Image courtesy of Dawn Huczek

Today was one of those days. A day in which you thought things were going really well until the rug was pulled out from under you in the most unexpected way. The kind of day that stings and sits with you for a while. I’m not angry or even sorry that it happened. I’m sorry that something precipitated it, but not the actual event.

Today, I had a meeting with my director about curriculum and it was going well. She was being direct in order to get things done in a timely manner and that involved mentioning a number of things that I was responsible for that weren’t going well. To be honest, that wasn’t bothering me that much. I am fine with making changes regarding things such as curriculum since it is a bit of a test-and-see type of thing. No one is able to make it work perfectly on the first try. In that situation, I am completely open to critique as long as it is done in a thoughtful way. I am not saying they have to be done in a nicey-nice way, but it also shouldn’t be a personal attack. Thankfully, this was one of those productive meetings where nothing was being said that could be taken the wrong way and there were plenty of ideas floating around about how it could be improved. I was thinking to myself about how well this meeting was going when it happened. The unexpected emerged.

The director stopped and explained that someone, one of my colleagues, had complained to her that I was coming across as being ‘bossy’ (I don’t think that those were the words that were used by either my director or my colleague, but that is the gist of it). I was stunned and, to be frank, really embarrassed. I didn’t know what to say. I apologized to her of which she said she hadn’t seen it in me, but wanted me to know so I could reflect on it. I thanked her and then apologized again. I probably apologized a few more times, but I can’t be certain since my head was spinning with what I might have done to cause someone to feel this way so strongly that they took it to my director instead of me. I understand that it is difficult to go directly to someone when you feel this way, so I get why they did it this way. Like I said earlier, I am hurt, but not angry. Someone I work with who I respect and appreciate feels this way about me. It is one of my nightmares coming true. I wish I could apologize directly and find out how I have been carrying myself that would cause them to feel this way about me.

Coming home, I thought about what I could do and what I should say. It got me thinking about how we view one another. I mentioned in my post yesterday that I need to work on how I place students and colleagues in levels. Maybe that is what is coming out. I am realising how important it is to tell people face-to-face about things you feel need to change. If this person had talked to me directly, I would have been able to apologize in person and hopefully clear up some of the misunderstandings. I know why they didn’t, but I will never be able to have that moment back and possibly won’t be able to fix things with them. I need to ‘practice what I preach’ by taking time to talk to people and air out my thoughts with them no matter how difficult it is to do. It isn’t about me, it should be about helping them learn from their situations. As a result, I will probably learn from them as well.

I think I know where some of this problem comes from, but I certainly don’t want to shift blame. I think that is the other thing I have learned from this. I had a part in this not matter what started it. I can only work on that which is right in front of me, which in this case is how I communicate with others about what I am doing. I need to be more transparent in how I deal with others so that they can see my motives. I am to blame for this and I need to work on mending those fences. These people are my colleagues and there needs to be a level of trust built so that they can feel free to confront me directly. That is all on me, not because of the action that started this.

I hope this doesn’t come across as airing my dirty laundry or personal problems in public. I hope you can take something from this so that you don’t have to go through it as well. Be open and honest about your motives. Tell people directly, but also in kindness, about things that are bothering you. Build a place of trust amongst your colleagues so that they feel comfortable coming to you.

It stings, but the pain will eventually go away and I will be better colleague because of it.

Thank you to all of my colleagues. I appreciate you and couldn’t do what I do without you. I need to tell you that more often.

3 thoughts on “Stinging

  1. You can never please all your co-workers. In fact, I’ve encountered of situations where people were aggravated by someone working hard, because it makes them look bad. Its good you are reflecting on your relationship with others at work, you need that. But there will always be some who will be negative, wherever you work, whatever proffesion.
    Hang in there!

  2. I always find it fascinating when I learn about how others perceive me differently than I feel I am portraying myself. It’s bound to happen. Not long ago, a colleague of mine apologized to me for appearing to be very rude with me at work over the summer. I was flabbergasted by this perception he had of how he comes across when in fact, to me he is overly apologetically polite. I could not for the life of me understand what made him think this way. Then again, he did apologise for it, very in character.

    There are many, many interpretations of being bossy. It could come from being transparent and direct about your ideas and your knowledge. It could come from simply having input where those colleagues had previously worked largely alone (or at least rarely were given input). It could be that you were, in fact, bossy one day. I guess that reaction of complaining about it to your director instead of you prevents you from ever truly knowing, unless they eventually reveal themselves through how they react to you in future.

    On the other hand, maybe this colleague is more friendly with your director and said it off-the-cuff over a drink or dinner. I have to admit that discussing impressions of colleagues is a common topic in those situations, but are not meant to go further than the friendly chat. These things happen.

    My point is likely not to dwell, especially if this, to your knowledge, is a one-off comment about how you come across. It’s good to be reflective and aim for resolution, but it’s also risky to change what you do for one person.

    1. Thanks, Tyson. It is always hard to move on, especially when you aren’t sure what the real issue was in the first place. I agree with you, I shouldn’t just change for one person, but if there is something there, I would like to know. I do hope this person eventually feels comfortable enough to share their concerns with me. I am completely open to what they have to share.

      In the mean time, my focus in on my class and my students.

      Thanks for your comments.

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