The injustice of it all…

My daughter got an A on her school essay about Canadian history. However, instead of being happy with her mark, she felt that she did not deserve it and thought that compared to a fellow classmate’s piece, it was just an A- or just a solid B+.

“JD should have gotten a higher mark than me but Mr.S gave me a better mark because everyone thinks I am one of his favourite students.”

I have always known Mr.S to be a fair teacher and so I would not put a lot of weight on that reasoning.  He would have taken all the factors into consideration–the perspectives presented, the flow of the writing, the research gathered and conclusions reached. After reading the essay, I thought it was deserving of the A.

But, let’s step back for a minute.

What if…someone you did not perceive to deserve such accolades but due to favouritism, received more opportunities than others?

Not quite fair, is it?

This is of course assuming that your perspective is accurate that they do not deserve to be the favourite and the opportunities in question are truly opportunities that everyone would die for…

I recall a recent conversation with one of my closest friends from school …the promotion she was working hard for was given to a more junior person (let’s call him Junior) who always went for coffee with the boss, did not rock the boat and followed whatever was asked of him. Whatever his work ethic was, I did not know and my friend was not in the mood to tell me.

“I went to MIT and Wharton! Junior went to a small college in the US!”

“I had all these ideas and he had none!”

“He made all these mistakes that cost millions but no consequences!”

At any rate, the comparisons went on and on and all one sided. I don’t think she even spared a thought of how Junior must feel…perhaps he doesn’t really want to be the favoured one? I am not entirely sure if all of it were true or even relevant but at that time, it was not a good idea to interrupt her rant..

Sound familiar?

Last I heard from my dear friend, she quit and moved to a better job where she makes loads more money…and more importantly, where favoritism is not as crippling. She is happier and I’m extremely glad that all turned out fine for her.

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario where it doesn’t impact yourself directly but you may have to take on more work to help the favoured one out?

Or how about when the favoured one has a protective shield and is immune to any consequences while the ordinary people have to watch out for their own backs?

I hear lots of these types of indignant stories….in the elevator, on the train to and from work, while waiting in line at Starbucks…and almost always involves the workplace.

So, what is one to do when faced with such injustice?

I personally think…do nothing.

It is what it is.

I think it is part of our human nature to indulge in favoritism and try as you might to change someone’s perspective about their favorite person, you cannot do anything until that person is ready to open their eyes to what is happening in front of them.

My daughter says “sounds like a defeatist attitude to me.”

Is it?

I don’t believe so. Doing nothing does not mean that I consider favoritism in the workplace to be okay. On the contrary. It does a great disservice to everyone in the team and no one wins. However, most of the time, one cannot do anything about it.

So, I accept that it is unfair but it is out of my control. Continue doing a good job and move on. Focus on something else more important outside of work and move on.

Of course, if it becomes intolerable, doing what my dear friend did would be the best course of action….leave a potentially toxic environment and hope that you find greener pastures.

In the perfect world, we would all be the favoured ones….but sadly, the world is not perfect.

Accept and move on.

Debbie.

A Lesson on “Distribution Lists”…

Yes, I have gone back to work. I have been back for two weeks, in fact.

“How am I?” you must be wondering ….

It is good to be part of the working population again.

Yet…

Also not so good to be back with the working population again.

I was telling a good friend and colleague of mine that this time, I came back a little more  jaded compared to when I first went offline a few years ago.  I was reminded that when I came back after being diagnosed with anxiety back in 2012, I came back to work full of enthusiasm and energy.  I had all these ideas on how to make work more enjoyable, less stressful, more fun.  I looked forward to going to work; I was quicker to forgive and make concessions and excuses when something or someone pushes too hard.  I felt connected and optimistic that things will be ok.  It’s all uphill from here on in, I used to say….

“It’s ok, she is just having a bad morning”…or “he does that to everyone so don’t feel too bad..” or ” Let it go, it’s not such a big deal…”

However, I realize now that these little things, these little concessions here and there, were  silently and relentlessly chipping away at my enthusiasm.  It’s like waves crashing on the shore…mental and emotional erosion.

In my first week, I resolved to integrate slowly and stick to the plan.  Come in, turn on my computer, change my shoes, walk to the washroom and wash my hands, say hello to everyone I see, and come back and start my work day, taking little breaks here and there.  Good safe plan.

Catching up was easy as I was not gone that long and all the issues that may have come my way had already been dealt with.  The team I work with is comprised with very smart people…our little world continues even when you go offline.

I thought I was doing okay…well, until someone from another team came to my cubicle and “scolded” me sending out an innocuous email and including someone who he thought did not need to be copied.  “Scolded” does not seem to capture the moment.  I knew he was upset as his posh corner office was on the other side of the building and he actually took the time to walk to where I was sitting.

My brain was reeling.  “Upset over the distribution list?!!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!”

He talked to me through gritted teeth…a passerby would have mistaken it for a smile but the tone was clear “Don’t mess with me, I’m more senior than you.”  However, with an open concept office, voices travel and people hear.  They knew that something was off and were curious.

