I’ve spent most of my 20s trying to keep my mouth shut, except for when I’m certain of something. I think that, by and large, I have succeeded quite well in that goal. There’s no other reason people would praise me for possessing wisdom and thoughtfulness as consistently as they do, unless I was succeeding in keeping all the dumbass shit in my head right there, where it’s better off. I don’t intend to start spewing hasty decisions and half-thought ideas & concepts all over the place, but it’s also true that there are some people, whom I recently ended my working relationship with, who think I did just that. I hope to explain a little better what prompted me to take the action that I did. That is, of course, just in case you, dear reader, haven’t already figured it out for yourself. (And for those of you compeletely in the dark, my “Open letter” is the post on this blog immediately previous to this one; it’s what I’ll be referencing. I’ve anonymized it for the sake of some decency, and because I feel at this completely public Internet level its many specifics are irrelevant, but that the content as a whole still stands.)
I do think a lot more than I speak, generally, but I still don’t feel that such thought alone gets me the wisdom I’ve gotten credit for. If anything, what I’m best at is recognizing when I do(accidentally or not) say or think something worth repeating, and then stick with it. The theme of the previous blog entry, the “Open Letter,” regards the behavior of my boss, [Mr. X], and my voicing of what I felt was a majority opinion of disapproval of his actions in the past, and up to the present, at [The Company]. I feel I was in the right – but the response of agreement to my letter was from a smaller majority than I anticipated. Many people, including some dear friends, thought my actions were cowardly, irresponsible, and hurtful; that I had lacked compassion and sensitivity; perhaps most repeatedly, that I had crossed a line.
It saddens me to know that I’ve lost the respect of those people. I hope it isn’t fully; I hope it isn’t permanent. I can’t fully agree with their perspective on what I did, but I think I can appreciate it on certain levels, and I have tried my best to defend my own position without dismissing their points or further offending them in some other way. Such offense was never my intention and certainly isn’t now. Even so, I stand by my words, and my actions.
I don’t feel life is worth living, without holding certain ideals. My Open Letter was about [Mr. X] and the many ways in which the ideals, which I feel myself and many others hold, were egregiously overturned, disregarded, and wilfully ignored by him, time and again. And that’s one interesting distinction that I will make now – of all the detractors and all the words I’ve read from them, not a one has attacked the content of my letter. That makes sense to me; [X]’s behavior, as I described it, is undeniable. So, I feel this is very largely a conflict of what I would call “Style vs. Substance.” I think both are important. Substance, is, of course, what it is, and Style, by which I mean, the method of delivering my letter to [Mr. X] and my co-workers in this case is paramount. I spent a good deal of time quibbling with myself over what would be the best way. I now know that there are more than I expected who disagree with me – but, I still feel that it was the best option.
Part of what I pointed on in my letter, is [X]’s playing of “favorites” and “not favorites.” I’d like first to be clear that being within the circle of “favorites” must have been nice, and I don’t blame anyone for their position there. It is inevitable, with a boss behaving as such, that one is either in, or one is out. I have worked for others in the past and been a “favorite.” There are a lot of good, hard-working, decent people on the “in-side.” For me, their presence there doesn’t detract at all from their earnest, good nature. But, I wasn’t there, ever, despite my ultra-hard, expert work, perpetually-lauded by coworkers, customers, and certain managers alike. [X] and I were never close. I suffered many verbal abuses from him, most of which were typically, but not limited to, unnecessary and frivolous (if not completely misled) attacks and criticisms. These instances best exemplify how I feel I kept my job as long as I did; by keeping my mouth shut. I tried my damnedest never to speak back at him, ever. It was my opinion then, as it still is today, that open debate, if not outright arguing and disagreement (in front of customers), is completely out of place, especially in those break-neck busy season restaurant weekend nights, in which they occurred; not now, I thought; save it for later, I thought, if it’s so important. It often struck me that he was almost trying to pick fights with me, despite my silent, respectful tongue. This was a difference between us that I considered irrevocable. I know because every one in a while, I would lose a bit of control, and say something back. I don’t think these instances ever would go down in [The Company]’s history of great fights, of which I’ve seen a few, but I will further say that this is largely because, if I let slip a bit, and offered a contrary position, I would shut myself back up all the quicker, and as a result, it never led to much. Such was his and my dynamic. When I ever initiated a conversation of any import at all, he would completely dismiss me, if not actually, with his mannerisms and wilful forgetfulness. So, for these reasons, of course, on a strictly social level, we had no real relationship.
