I recently agreed to appear in a court case concerning a “hostile work environment”. I went because I think there is too much noise without proof in these fast sound bite days. Anyone running a business knows that employees often make claims that are unjust, unreal, and unfair. Often, however, it is simply easier to leave the situation alone rather than take the time and money to fight it.
In this case, the amount of money in the claim was negligible, and my client thought it through and said to me “You know, Sylvia, how you teach that those who remain silent are guilty too; well I decided that healthy changes in the workplace also begin with me.”
So, off we went! The judge, or referee, as he is called was a pleasant man who must sit through dozens of these claims week after week after week. He was like a repeat of an old television program called Dragnet, where the detectives just wanted the facts, just the facts. He must have repeated that half a dozen times as the woman who wanted her money for being “hostilized” kept adding her emotional spin to everything.
As I sat there, I was amazed at the power of behavior patterns and how they are, well everywhere. The woman who walked off her job, Doris, was a pleasant, though tired looking individual who had the sad eyes of someone who wanted to be heard and yet, mostly melted into the background. I had met her when working with her team and she fit the pattern as martyr perfectly.
The martyr mantle is worn by those who over work, over offer, over do. They want recognition. That would be fine except, it is as if there is a hole in the bottom of their emotional pitcher and no matter what you say, how often you say it, how many kudos you give, it is never enough.
If you can track back to the etiology of the origins of the gaping hole, it is most always the result of childhood trauma. In this case I had warned the supervisor to be wary. Mary, the supervisor was a rescuer and had to mind her manners, so that she would not jump in and spend her time in a heroic attempt to plug the broken part at the bottom of Doris’ emotional pitcher.
I was in my observer mode as I watched the referee look from one side to the other. He interjected quick questions that would get to the heart of the matter. The results will not be available for several weeks. Yet, for me, and the others in the room it was clear that when we stay locked in patterns, when no internal work is done to transform them, sooner or later there is an implosion or explosion.
I was proud of my client for bringing this to the fore. I was delighted that she did not want to hurt her now former employee; rather she wanted to set the record straight. She hoped that this might jog Doris into looking at herself, her life, her whining and her incessant need for acknowledgment.
I doubt that Doris will look. I believe she will go to a next job, and a next, searching for the approval she never got as a small child. However, what I do know is that Mary has become pattern aware. She has learned in the past several months how she locked into the pattern puzzle with her direct report and that wanting to rescue did not make the workplace any better.
Mary is in process of changing her rescuer pattern to its healthy opposite, the mentor. In fact, her entire team is thriving at a whole new level now. They have all taken the pattern aware quiz (www.sylvialafair.com) and are talking once a week at a lunch and learn class about how they can each take their patterns and transform them.
My client is grateful to Doris, sad and grateful. She is also proud of herself; that she did not back down and take the easy route. Think about your work challenges and remember that “he or she who remains silent is guilty too”. Stand up and speak out!