At any rate, I recall that my cheeks started to burn for holding up my forced sunny smile while my lesson in choosing my distribution list continued.  All I could say was “Noted”. It took a Herculean effort not to add “JERK”.

He was gone as quickly as he had come.  I had to shake the negativity off.  I felt dirty to have seen such rage over such a petty thing.  Good thing it happened on a Friday afternoon and the idea of going home was like a lifeline.  I had to tell my boss what happened as some people heard and may have been drawing their own conclusions.  I sent a quick email saying I had to leave before I do anything stupid…like copying his boss. Shock-horror!!

On the train home, the concessions started….my practice on compassion and loving kindness came to the fore as I searched my brain for my mantra when people irritate me (although, it did have a rocky start)…

“May this JERK be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease”.

Ok, try again.

“May this silly person be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease…”

Again?

“May he be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease…”

Better….

I repeated this mantra several times and by the end of my train ride, I was feeling ok.  It was the weekend, anyway.

What stayed with me throughout the weekend was not that I should be mindful of who I copy (that’s garbage…I’m smart, I know who I should or should not copy to get things moving!), but rather that I felt I had given a small concession once again.  My boss used to tell me if someone was rude to me, to be rude back.  Dish it all back.  Sigh.  Perhaps I need a lesson on Confrontation.  I just find it so hard.

No.  Can’t quite bring myself to be like that.  I would probably botch the confrontation anyway and end up in more of a mess than when it started….

So, I resolve to build thicker and higher walls so I can slow the erosion.  I will have to.  My field of expertise is full of people like that…full of overinflated egos and insecurities and I have to learn how to walk through the minefield, taking care not to blow myself up.   I think it is the same in all other professions.  We just have different ways of dealing with our own erosions…. That’s just how it is, I guess.  My first mindfulness teacher would say, “Accept.  It is what it is.”

But, this episode has hardened me.  I feel it.  I came out jaded.  I broke my rose coloured glasses.  It was probably a good thing.  A good reality check that however hard you try, you cannot control everything…people, most of all.

Anyway, I had a good break from the stresses of the world.  I am grateful for this little respite.  I wish everyone had this opportunity….I guess that is what vacations are for….of course, without visits to the doctors office.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Debbie.

“Don’t push me…please.”

dont-mistake-my-kindness-for-weakness-350x320

Those who knew that I was on this mindfulness journey were actually afraid for me…”That’s it.  Debbie is going to be a doormat once the word gets out that she is actually nice….”

BEFORE that fateful spring day in April 2012, I was the “Yes, I can handle this” type of person.  There was nothing I couldn’t juggle:

  • a stressful career and since I just got promoted, my “proving mode” was on overdrive
  • a busy family life (swimming lessons, piano lessons, Olivia’s homework, renovating the basement, laundry, grocery shopping…you get the picture)
  • running regime (trying to break sub-2 hours in a half marathon and not throw up at the finish line),
  • learning Spanish for work (fail…although, I can order a bottle of wine and ask where the bathroom is)
  • writing a children’s book (still not finished)

While I thought I was a pretty good juggler, I admit I was not the nicest person to be around.  I was more impatient, more crabby, more mean…just “more”.

I remember telling my husband that his 102-year old grandmother will die a very bitter old woman and she deserves it. Ummm, yah. Not nice.

In the office, I had just gotten a promotion and so I was so engrossed in proving myself…if someone disagreed with me, I spent the day poring over accounting rules to prove them wrong.   “I am right and you are wrong.” Ummm, yah.  Not nice.

THEN, while on a conference call that fateful spring day in April 2012, my brain and lungs decided that juggling was no longer fun. I could not catch my breath and everyone in the office thought I was having a heart attack.  They called 911.

Not a heart attack, but an anxiety attack…equally as life changing.  It took months of doctor’s visits, hours of therapy, rigorous regime of mindfulness practice and meditation to realize that it is OK to be…imperfect, vulnerable, not be in control.

FAST FORWARD TO TODAY ….

I am more centered, more mindful, more present…just “more”.

My daughter loves that fact that I am patient, calmer, and actually listens…

Work is also more enjoyable–both for me and for my colleagues.  I try to inject humor and an all-around-positive-attitude during meetings, I try to actually listen with a “beginner’s mind” even though I may have seen the issue in the past (hey, I might learn something new), and I am more patient in explaining myself (if the other person does not get it the first time, it is OK…I can try to explain again).

So, getting back to the “doormat” issue.  I must admit that I too was worried that people would take advantage of my “niceness”….and you know what?  Yes, people have tried to take advantage.  I don’t fool myself into believing that just because I am on this mindfulness journey that everyone is also on the same journey. However, as Mahatma Gandhi once said,

“You cannot change how people treat you or what they say about you.  All you can do is change the way you react to it.”

So, when someone pushes me, I generally pause, assess (the person may be having a tough day!), and say with kindness and compassion…”Don’t push me…please.”

So far, this reaction has worked for me.

However, I wonder if they had kept pushing me…I think I might have eventually taken a page from the book of one of my very passionate Latina friends…..”You keep pushing me….and I BITE YOU!!”

At that point, I would have taken away the WELCOME mat….

Oh well.

Debbie