Jan 9, 2013
Friends, for more than a dozen years I was a volunteer peer counselor for an LGBT counseling organization called Identity House, and for a number of years after that worked as a life/health coach, until I realized that it might be time to focus on some neglected parts of my own life. Shortly after, I bought my first sewing machine and, well, you know the rest.
I don't do any formal counseling these days, but I thought it might be interesting if, since we do occasionally discuss topics unrelated to sewing/fabric/patterns/Cathy, I might introduce something new: MPB's "Rules to Live By." You may or may not agree with the ones I choose, but most will be familiar to you. Either way, I hope they'll generate discussion!
Today's rule is Don't Burn Any Bridges.
I know that there are times when nothing would be more satisfying that telling someone off, especially in a work situation. American popular culture is full of stories of retribution and revenge, many of them extremely violent. In real life, however, I believe revenge usually harms the person seeking vengeance more than it does its object (unless we're talking homicide, which is worse for the victim).
When we're young, most of us lack the foresight or self-discipline to think about the implications of our actions. When I was sixteen, I worked as the only male au pair in East Hampton for a tyrannical woman from the Upper East Side with an extremely spoiled son. She treated me horribly and didn't want to pay me my full however-many-weeks' pay, so the day I left, while she was out of the house, I hid a pile of cracked eggs behind the stove. For all I know the eggs simply dried out and nobody was the wiser, but in my mind she'd returned the following Friday to a house reeking of sulfur. In the end, I never did hear from her again so who knows?
Do I regret the egg incident? Not really; she deserved worse. But it wasn't really my place to mete out justice, and it only would have made me look bad.
I once had to quit a job when it became obvious to me my boss was trying to get me fired, but those situations have been rare, and I always tried to act in a professional manner: in this last situation, this resulted in my getting an unexpected (and unrequired) full two weeks' extra pay, even though I'd been at the job less than three months (The best of these bad situations come to a head quickly.). I can't imagine ever needing to go back to this person for any reason, but it's good to know that should I run into her on the street, I can hold my head up high rather than duck into the nearest CVS, Rite Aid, or Duane Reade pharmacy. And you never know when you might need a reference from a previous employer, perhaps even that very employer, and if you slashed their tires in the office garage, then what are you going to do?
I am certainly not saying you shouldn't be enraged, yell, vent -- that's what friends and family are for. I'm talking supression not repression, i.e., suppress the urge to get into a shouting match on the job. Don't repress your very real feelings of hurt or injustice. This is when you have to be your own best friend (or loving parent to your inner child) and validate and honor your true feelings, but don't let them spill out into your professional life and potentially jeopardize your future.
Especially in our ultra-networked present, people are connected in ways we aren't always aware of. The time we raged at our boss or lost our cool is going to be remembered by we-don't-know-how many people. Unfortunate but true.
One more thing: this rule does not apply to affairs of the heart. Sometimes we really do need to throw someone's clothes out the window or spraypaint expletives on an ex's garage door. Just no guns, please (except in self-defense).
Readers, that is today's rule: may I never find myself unable to follow it!
How about you? Have you ever burnt a bridge and lived to regret it, or can you still savor the sweet taste of revenge and know you made the right choice?
Labels: dime store psychology