Okay folks, I want to open this by saying that this is not a “shame on you” entry. I know I’m going up against things that have existed since the dawn of time, and I don’t pretend that this entry will open eyes and magically change the world. I’m merely trying to raise awareness of unrecognized perils to something that we all do, and hope it will lead to some wisdom in actions. Likely not, but you can’t plead ignorance after reading this entry.
I’ll cut to the chase. We all play favorites. It’s not a “thing” limited to certain places or relationships. We do it all the time and we do it everywhere. It happens in families (you know it does). It happens at work. It happens at church. It happens in clubs, societies, sororities, classrooms, emergency rooms, waiting rooms – hell, I’ve even seen it happen at the county dump when the cute blonde in the sporty car was waved ahead of me to empty trash. Call it “favoritism.” Call it “the good old boy system.” Call it “cliques” or “popularity contests.” Call it whatever you want. It happens.
I know everybody reading this is shouting and saying “oh hell no.” Oh hell yes. Let’s drop the pretense and b.s. for just a few minutes. I promise not to go on too long and you can resume the “formalities” momentarily. Besides, I’m trying to help you here. At least in my own, strip-off-the-nonsense-and-call-it-like-it-is way. And remember, I said we’re all guilty. Me too. You too. Everybody too. Even my birds have their “favorite humans.” This could well precede not only time and space, but all of creation. Partiality happens. There’s no stopping it.
It’s a simple fact that yes, we are predisposed to react more favorably to some people and situations than others. It’s personality – some just go together better than others. It’s also life experience – we relate better to those that have faced similar experiences or have a similar lifestyle. There are complex nature/nurture forces at play that make us more receptive and gracious toward some people than others. Likewise, there are some types we throw up our guard against. I mentioned in the last entry that it miffs me that charisma wins over character so much – that’s because I’ve been the victim of people using charisma to hide serious character flaws several times. Their “God bless us every one” demeanor was hiding a nasty temper bent on utter annihilation. So naturally, I don’t trust “popular” people because I see the red lightsaber just waiting to stab me.
That being said, it happens. Despite modern science, I doubt we ever unlock the secrets of the human personality. It’s too complex and this is one of those things that you can’t account for. We naturally like some people better than others. And conversely, we naturally dislike those that strike us unfavorably. There’s no cure for it. You can’t fix it and people are going to play favorites. It’s going to happen. Now here’s where we run into the problem:
Nobody likes being a “not favorite.” Anytime you complement somebody, anytime you recognize somebody, anytime you put someone on a pedestal or offer public praise or thanks, then other people will feel left out and perceive it as a slight. Because no man is an island and no matter how wonderful Mr. or Miss Wonderful is, it’s unlikely they did it on their own. And, sad to say, some people are very good at getting other people to do everything and having the credit funneled directly to their feet. But that’s another entry for another day. Recognition – and especially public recognition – can open a nasty can of worms that you don’t even know until they’re crawling up your leg. At best, the people you failed to recognize will quit on you, and you’re setting your favorite to the test of picking up the load. At worst, they’ll turn on you. And God help you if it’s a former favorite that you’ve changed your mind about and they know stuff. Ouch.
So does that mean public recognition of good service should be banned? Not at all. I’m just saying that if you want the dog to stay in the yard, then you need to throw them a bone. And not just the head of the pack – everyone in the yard needs a bone. So if you’re going to thank people, be sure that you take off what I call the “swell guy” blinders and open your eyes to everybody. Don’t hold one person up unless you have darn strong justification to do it. And going the extra mile to find out what speaks to a person can also help. Some people don’t want public recognition. My colleagues are smart enough to know an occasional “thank you,” showing interest in my writing, and a bar-b-que luncheon once or twice a year will keep me from squawking like a pissed off parakeet. Which is hilarious, because it didn’t take them long to figure that out and my former colleagues never did get it. Some things are a mystery because you choose not to put forth the two seconds to notice, eh?
My point is this – we all play favorites, but it helps to check yourself every now and then. Showing favoritism is generally considered impolite,; and I know we don’t care for etiquette in the 21st century, but this is a formality that perhaps needs to be reinstated. Did you notice in the paragraph above that I was open to what types I’m not partial to, but I didn’t mention what types I am partial to? No way I’m telling that. But at least you know what raises my defenses, so there’s my attempt at leveling the playing field. Now you know a trigger to avoid with me.
That being said, it might behoove you to quietly put your favorites in your inner circle and exercise discretion in your dealings. Don’t let it show. Throw the non-favorites something every now and then. And for goodness sake, if you do a public acknowledgement and get wind that somebody feels slighted, please take Dale Carnige’s advice to humbly apologize and rectify the situation. Digging in your heels and fighting to justify yourself won’t win friends or influence people. Just say “sorry, I am grateful for you and will be glad to acknowledge it with an apology for leaving you out,” do it, and let it go. That’s character and will close out the situation much faster that “well I did it because they did la de dah de dah and where were you then?”
And as for the rest of us, give us a bar-b-que luncheon. Yea, that’ll shut us up. For a minute.
That’s all today. You may now resume the formalities of pretending like we modern folks don’t do this crap.
There was an incident today that I feel needs to be addressed once and for all. It's time to clear the air. So here we go.
I had a House committee meeting today on regulations for one of my programs. As some of you know, my job moved from one department to another on July 1, 2010. Moving two registration programs is a massive effort - so massive that we've spent the past year and a half trying to get things settled. We have our last bit of work in the legislature in hopes of wrapping up this transition for once and for all and getting settled in a nice, peaceful routine.
