Monday, March 29, 2010

Beta :: Driving for Clarity

From the time I got my driver’s license at 16-years-old, sitting behind that wheel was a special time. It made me feel free, it made me feel composed. It was just me and the road ahead, off to find adventure.

Throughout graduate school, a time when I moved regions of the country in order to attend a #1-ranked master’s program in college administration, I had explored the countryside in my trusty Toyota truck. Whenever I felt lonely, which was often, or like I was an outsider, as I was, I took to the road. I discovered the beauty of leaves changing colors in the fall through the windshield of that truck; I drove it to the out-of-town stables where I took horseback riding lessons.

After graduate school that truck moved me across the country once again to my first job. All of my belongings were loaded up and tucked underneath a bright blue tarp and elastic net, secured more firmly than I in the events of the present.

It was there, at that first job that I met and married my husband, Dane. He was the greatest blessing of my life, my first 100% certain answer to prayer. We were married within six months of our first date.

Professionally things continued to improve. The reality was that I started my career riding on the coattails of training from two exceptional institutions. Simply because I had their names attached to my resume as the colleges where I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees doors opened for me. After starting any jobs I was quickly recognized as someone who could problem solve, make difficult decisions, and meet deadlines on time.

Life was pretty well laid out for me and I felt like I was on top of the world.

I might have been a little arrogant, too.

All this to say, my bolt out of the office and to my truck was not an unusual choice when I needed comfort; drives were always helpful for me. What was surprising was how disturbed I was by the conversation I had just completed.

It was not the first time I had fired someone for failing to perform in his or her position. I had discovered that in life there are very few people who are willing to say what needs to be said without backing down or moderating the comment to the point of uselessness.

Because I was ingrained with boldness my previous supervisors had oftentimes used me to have the “difficult” conversations. I had never been a part of a conversation where there was not ample cause for releasing the person from their position; in fact, it most generally involved that person placing another in physical harm, as this most current negative job review had identified.

It was, however, one of the first times that someone had attacked me on a personal level, playing into my fears of becoming a parent.

I took the time on the drive to calm myself, my thoughts eventually stopped racing as I traveled the blacktop road and wound my way through the countryside. By the time I got home that night I was in control of my emotions, though still fairly wound up from the encounter.

My reserve was tested the next morning when I checked my facebook® messages and found one from Rick’s brother:

“Your lack of encouragement, ungodly approach and unprofessionalism towards my brother are inexcusable. You give the college a bad name and your lack of caring for relationships with people give Christ a bad name. I do not deny that my brother is far better with relationships than maybe paper work and he certainly has more compassion than condemnation for people; I believe that Christ himself told the world that he "did not come to this world to condemn it, but to save it." As an alumni of the college I know that it was far more influential for me to have an employee or teacher to have a relationship with me than to care more for rules than for the individual.”

I snorted loudly. My husband perked up and asked what was going on. I gestured to the computer screen and watching his body language change from relaxed to battle-ready as he processed the message.

“That’s ridiculous!” Dane said. “I’m going to write him back – that’s my wife he’s attacking!”

“Dane – I appreciate your feelings, but you can’t write him back or call him or even mention that this happened,” I said, taking his arms and moving him a few paces away from the computer.

“It’s completely inappropriate that Rick got a family member involved in this – and it would be completely inappropriate for you to get involved!” I looked up at him and pleaded.

“I don’t need you to protect me against him. It’s ok that he’s upset. He should be, he just lost his job,” I leaned against him and placed his arms around my back. “I need you to just love me and support me here, right now, just like you are. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” Dane said as his arms started to return the pressure of a hug around my body. “I can do that. But I’m still really, really angry!”

“I am too,” I said. “But the reality is that my life is going to go on in much the same way it has before – his life is going to be turned upside-down. I’ve got to give him grace for that.”

We stood together, hugging, and I let the warmth of my husband’s arms support me and act as a salve to my wounded heart.

You’re going to end up alone and miserable.

The words were back. They were wrong! I was fierce with myself. I would not allow anything to destroy this little family of mine.

