I recently found myself being reprimanded at work. I had issues with the cause of the reprimand and the way it was handled. Whether is was a misunderstanding on my part or deliberate deception on the part of my boss, I walked out of that office believing that I had been treated like I had shown up to work drunk and was now halfway through the process of being fired.
I then went to another boss to find out what could be done, and followed what I believed to be the correct path: I wrote a response and filed it with HR. The short ending to the story is that things weren’t as bad as I thought, but because of wording I had used in my response, I now had to consider options — pursuing a policy investigation on my boss, having the response shred, or having the response filed.
It was amazing to me what a burden that choice became! On one hand, I knew that having the file shredded meant that, officially, I had no problem with the way things were handled. Since I believe wholeheartedly in being honest, that answer didn’t sit well with me. The most aggressive response, an investigation into the incident, seemed a little over the top, no matter the intent of my boss toward me. So, I took what originally seemed to be the most dangerous option, and had it filed. My boss now has full knowledge of what I wrote. I suffer anxiety when I head to work. Fair trade, right?
What interested me most in this whole series of events was a comment made when I was meeting with the head of the HR department. The question posed to me was, “What do you want? Do you want to be heard, or do you want something more?” Something about that question really stuck with me.
Why is it so important to feel heard? Why does it hurt so badly when we feel we have been misunderstood?
Then, I started digging a little deeper. If we know that it hurts when it happens to us, why is it so easy to gossip about someone else? Why do we assume the worst in someone else’s behavior, especially when we have felt the sting of being underestimated?
I don’t have the answers, and I’m not perfect at the solutions I’ve found. Even so, there are some of the things that I now try to do when I find myself on one side or the other:
- Apologize where appropriate. I no longer believe in taking blame for someone else’s bad behavior, but I can certainly express that I feel bad that there has been a misunderstand and apologize for any hurt feelings that I caused.
- I can choose to see the good in and assume the best about others. Very few people are intrinsically bad. That means everyone else is doing the best they can and that they know how to do.
- I can choose to speak about the good I see in others, and to keep my mouth shut about anything negative that I might know. (My only exception to that is when there is a legal or religious reason to take the information to the correct authority.)
- I can refrain from taking any sense of being ignored or misjudged as a personal attack.
- I can take the time to really listen and try to understand when other people take the time to share their thoughts and feelings with me.
So, I have (minus many, many details), told you a little more of my story. Thank you, dear reader, for listening.