I know that what I wrote in the letter represents [X]’s actual, despicable actions, towards myself and others. When I hit my “tipping point” over an incident involving a customer and friend, I realized I had been compiling, for some time, a laundry list of complaints about [X]. It took me months to find a new job that satisfied my needs, partially because I knew that, while on the one hand, I was fed up with [X], and his presence especially at [The Company], I also had endured it all long enough that there seemed no reason to storm out, at that moment, in some ineffectual hissyfit of disgruntled rage. While I sought out a new job, I had plenty of time to think about exactly how and when I should initiate my permanent departure from [The Company], and air my grievances.
Speaking with many co-workers, and witnessing even more misbehavior over the years, I knew that if any attempt to try and cease the perpetual decline of employee suffering and mistreatment would succeed, even slightly, calling out [X], publicly (or at least within [The Company]), would be one of the few, if only, ways to try to force his acknowledgement of such behavior. Based on my experiences with him over the years, I was all too ready, and I feel rightly so, not to bother in figuring a way to address him personally. My countless experiences had shown how that would’ve been a lost cause; and what else can one rely on for knowledge than experience? He and I had never had a healthy, respectful conversation, despite what I considered to be my best efforts, so why should I expect one now, at the end, when I’m finally coming to terms with him over a rather large amount of grievance, which had been building for some time? I certainly wasn’t going to orate the whole thing for him in any event, even if I did hand-deliver the letter; so, I left a sealed envelope on his desk. That way, he could read it privately, and take time in his initial actions following, to decide what, if anything, to do. I also knew [X] has been very dismissal of me in the past, so the “public” postings were my solution. I put “public” in quotes, because I feel this has all been a lot less public than most realize. There were two hard copies placed within The Company’s walls, but only in places where employees could read them. From what I’ve been told, they came down almost immediately. I did post it further on facebook and here on my blog, but the facebook post was restricted to its severest privacy levels (only my “friends” can read it). And, let’s be glaringly honest here: mine is not a very popular, well-read blog. When I post something, some of my facebook associates read it, if any. I know there are three (3!) subscribers to it, also of the facebook variety, and thus redundant, in most senses.
In fairness though, my biggest lapse of judgement was posting this using all proper names and places without a thought, if only for my own legal protection. That, too, has been fixed, fewer than 24 hours after the initial posting. There was, to me, a surprisingly large clamoring for me to take it down entirely, that I wasn’t being respectful or sensitive of the situation. I will address that last bit momentarily, but I did agree, after a wise suggestion from The Sister, as I believe she prefers to be called, that I could keep it up if the names were down. And I agree fully. After all, the point had been made, and the people who needed to know, knew. While I did feel it appropriate to keep the post up, there was no strong need to keep naming names. Those who I wanted to read it, still could, reading between my lines, understanding it fully. Those who were unaware of the situation at large, could read my letter, and either agree that I was righteous in my choices of actions and letters, or that I had crossed so many lines. In either opinion, however, they would not know the personal specifics.