Our embrace lasted for several more moment, Dane and my bodies providing a protective shield around the little life that continued to grow, protected in the love of a mother and a father who were committed to each other and to the baby’s future.

We were not alone.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Alpha:: The Start of It All

“Rick, I hate to say this, but your explanation for this situation is just not good enough,” I found myself saying to the wide-eyed young man I had been supervising for just under a year.

“You willfully disregarded the policies that have been put into place and instead followed your own ideas. That ultimately placed three students in a physically dangerous situation where we could not longer vouch for their safety on this campus.”

“Additionally, you chose not to involve your direct supervisor in the situation after you have been given three separate warnings on this exact issue.” I stopped and cleared my throat, praying that my nerve would continue through the rest of the conversation.

“Because of these problems you will not be allowed to continue in your current position. The choice you have to make now is whether you would like the public opinion to be that you resigned or have been fired. I will respect your wishes in that matter.”

“So…” Rick’s voice dwindled off for a moments as he processed my words. “You’re actually firing me?!”

Keep it simple, short and courteous, I told myself.


“This is ridiculous! You’d rather hold yourself to a policy standard than take people’s individual development into account!” Rick said hotly.

“Rick, I’m not asking you to agree with me, in fact, I really don’t expect you to agree with me at all,” I responded as calmly as I could. “It doesn’t change the decision.”

“You are going to wind up all alone and miserable because you’re incapable of maintaining relationships! Or caring about anything except the rules!” Rick’s face was flushed and little drips of spit shot out of his mouth as he talked.

“I feel sorry for you and for any children you might possibly raise in the future!” he said with finality.

I knew the conversation needed to end as I listened to the blood roar in my ears.

“I respect your right to opinion, Rick. I don’t need your sympathy. I’ll be sending you a written document that outlines the logistics of the end of your position.” I stood up and walked to Rick’s office door. “I’m sorry it has come to this.”

I gently closed the door so that it wouldn’t slam behind me and continued through the building to the exit. Once outside I pulled out my Blackberry ® and shot off a text message to my supervisor:

“I just fired Rick. Thought you should know.”

I walked only 15 paces before the buzzing of the phone in my hand alerted me to a newly received text message.

“What took you so long? You have my support. He needed to go.” Reassuring words from my own boss.

I finished walking across the college campus to my own office. After unlocking the door I made the decision not to open any of the blinds to the office – my subtle hint to any students walking by that this was not a good time to drop by for a conversation.

Rick’s words began to replay in my head.

You’re going to wind up alone and miserable.

Always a possibility. Anyone was capable of wind up alone and miserable, I told myself. But the reality was that I was married to a man who adored me and I adored him. If I wound up alone and miserable it would be because something had gone terribly wrong in my marriage that I couldn’t foresee happening at this point.

I feel sorry for any children that you might have.

My hands went protectively to my abdomen, where the beginnings of a new life, only about six weeks along, were housed. Rick had no idea that I was pregnant, I hadn’t told anyone except my husband yet. However, his words struck me as deeply as anything I knew as they preyed on my own insecurities about becoming a mother.

You’re incapable of maintaining any relationships.

I stared at the plaque on the wall of my office. It was made of mahogany wood, with embossed gold lettering proudly stating, “Staff Member of the Year.” Surely I wouldn’t have won the award from the college’s student government association only three days earlier if I was truly incapable of maintaining relationships, right?

No matter how many times I tried to block his words in my head, they just kept hammering at me. I replayed every aspect of the situation, my words, my reactions, my response to the disciplinary situation. Try as I might I could not believe that I was making the wrong decision.

But his words still hurt. I began to cry. This was the part of the job that made it so difficult to be a leader.

I shifted my gaze from the Staff Member of the Year plaque to another sign, this one photocopied and tattered along the edges. I had displayed it in in every office I worked.

“What is right is not always popular. What is popular is not always right.”

My tears dried up. My heart still hurt. I stood up, turned off the lights to the office and locked the door.

It was time for a drive.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...