So… Maybe It’s Me
After last week’s post, I started seriously contemplating some of my employment (and personal) history over the last 40 years. I’ve always been quite introspective. And I try very hard not to make excuses. So after quite a few years of having employers dislike me, it really got me thinking.
Maybe it’s me.
A couple of weeks ago, a former boss of mine visited and stayed at my home for a few days. We had an amazing time. So obviously I am fully capable of having positive relationships with my employers. After he left, my son and I chatted about my other jobs and employers. I think overall I may have had a really positive relationship with somewhere around 20%!
Let’s get a few things clear. This is not about doing my job well, nor is it about great relationships with the other elements within my jobs. I believe–I really do–that I was successful, albeit at varying levels, wherever I have worked. And I have always enjoyed a lovely relationship with my co-workers, and I have years upon years of great connections I still maintain. I also had a fantastic relationship with countless students, as well as their parents. (And an important side note: This seems to no longer be an issue since I’ve left all forms of education.)
Hovering Around the Top
No, my issues usually hover right around the top. Unfortunately, it’s he who signs the paycheck and makes decisions about my status as an employee where my problems consistently lurked. And that’s the relationship I’m hoping to explore in this post.
My first instinct is to look at my past. My earliest significant memories were of my days in summer camp while in high school. Countless positive experiences… and again, a director who couldn’t stand me. Of course the only way to understand why that’s the case would be to ask her. However, I think it’s because of my perennial lack of ability to follow rules I don’t understand or don’t agree with.
I was never the stereotypical “bad” kid. I wasn’t off in the woods smoking pot. Nor was I violent. But the bad kid also knows how society perceives him, and thus does all in his power to not get caught. They knows their actions will get them immediately kicked out, so they perfect the art of sneakiness, and they’re off doing whatever they do when and where no one will find out.
Whereas my transgressions would usually be things like curfew violations. As a child, I never understood why someone deserving of trust or who wasn’t actually doing anything wrong needed a curfew. Furthermore, by that point in my life I basically had no curfew at home. Why should I have one artificially placed upon me elsewhere?
Now, I’m not saying camps shouldn’t have curfews, parents shouldn’t give curfews, either should differentiate between campers or children respectively, or that I was even behaving properly. I’m just explaining my attitude. An attitude that appears to have spilled a hefty amount into adulthood.
Do What The Boss Says
Do what the boss says. Why? They’re the boss. It’s the generally accepted viewpoint of how to behave properly in the workplace, and certainly a safer path for one who wishes to advance, or minimally maintain their job.
But what happens when you know in your heart or logically that your employer is leading you down the wrong path? Or what happens when your employer makes a suggestion that you choose not to follow, only to find out later that their “suggestion” was just a silly passive-aggressive way of telling you what to do?
And then there’s the issue of education. Teachers thrive best when their classroom is their classroom. This means that unless something really bad is happening, principals and administrators should do their best to stay out of their teachers’ ways and let them teach how they feel comfortable. They need the ability to asses the students in ways they feel comfortable and the space and piece of mind to be able to do what they do to the best of their abilities.
This may be the case in other jobs as well, but I don’t believe it’s to the same extent. Obviously a teacher cannot choose their students or hurt anyone in any fashion, and they can’t choose to abandon a curriculum. However, their method of getting their students from point A to point B should be left entirely in their hands.
Or should it?
Yes, this is how administrators are supposed to behave. But what happens when they don’t? Do we just default to “listen to the boss” even when the boss is wrong?
Sadly, the answer is yes. At least if you want to keep your job. But even if you do what you’re told, and do so quickly, your reluctance or questioning is always noted, and will not go well for you.
And I think that’s the first step in understanding what’s going on with me, and also understanding why I haven’t really had a problem since leaving education.
I have trouble doing what I am “supposed” to do when I know in my heart that it is wrong, and in a sense it’s a more “adult” version of how I ignored rules I didn’t care about as a teenager.
Solving the Employer Riddle
I do not believe that I have solved the riddle of the uncomfortable recurring patterns in my life, but I do think I have at least begun to scratch the surface.
I’m also not necessarily proud of the behavior. And certainly not the outcome.
I will continue to plunge deeper into who I am and what has happened in my life, in order to better understand the results. And I will seek synergy in a way whereby my obsession with personal integrity and passion for autonomy do not interfere with my professional success.
If you have any insights that I am overlooking, trust me: I’m all ears.