I was sent to this meeting in order to observe and note what items the committee discussed so we could prepare for anything that needs to be addressed as it continues through the legislative process. Unfortunately, the plan I was sent to execute was disrupted when a former associate of our program (who is also a former colleague that worked closely with this program before my time here) showed up. Even though he is no longer on payroll or associated with the program or my department in any way, he felt it necessary to use his clout to intervene when the committee was discussing my program's item. The intervention resulted in the natural progression of the conversation to derail into areas that caused the committee members so much confusion that they referred it back to the subcommittee in hopes of getting the questions cleared up. Translation: we took a step back today, which means a delay, which means that my department and the representatives for my program are not happy.
I'm not either, and this mess forces me to attend to an unexpected situation. There are, obviously, some issues with my former colleagues and associates that need to be addressed. And so I have decided to use this blog entry to address them in an open letter to clear the air and set the record straight, for once and for all.
Dear Former Colleagues and Associates:
I understand that transition is tough. Lord knows, I've been through my share. I went to hell and back between my job move and my in-laws moving to town at the same time in the spring/summer of 2010. By the grace of God and the support of some great, stable people in my life (meaning my husband and immediate family), I was able to not only survive two concurrent life changes, but to thrive as well. I openly admit that my old life is dead. There's nothing of it left behind. I actually came to it recently in what I call a "Frodo Baggins Revelation." Just as Frodo realized that his adventure changed him too much to return to his old life, I also realize that I'm not the person I was. You see me out and about and you recognize my physical appearance, but if you talked for me even for a few minutes, you'd realize this isn't the Sherri you knew 18 months ago. Great change has that effect on a person. In fact, I'd say that if it didn't then there's probably something wrong because it should. While the fundamental basics of who you are remain stable, a major life transition (or two) SHOULD shift your paradiam so much that it changes how you see the world and apply those fundamentals to your life. I've moved on and learned so much more than I ever thought possible in a relatively short period of time. It's shocking, but I also see that it was necessary. I needed to change. I needed to grow up more. I needed to lose my fear and to live more boldly than I was in the past so I can fulfill my life purpose now and into the future.
What surprises me is to find that obviously, you are having some problems letting go. To intervene in the affairs of a program that you gave up 18 months ago, knowingly and willingly, is stark evidence that seems to say you still haven't severed your own ties to the past. Honestly, it was the last thing I expected. You played it so cool during and after my move that frankly, I thought you were relieved to be rid of the programs and to move on without them and me. Yet today I (and the full House committee) saw evidence that you are still following our progress and seem to feel some sense of obligation to "look after" us. I can assure you that this isn't necessary. Really it isn't appropriate and I won't lie - there are some folks on my end of this that are furious about what they deem as an unwelcome intervention. Their ways aren't your ways, and the fact that they didn't send an entorage to this meeting didn't speak of negligence - it was strategy for future planning. And you blew up that strategy because you inserted yourself into business that really isn't even yours to look in on because you believe in "making things happen" instead of letting them progress.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not here to cast blame. I understand that it can be hard to let go when something has been your responsibility for a long time. These programs are as old as I am, so it's natural to feel some attachment to something that was under your wing for over 35 years. I also understand that I was very young when you hired me to handle these programs. I was a 23 year old recent college graduate and newleywed in 1999 when you hired me - but that was 13 years ago. I grew up, folks. I don't know if you realized it, but in the years I spent there I did grow, I did learn, and I did outgrow many things. I won't deny that I still have much to learn, and I can be my own kind of fool from time to time. But please, grant me the grace to be the igit I am, not the igit you assume I am because you know the 23 year old me but not the 36 year old me. And believe it or not, there's a great difference between those two people. The girl I was is gone. I'm a new creation now. You may or may not like it. I don't know, and it doesn't matter because I'm gone so it's pointless to ponder.
Likewise, the programs have grown. As I said, the department where we are has a very different way of doing things, but different isn't bad or wrong. In fact, it's been very good for them and they've come a long way in a little time themselves. They're evolving by leaps and bounds but once again, by God's grace we're making it. We're working with great people that work in a very efficient team and have dedicated themselves to learning these programs inside and out. We have daily support. And frankly, it's refreshing for me and for the Board members to be in a place where everybody knows what we do and understand the issues we face, day in and day out. I have met so many good people. I moved to a smaller agency and learned that the world was so much bigger than I ever realized. It's a paradox I know, but an interesting one that I find delight in.
You said when the legislation was drafted to move me that it wasn't personal, it was just business. That's ok. Now please, maintain your professional demeanor. Today was awkward. Let's not do that again. If you wonder how I'm doing or how the programs are doing, please do it right. You know where to find us. Swallow your pride and call or e-mail. Please, let go of the past and entrust us and yourselves to the present. Believe, as we do, that everything happens for a reason. This move went through because the Lord willed it to go through. For whatever reason, He deemed this the time and place for our program to pass from one place to another and change isn't bad. It just provides the tools for moving forward. We do appreciate all that you did for us in the past, but we aren't your responsibility anymore. It's been 18 months and it's time for all of us to move on.
So please, let go. It's not personal OR business anymore. It's just reality. And I know from cold, hard experience that's something that always catches up with you. So make life easy - accept it sooner before it kicks your butt later.
I wish you well in your future endeavors. If we meet again I sincerely hope it will be under better, more friendly circumstances. What I said when I moved still stands: I wish you no ill will as our paths diverged - just respect for what was and the grace to allow us to grow in our respective directions.