Thursday, May 10, 2007


Last night, I had an interesting email exchange with a woman who is a member of a mailing list where we both hang out.

She wrote this to the mailing list:

The [supervisor - CS] though is going to get an email tomorrow stating exactly what I feel and why about how I am being treated and that I feel like she is trying to force me out. And telling her exactly what I have done [on the job - CS] and what I think are my strengths. Then things either get better and she gets off my back and lets me do my job or I will give my resignation too.

I'll call her Janet.

I immediately sent her an email, saying "don't even consider writing that letter! Just tender your resignation. Keep your dignity, above all things."

She wrote back, giving me a multitude of reasons why she wanted to express herself. We debated it for a while and my final note said, "do what serves you best. I don't believe this does."

There was something that made me extremely uncomfortable about her plans and I've spent a little bit of time trying to sort through it. I haven't come to any conclusions yet which is why I bring it here for more input.

Two things stand out:

Why in the world would she want to talk about her feelings to an employer who has mistreated her,


Why in the world would she want to talk about those attributes she considers to be her strengths?

Pride cometh before the fall, as they say, and that's something I've believed .. well.. from birth. Honestly. I think I popped out of the pod that way and never had to be taught about pride or boastfulness. It never became an issue.

I don't believe pride is a good thing for many reasons. I still maintain that. My pat response, back when I was still in the workforce, when asked what I believed my strengths to be was "I don't know. That's not really for me to say." And I meant it. It wasn't coyness.

I prefer humility. It is just a more comfortable way to walk the earth, without the need for constant self-promotion.

Additionally, for Janet to express her feelings and talk about them with an adversary makes no sense. It is giving ammunition to someone who will likely misuse it.

I believe she should remain silent, tender a one-line resignation and be done with it.

What say you?




Snoskred said...

I think I get why she wants to do it. She clearly thinks the situation is not completely unworkable yet and hopes this might solve things. If it were completely unworkable she would be tendering her resignation.

She probably values her job, would like to stay with the company and would be perfectly happy if certain things were fixed. She feels that listing her strengths serves to show what will be lost if things don't change. I don't necessarily think it is about being boastful or about pride, it's about something else.

However in the real world of work, you are right - doing something like this does not usually help.

There is a lot of bullying going on in workplaces these days. I don't think a letter to the supervisor is ideal - it would be better to write a letter to the supervisor's supervisor! :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

It's hard to answer this question without knowing the nature of the bad treatment, but I think that if she does send a letter to her supervisor, she should cc the woman's boss as well.

There is a difference between pride of workmanship and Pridefulness. I was raised to be modest and self-effacing, and I got walked on a lot. That is not right either.

In grade school, I was shocked when the girl who was running against me for class president went around boasting about herself and even (gasp) voted for herself. I thought it unseemly and so I voted for her, too, out of modesty. She won by one vote. (I never allowed myself to venture into politics again.)

Humility is a good thing, but knowing ones worth is not inconsistent with it, especially in the workplace.

There is an old adage from Rabbi Akiva from near-Biblical times: "If I am not for me, who then will be for me?"

I have always struggled with this concept, but I think it is psychologically sound.

I hope that Janet's letter will be logical and straightforward, though, and not a whining list of instances in which her feelings were hurt.

liv said...

Wow. It sounds like you've been talking to my Mom. She always has felt that she needs to whine and gripe and make a scene about her worthiness before she makes an exit--from a job (she's a pro at quitting) or from the room. I just think, come on, quit. Do us all a favor.

Anvilcloud said...

I think it's possible to clear the air and still maintain your dignity — theoretically at least. But it really depends on the personalities and the specific situation, I suppose. One size does not fit all.

jen said...

it's hard when you are in this sort of situation, but i agree, it's probably not going to help the work situation. but since nothing may, getting things off one's chest is sometimes needed - i personally might not go this route, but others might.

it's a tough situation - you put your heart into your work, it's hard when it turns out badly. sometimes taking a few days before responding is the best idea.

meno said...

I think the only reason that she would write a message like that is because she hopes, realistically or not, that this will make things better. I doubt it.
Maybe she is a whiner and the treatment she gets she deserves, except she is the only one who thinks otherwise.
Maybe her supervisor is an incompetent boob, or insecure, or mean.

I can't really answer the question without more information. But i can't really think of a situation where her message is going to help either.

Julie Pippert said...

I don't depends. Depends on her workplace, her boss, her coworkers, her, etc.

I've been in places that I did feel were salvageable if there was a problem. I've also sometimes wanted to go for a promotion or a raise. In those cases, it sometimes works to share the ways I have contributed and benefitted, and my ideas for more of that in the future.

But it depends.

If it is a defensive, attacking sort of, "I deserve, I want, you haven't done, I haven't gotten my worth, etc." then maybe not so much.

I try to reflect about the motivator. If I am seeking justice and reparation; if it is internally motivated through something like ego or insecurity; if it is a big "eff you!" on the way out the door, or if it is some other sort of "negative" motivator...then yes, I agree, probably better to retreat with dignity.