Now, to discuss the varying degrees and definitions of “cowardice.” I think what some of my detractors and I differ on is what defines cowardice. To them, it seems, (and if you’re reading this, please, correct me if I’m wrong) that my weakest action was in not hand-delivering this letter, face to face. I’ve already talked about why I felt rational in my decision not to do that. I hold different meanings of the word in my head. For me, the most cowardly thing to do would have been to say nothing at all, to “chicken out,” as it were, and stay at a job with a boss I can’t bear to look in the eyes because of the ways he has crossed me. For me, cowardice would have been leaving the job as I did without writing any letter, or ever letting him know how he had wronged me, or how he had wronged anyone else. (I do believe he has some awareness of his actions, but this awareness is clearly not enough to curb any of his behavior.) For me, the most cowardly action I took was the same one most everyone else takes too: I didn’t address any of this with him as an employee. Even I was afraid, essentially, if not prudently so, to do anything but wait until I was no longer his employee to comfortably call him out for things in a way I think should have happened long ago. Such is how I perceive cowardice.
What about unprofessional, which I’ve also been described as being? It’s true, I think personally addressing it with him behind closed doors would have been the most “professional” way to handle things. But I also think this situation became extremely unprofessional long before I got involved. Please pardon my vindictive stance if you think it’s worth disagreeing over, but the behaviors described in the letter don’t warrant much respect from me. After all that has happened, and all I’ve described, which no one is refuting, does he deserve one last chance? Not in my opinion. [X] threw out my forgiveness long ago. Unprofessional, for me, would have been walking out in the middle of a shift the moment after he finally broke my spirit and fully enraged me, those few months ago. For me, unprofessional would have been not giving two weeks’ notice, quitting on the spot when I found a new job. For me, unprofessional would have been not working just as hard, if not harder, on my last days leading up to my departure, not giving as much of my all as I always did at that job. Such is how I perceive unprofessional behavior.
One of the final criticisms I want to address here is that of the line I crossed, which I believe concerns my allusions to [X]’s status as being “married” or not, “monogamous” or not, and the potentially dubious behavior I mentioned, but did not at all specifically describe, in my letter. I actually assume the “rumors” I mentioned to be true. The sources I know are many and trustworthy. I think if anything, my less than constant presence at [The Company] most recently, due to my schedule and generally busy life, has kept me further out of most gossip circles than I would normally be in touch with. So, when I alluded to those rumors in my letter, despite my confidence in my sources, I chose to let them remain “rumors” rather than facts. I have also gotten a few responses from people out of touch with the entire [Company] circle, and when asked about that section, it was very much agreed that to an outside reader, I had succeeded in being so vague that the subject matter was nearly lost entirely. So, alluding to a rumor has garnered me the judgement, from some people, of having crossed a line. I think, honestly, that that part had some of the more finely and exacting sentences I could have composed: for those who knew, most likely even more than I did, the message was clear. For those who didn’t know, the message was lost. The truth does hurt, but only when you know it. “It’s like telling a joke in which the punchline is an innocent phrase; the listener only ‘gets it’ because they understand the implied subtext.” — That’s what she said.
So, unprofessional, cowardly, and over the line? I think the different definitions are valid. But I’m going to stick with my own for now.
If there’s any room for humor here, is this it? I think at worst, this is a Lebowski moment – “You’re not wrong, man, you’re just an asshole.” Maybe that sums it up best, since no one is refuting what I’ve actually said, just the way I’ve said it. Fine. Maybe I am an asshole. What about the asshole I’m talking about in my letter? I hope I’m not beating a dead horse here, but honestly – If I were making this up, my methods wouldn’t matter, and I would be quickly ignored, and dismissed, by everyone. If I were telling the truth, (which I feel I am), is my “method of delivery” really so repugnant as to allow the content of my letter to be glossed over completely? Some think my biggest flaw was in not delivering the letter personally. I wonder, if the only difference between how I dealt with this were if I had in fact brought the same exact inflammatory comments to light, and to [X], but did it, initially, face to face? Would my critics suddenly be singing my praises as a rightly acting, moral and ethical individual, the way others already are now?
As one comment put it, “I think we ALL can agree that Sherwin is too ballsy … or not ballsy enough … wait, what?” I like that. I’m just not the proper degree of ballsy. Once we can figure that appropriate level, it’ll all make sense.
Then again, there is that old saying about me being an ass.