Thursday, September 25, 2008

Oh, the elephant is ON the table...

“Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.” ~ Mark Twain

Oh, I had one of those moments this week...

It was a pretty typical workplace scenario. I had a meeting room booked. When I arrived, there were others in my room and I politely told them that I had the room booked and that they were in the wrong room.

So, first they argue. I show them the clear evidence that they're wrong, that I have the confirmation for the right room. Their response? "Well, we're setup already."

I see.

I wasn't asked politely to find another room because they were already set up. They didn't apologize for their mistake. I was essentially dismissed from the room and the onus is left to ME to find a replacement room.

Why? Was it because the person in the room is a Sales Director and I'm a Business Analyst? Is it the typical sales arrogance versus operational support gig; they're revenue, we're expenses? Is it an underlying misogynistic, hierarchical prevalent business attitude?

I dare to say yes on all counts, but nonetheless, none of it goes over very well with me.

Clearly, their behaviour is unacceptable. And (shockingly, I know) I let them clearly know my displeasure...(mind you, being out too late the night before and imbibing perhaps a bit too much of the pinot noir may have contributed to my curt and direct response) however ultimately though, it's me who looks bad perhaps for showing these people up and pointing out their obvious lack of grace and good character. It may not be right, it may not be just, but it is the way it is.

So, I mull it over off and on for a few hours and throughout am asking myself, what was I responding to? What was it that pissed me off so very much at that moment? I called my husband for a dose of loving courage and had already decided to take a deep breath, suck it up buttercup and go and make my apologies for my part in the interaction that day.

And what do I get?...



"No hard feelings." ...from one of them at least...

No reciprocating apology, no acknowledgement that they were wrong in the first place and that their behaviour was dismissive, rude and condescending or that they should have in the least aided me in finding another meeting room for my meeting.



So, I realize that what I was responding to was the fact that justice issues have always been a BIG trigger for me. "What do you MEAN you're not going to apologize? What do you MEAN you're not going to do the RIGHT THING?"...when it's not "out there" for all to see and acknowledge that someone did someone wrong etc., well, that's been something for me that I've never been really good at letting go of...but I am getting better...

I left these people knowing that I've done the right thing. I'm managing my own karma and that's all I can really do. That's all I have control own.

I realized later on too that there's also the question of my irreverence. Apparently, from the response of one of these people, although not explicit, I could easily infer that I did not show enough reverence to the offender.

Well, I have never been a person impressed with titles et al, nor have I ever been one to disguise my true feelings or mince words. I've gotten better at perhaps relaying my messaging in a more genteel manner at times, but that too totally depends on who I'm speaking with.

When I was 19 years old, I worked for the Insurance Bureau of Canada in their PR/Media Relations department. This is before the days of the Internet and part of my job was to collect local and national media coverage in the newspapers regarding insurance issues, copy them and then distribute them to senior members of the IBC Management team. I did this on a daily basis and therefore, I was usually in the office before most other employees so that the media was on their desks first thing.

The President of the IBC at the time was also usually in the office first thing, and each morning as he did his walk about he would pass my desk and say, "Good morning Karen!" and I would respond with "Good morning Jack, how are things?" Jack was old school. A lovely and kind English gentleman with the bow tie to boot and whose secretary was very much his "secretary", even though the new titles of Executive Assistant were just starting to make inroads into Canadian corporate culture.

So, one morning I'm dropping off my media package at Jack's office and I say to his secretary, "Good morning, this is for Jack." She turns to me and says, "That's Mr. Lyndon!" My response was "Well, when Mr. Lyndon feels compelled to call me Ms S_______ then I'll do the same" and I walked away.

It's not that I'm trying to be rude. If Jack was bothered with me calling him by his first name, then he would have or should have told me. To me, he's just a "Joe", just like we all are. For me, reverence is meant for icons like Mother Theresa and her ilk (who I had met and was blessed by, but that's another entry), not the privileged, white, all-male establishment that rarely does much to earn their seats.

So, besides my irreverence, I'm also the kind of person that doesn't just point the elephant out in the room. My special talent comes from putting the elephant on the table. I recognize that that's not going to make me a popular person a lot of the time as most people are not very good with such direct honesty. I don't know how to live any other way. Actually, that sounded a little grandiose and passive. I choose not to live any other way and have long ago accepted that I'll never be the CEO of a company because I don't spend my energies pandering to others' egos.

So, when I apologized and left these people this week, what I did was irreverently show them their elephant on the table. I have a clear picture about the kind of people they are and I do recognize that in one sense, I am standing in smug judgment of them now. May not be the best characteristic of my good karmic move, but it's only one part and I'm still working on it all...

So, my suggestion is if they want to start working on their own karma, perhaps they need to start eating that elephant.


jules said...

I love that. You *so* do point out the elephant.
Some days I just throw a sheet over the elephant... hehehe.
Good on you for standing up for what's right. This same scenario has been brought up a few times in my Taking the Stage sessions.
It's totally OK to call people on their bad behavior.

I just need more practice!

Ronna said...

Good post.