Monday, June 12, 2006

Let's Talk

After last week's "she doesn't like me" debacle, I found myself angry, irritated and frustrated with how the whole "meeting" went. Because Michelle was bawling, I felt I was unable to really say what was on my mind ("This is ridiculous! What is this, the eighth grade?") or do what I really wanted to do (laugh), and instead was relegated to the just playing the role of listener.

I decided to write a confidential memo to Chris, outlining the "points" made, and my rebuttal to each. I had hoped to give it to her early on Thursday (the day I decided to return back to work), however the day was filled with frantic last-minute activity for our upcoming conference, so I didn't get a chance to hand it over until I was leaving for the day. Here it is, in it's entirity:

After our meeting on June 6, 2006 with Michelle R., I felt it important to provide my rebuttal to a few of the items brought up for discussion:

Item #1: "PJ doesn’t like me."
Rebuttal: "Liking" or "Not Liking" a fellow employee is not a condition of work. Yes, it’s nice to like fellow employees, but as long as the work gets done and there is no sniping, arguing, etc., it shouldn’t matter whether or not I like another employee. (Let me state for the record that I do like the employee in question, but whether I do or not should not shade how I’m viewed as an employee.)

Item #2: By giving a contract for Michelle to file, I was “setting” her up for "failure."
Rebuttal: I do not, nor have I ever, set Michelle up for failure. By stating that I had set her up for failure by simply giving her a document to file is, frankly, a ridiculous and unfounded declaration. I, myself, did not know where to file the document. That does not make me a failure, nor does that same lack of knowledge make Michelle a failure. Furthermore, I rarely give Michelle projects, so there really isn’t any way that I’m "consistently" setting her up for "failure." Moreover, on the few occasions I have given her something to do, I made it clear that I was available to answer her questions.

Item #3: "PJ never talks to me," coupled with "PJ isn’t shy."
Rebuttal: Both statements are untrue, and the latter has absolutely nothing to do with work. It’s a personality trait, and I shouldn’t have to argue with a fellow co-worker as to whether or not I’m shy. Regarding the "never talks" accusation, I feel the need to point out that Michelle and I talk frequently about common interests, especially when we have the office to ourselves. However, as Acme Consulting Company is a place of work, and as I was told upon hire "while we like to have fun, we don’t often have a lot of time to just chat," I try my best to adhere to that policy. Moreover, Michelle mentioned to me that she has an extreme distaste for chatty conversations in the morning, so I refrain from engaging her in those types of conversations in the AM, to honor her, not to push her away.

Item #4: Michelle feels intimidated by me, and is uncomfortable approaching me.
Rebuttal: This is an insecurity issue on her part, and should not reflect badly upon me. I am not responsible for her feelings and insecurities. I have made myself available to her on many occasions, and have told her numerous times that if she has any questions about certain projects to just ask. If she doesn’t ask – or doesn’t have the courage to ask – that’s not my fault, and it’s not in my control.

In closing, I would like to say that I understand emotions sometimes get in the way and we all have a bad day now and again. However, I feel that I was unfairly and unjustly put into the spot of defending myself against accusations that are more about the complainant’s feelings, emotions and insecurities than any real workplace issues that can be fixed. Arguing with someone as to whether or not I really am shy or do like the person is not conflict resolution, nor is it productive. It only serves to get the complainant’s feelings out in the open, but neglects to offer applicable, workable solutions to make things better. Moreover, on a personal note, the emotionally-charged accusations and lack of concrete, workable solutions left me in the awkward position of having little or no recourse for working towards viable conflict resolution solutions.

In other words, I have no control over Michelle R.’s insecurities, or what she thinks and feels. I am not responsible for those, nor should I be held responsible for those. However, if she feels I am not giving her the tools she needs to be successful on the job, or if she feels she needs more guidance to complete tasks, then I would be more than happy to address those problems and work towards obtaining successful solutions.

This morning, Chris called from the conference to give me some information, etc. At the end of our conversation, she said she wished I hadn't given her such a "formal" missive, and that she felt bad that I didn't just talk to her about all that stuff. She said she much prefers talking, however she did read what I had to say and would like to talk to me about it when she returns.

I understand where she's coming from, however we all see how much of a chance I am given to "talk" in these meetings. Kind of hard to be brutally honest when someone is crying and her boss is trying to make things easy on her.

I welcome the chance to talk. Now let's just see if it really happens.

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