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Frustrated? Take Charge Of Yourself Before You Start A Dialog

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on August 10, 2011

Once upon a time, Mikaela served on a leadership group at her University, along with the Dean (her boss), and two other professors.  When faced with a series of ethical and policy issues involving the professors, she sought the assistance and leadership of her boss, the Dean.

But the Dean seemed uninclined to be of any help at all.  He dismissed or ignored her completely, while saying, while calling her passionate and emotional, and then saying, “I’ll deal with it.”

When one of these men created a hostile work environment for a Chinese staff person, she took it to her boss, who took no action.
When one of  these men was caught buying drugs from a student, the Dean looked the other way.
And now, one of her assistants had walked in on one of these men viewing pornography on his computer. He’d made no attempt to hide it.  Her assistant was embarrassed and angry. Mikaela felt this was righteous anger, but that anger wouldn’t change anything.  And she knew that she had to communicate yet again with her dismissive boss.
Only a few months earlier, Mikaela had let the interaction with her boss become about her and her feelings, which was a diversion away from the issues that she cared deeply about. He and the two professors had labeled her emotional, as if this somehow did away with the validity of her concerns.  And she, flustered, had let them.
Not anymore.  Because, while she was passionate about the issue of fairness, she had learned the importance of taking charge over her own feelings and attitudes before making a connection with her boss.
She’d practiced by reviewing the past experiences, and now felt ready to handle this one in an entirely different way.
So when the Dean told her, “Men will be men,” Mikaela nodded as if she understood.  And instead of taking offense, as she might have in the past, she welcomed this statement as the beginning of a more meaningful dialog.  She found the leverage in it, instead of reacting to it.
She asked, “What does that mean to you, exactly, when you say ‘men will be men’?  And please help me understand, what does that have to do with Professor Harville looking at pornography?”
The Dean mumbled an answer that sounded like, “Well, men are, um, you know, they have, er, they…”
Mikaela interrupted.  “Dean, I honestly don’t know what you’re trying to say.  The men in my life aren’t like that.   And here’s what I do know.  There’s a real problem here, and its only one of several that I’ve brought to your attention regarding these professors.   The problem isn’t my feelings or your opinions.  And my question to you is this.  When will you take the prescribed disciplinary action as laid out by the board to address these issues?”
The Dean, no longer able to hide from his responsibilities, found himself in a dialog about specific actions. And guess what?  The more specific you are about where you’re going, the more likely it is that you’ll take steps to get there.  And that’s what happened.  The Dean stepped up to his responsibilities, because Mikaela had learned to take the dialog past the feelings and opinions, and deal with the facts.
Your feedback and comments are welcome
Be well,
Rick

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