secret.  It is the one time of the year the accounting rules are bent and it's been this way for decades!  This year, we decided to use Hobby Lobby to purchase some last minute decor for table center pieces, etc.  Last year we use Wal-mart (during the SAME week of the calendar I might add) and I was afforded the school's credit card to make the purchases and then return with a receipt.  This year, in her infinite wisdom, she has decided to no longer allow use of the credit card. Granted, administration had to approve this decision, but she is manipulative and vindictive in a way that is entirely self-serving; I can only imagine the excuses used (for example, we can only print check on certain days of the week because she doesn't 'feel' like changing out the printer paper).  We are the only school in the county dealing with this major inconvenience.    When I requested use of the card (if possible) because there were items on sale this week only that would save the school $250.00 if we purchase now I was informed, "that I should have gone sooner and I knew better and that I live by there anyway so I needed to plan ahead."  Really? REALLY??  I did plan ahead, Prom is 3-weeks away.  Going sooner would not have afforded the sale items and I don't spend my spare time collecting circulars from craft stores in the area, AND FRANKLY - where I live has NOTHING to do with my volunteer work with the school (and how do you know that anyway - that's scary).  I was livid, livid.  For many reasons.  But as the verse says to do, I responded professionally and copied it to my administration.  While absolutely nothing will come of her insolent and disparaging behavior, I know that my behavior was the right choice.  And then today's title came to me...and the book listed that goes with this 'rant'.

Now, before you become disinterested in today's blog due to the punchy title of the book I've posted on the page, understand that I, too, subscribe to the idea that curse words are the bottom of the barrel.  Merriam-Webster's dictionary contains more than 250,000 entries and odds are you could have chosen a more eloquent way to express what you needed to say - however - there are times when only an offensive word will do.  When I started researching books that discussed effective workplace behavior, this title jumped into the search engine over and over again.  I resigned to reading a few pages of the introduction and the reviews and I admit, it is on target for what I feel like we deal with every day in the workplace:  ineffective people that create hostile work environments. 

Publishers weekly writes:
This meticulously researched book, which grew from a much buzzed-about article in the Harvard Business Review, puts into plain language an undeniable fact: the modern workplace is beset with assholes. Sutton (Weird Ideas that Work), a professor of management science at Stanford University, argues that assholes—those who deliberately make co-workers feel bad about themselves and who focus their aggression on the less powerful—poison the work environment, decrease productivity, induce qualified employees to quit and therefore are detrimental to businesses, regardless of their individual effectiveness. He also makes the solution plain: they have to go. Direct and punchy, Sutton uses accessible language and a bevy of examples to make his case, providing tests to determine if you are an asshole (and if so, advice for how to self-correct), a how-to guide to surviving environments where assholes freely roam and a carefully calibrated measure, the "Total Cost of Assholes," by which corporations can assess the damage. 

David Siegfried from the American Library Association says:
We all know them or know of them--the jerks and bullies at work who demean, criticize, and sap the energy of others, usually their underlings. It could be the notorious bad boss or the jealous coworker, but everyone agrees that they make life miserable for their victims and create a hostile and emotionally stifling environment. Fed up with how these creeps treat others and poison the workplace, Sutton declares war and comes out calling them exactly what they are--"certified assholes." Caricatured in sitcoms such as The Office, these brutes are too often tolerated until irreparable damage is done to individuals and the organization as a whole. Sutton's "no asshole rule" puts a stop to the abuse in no uncertain terms. Similar rules have transformed such companies as JetBlue, the Men's Wearhouse, and Google into shining examples of workplaces where positive self-esteem creates a more productive, motivated, and satisfied workforce. If you have ever been a victim, just reading Sutton's analysis brings calm relief, empowerment, and reassurance that you're not alone. 

And there you have it.  I am not alone, you are not alone.  We work with, on a daily basis, people who undermine a positive work environment.  And as noted above, regardless of how difficult they are, they are often allowed to continue in their positions while those of us that take the high road suffer irreparable damage and, in the worst case scenario, leave. Now, I have no intention of leaving because of someone else's behavior - besides, I like my job and my students and have found life-long friends amongst many of my co-workers.  But, this does bring home the idea that everyday, someone, somewhere is angered in the workplace by a person like this.  We swallow our pride, and often times due to the circumstances, continue to come back for more because we have to.  I fall into this category, we all do where I am.  I will have continue to be cordial amidst the amateur mouth of this rude employee.

So, in light of today's ideas of dealing with people we truly do not like it only further strengthens my previous thoughts on friends, those we choose.  "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24).  I believe in the power of this verse, that if we are a friend, then it is our duty to be friendly to others at all times lest we disappoint those that hold us in the highest regard.  Do I always meet this idea? Absolutely not!  It is a daily battle, a daily choice to be kind, warm, caring, and friendly especially when you're having a bad day, don't feel well, or have just had an encounter with the workplace jerk - but what I've found in this is that my chosen friends are o.k. in the moments I make mistakes where those I'm forced to be around are not.  My chosen friends love me in spite of my faults rather than seek to tear me down to cover theirs.  My chosen friends apologize if they hurt my feelings or are inadvertently rude because of their own situation that I may not be aware of.  My chosen friends help me produce more than I can alone because "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down,  his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken" (Eccl 4: 9-12).  

In the workplace, we choose to turn the other cheek when confronted with those that walk alone.  It is this thought that allows me to continue to be cordial in my dealings with them, because somewhere, someone in their life has done damage that they are still making up for by taking it out on the rest of the world.  While this will never bring them peace, it seems to bring them temporary power, a power to control a situation I assume they lost.  However, in a personal setting, choose your friends and choose wisely for they are breath you need when life tries to swallow you whole.

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