As I was working with clients last week, a theme started to emerge. This is surprisingly common, it is almost as if my clients are coaching each other through me. This week was stories involving ethics, corruption, and even embezzlement. The stories were about current jobs. The stories were also about past jobs and the clients were still holding pain, anger, and sadness like it was yesterday.
It is tough to see people in pain for standing in their values and integrity. Who knew doing the right thing could harm them professionally? I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this since I’m often coaching to help very talented persons find careers at companies that they can love. I realized this week that even at these beloved companies, there will most likely still be ethics concerns from time to time. One reason for that is that ethics are extremely subjective. The other reason is that people are profoundly complicated.
Years ago, I worked at Company X, Y, Z. I worked with a person that we will call Pat. Pat was a bulldozer in the office. And often, I was a target of Pat’s. I felt bullied. I felt sexually discriminated against at times. Yet, Pat wasn’t exactly mean to me……and I can’t say that I was targeted more than my fellow employees by him.
One Friday during a time in my life that I was a bit fragile, Pat asked me what I was doing over the weekend and encouraged me to come over and spend time with his family. It baffled me. I declined but it was an eye-opening experience to Pat having much more depth. Did he have an awareness that I was spending weekends home alone with a stack of self-help books. Which I was. How did he know?
These invites continued over the course of year and while I still certainly didn’t appreciate this person in the office……I did start to understand that Pat wasn’t evil. This change in my perspective of Pat changed our work interactions. I became less defensive and no longer reacted to his bully work style. I now looked at Pat as a human being that included a thoughtful side which allowed me to now respond. And response included directness and assertiveness. Not reactions of anger and the record playing in my head of…..”he’s such an idiot.” Now, I could say, “Pat is Pat” and move on to the next work task. The other important part of this story is that I also didn’t carry bitterness for the bully culture of Company X, Y, Z into my next job.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t end up in situations with people who truly are damaging. Especially in smaller organizations where there isn’t a Human Resources department or an Ethics Policy to be found. Sometimes the insecurities of management can create a very uncomfortable work culture. Micro-managers make everyone feel like they will be fired at any moment. In those cases, you may want to consider finding a job much more suited towards the positive. The question for you may be, can I find enough perspective and acceptance each day to stay responsive and not reactionary until I can find something new.
As you are looking for that new job….can you find some depth to the Pat’s you work with? Can you accept them and the workplace culture as it is? Can you practice response?
I really would love to hear from others in the comments. Our shared challenges and stories really do help each other. We’ve all been unfairly targeted at one time or another. Your story of response or even of reaction may help another.