Sometimes it really feels like the world has gone crazy. Like people have no clue anymore how to be people.
We’re just so mean spirited, you know? So selfish and just plain uncaring. I mean, we’re just starting to process what happened to Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the Dallas police shootings, and then somebody blows a truck through a crowd at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice. At last count, 84 people were dead and more than 200 were injured.
It’s crazy. And there’s no way, no possible way, that what happens in the world doesn’t impact how you behave in the workplace. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a little story.
I talk about current events with friends often, and a male friend — he’s Hispanic, in case you need a visual — was kvetching to me about an incident he experienced at work this week. He’s been feeling some pretty strong emotions behind Sterling and whatnot, and I get it. I’ve shed more than a few tears myself, and I’ve had to battle back this sense of hopelessness that has made work challenging at times. I lose focus, I get emotional, it’s rough.
But back to my buddy. He got into a little scrap at work. Someone said something — what is irrelevant — he responded, and the next thing you know, he’s being called on the carpet.
I told him straight out, you were wrong. He looked at me like I’d lost my mind. All of it. As if every scrap of grey matter I had currently or had ever had in life was now in question. But I stand by what I said.
You cannot let your emotions get the best of you at work. You can’t. It’s not appropriate. Period. You are there to do a job.
There have been many times, many times, some white person, some man, woman or whoever, has said something to me or in my hearing that burned my ass up. Sometimes I’d swear on a stack of bibles I was being deliberately provoked. But I don’t bite. At least, I haven’t in years. Remind me to tell you later about the last time I did *whistles* I damn near shut my office down.
Now? Something jumps off, I take a walk. Or, I head straight to the Peninsula for lunch. I sit by the window, order an Arnold Palmer, and I let my favorite waiter soothe my ruffled feathers.
Do I want to cuss and holler, call names, point my finger or cry out at the idiocy and injustice of it all? Hell yeah. But I’m an adult, and I’m not being paid to create a disturbance. I’m not being paid to air my socio-economic and political beliefs or to verbally malign my coworkers, no matter what they did first.
And think about how difficult it’s gonna be for my buddy to work with the coworker he blasted. Do you think collaboration will be smooth in that relationship going forward? I don’t. And once my buddy finished his extended version kvetch, he reluctantly agreed with me.
It’s like this past weekend. I was monitoring some repair work being done at my mom’s while she was out, and my sister asks our white plumber what he thought about the Dallas shootings. I looked at her and said, “Stop.” And I looked at him and said, “You don’t have to answer that.”
He wasn’t there for that. He was there to install that ejector pump, get his money, and keep it moving. I value that relationship. And because I value that relationship — the same way my friend values his paycheck and a position that he enjoys despite that singular incident — I will not importune a favored workman with even a hint of ideology.
You do not mix oil and water and expect the combination to settle neatly. Why? Because oil and water don’t mix. Likewise, my friend cannot expect it to be okay that his emotions got the better of him at work.
I told him, “you know you’re gonna have to apologize, right?”
“But he’s wrong!”
“Okay, but you know you’re gonna have to apologize anyway, for the sake of the working relationship.”
He pouted very cutely, huffed and sighed like he was expelling all the bad air in the world, and finally said, “I know.”
I clapped him on the shoulder and smiled sympathetically. “I understand how you feel, dude. But you just be the bigger man.”
I told my friend, just apologize for yelling. You don’t have to deny your beliefs. Just smooth things over, and be sincere. Plan what you’re going to say in advance. If you’re really savvy, ask to meet in your supervisor’s office with the other party, and make your apology there. That way everyone involved will know you’re serious about not repeating that behavior, moving on and getting back to work.
Bitch to your friends about your coworkers. Don’t bitch to your coworkers about your coworkers, or anything else. You getting loud at work is probably not going to change their minds, but it will almost certainly put a strain on your working relationships.
I’ve learned, you don’t have to agree with the people you work with. You don’t even have to like them. But you do need to treat them with dignity and respect because that’s how you want them to treat you.