But this is the US, and the US workplace, I assume? There is a certain culture in the workplace and a sort of romanticized idea of going out with a big Dramatic Moment that allegedly acts as a catalyst to bring about the accolades you know, like in the movies.

I've grown to understand these epiphanies are unlikely, especially in a moment like this.

If the person hasn't provided the accolades and recognition Janet wants, her email is unlikely to effect them either. It's more likely to make it worse.

You just have to figure out what it is that you really want, and why you would do what it is you plan to.


QT said...

I see your point, Chani. I think Janet feels like she will accomplish two things -get some issues off of her chest and make it known how valuable she is.

Unfortunately, the company already does not find her to be valuable or she wouldn't be treated that way. So more than likely she won't accomplish anything other than look like a complainer.

I also think that while it is important to have these things down in writing, she would probably get a lot further by asking for a meeting face to face with the supervisor and an HR person.

MsLittlePea said...

Is she a prideful or whiny person outside of her job? If so then you're right.

But sometimes, even in a no win situation, it gives a person a better sense of self-worth to say to someone,"I am valuable because.... and I don't deserve nor appreciate being treated like...." Perhaps the poor treatment has led her to feel defensive. I don't think it will do any harm to express herself if she is already thinking about leaving. I can't really add too much about how to handle a 'corporate situation' since I have no corporate experience but sometimes just saying something outloud or writing it down for someone when I've felt wronged, gives me closure and that's what she needs before she can move on. I don't think she will be compromising her dignity if she expresses herself in a mature and professional matter. Then maybe her supervisor will think about the way she treats her workers in the future? I know some things are better left unsaid-but when it comes to feeling truly wronged, I'm not the sort of person who feels comfortable leaving THAT sort of thing unsaid. Then again maybe that's why I could never survive in the corporate world-my skin's too thin!

KC said...

I would say something. I think people tend to make too many inferential leaps in these kinds of situations, assuming motives, assuming blame, but the worst is to give up without fulling exposing the truth about a situation. Testing assumptions. Allowing for the possibility of change.

Tabba said...

I have struggled with how to comment to this post. But KC hit the nail on the head for me.

flutter said...

You are always a wonderful font of advice, Chani. I think you were spot on with this

Anonymous said...

I don't think the email will help but I can see why she would want to send it. She wants to know that she's been heard. She believes that when she is heard, things will change. They won't, I don't imagine, but she believes it will change things.

I'm the same way. I always have to have my piece. Usually it doesn't change things except satisfy me. Maybe one day I can let go of that as well.

Pam said...

I've pondered this a bit and I thinks it's very possible state your case and still keep your self worth.

I am not an aggressive person and have learned the hard way that if you don't stand your own ground, no one else will do it for you. I believe in communication, see if there are misunderstandings, then decision.

Snoskred said...

This one has stuck with me, I can feel a blog of my own brewing about it actually. After working in two situations where I was bullied by management to the point that in my next workplace I went to work and sat at my desk all day working hard and speaking to nobody and not being myself because I was worried that being myself would result in the same kind of treatment, this is a hot button type of issue for me. In that last job, there came a day when I just couldn't go back to work. I could not get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. It wasn't because they treated me badly, they actually had treated me very well there. It was depression and fear. I went to see a psychologist who diagnosed me with post traumatic stress syndrome.

I now don't work. I'm 31 years old and at this time I cannot see me ever going back to work. I cannot see me ever trusting anyone enough to work for them. I cannot face the workplace politics and just plain shyte that goes on. I think this means I have to find a job where I am the person I am working for.

I used to believe that when you were right you should fight for it. Years ago I would have written that letter. It's a terrible shame that I would not write it now. That fighting spirit has been beaten out of me and replaced with shut up, say nothing, don't rock the boat because you'll fall overboard. And inside the real me is screaming to get out. It's screaming at me "What the F**K are you doing to let people treat you like this? Don't just sit there and take it!"

This lyric from the song I posted yesterday on my blog is in my head today..

"So if you're careful, you won't get hurt. But if you're careful all the time, then what's it worth?"

Bob said...

I think that trying to handle this via email is a bad idea. Trying to resolve a problem with your boss isn't. This problem is best handled in person - if she is trying to keep her job. The part about listing her strengths - well, if her boss hasn't recognized them by now then it is unlikely it will happen at all.

Recognizing your own strengths is not prideful, it is part of knowing yourself. You, for instance, are a talented writer and it would not be bragging for you to tell an employer this. As others have said, there is a difference between recognizing your strengths and making others who can benefit from them aware of them - and bragging about them to all and sundry.

Cecilieaux said...

As someone who has supervised, hired and fired since the 1980s, I'd say an e-mail is the worst possible way to deal with this. If there is any possibility of salvaging the situation, a face-to-face approach is much, much better.

If there is no way to salvage the situation, don't bother. An e-mail like that screams "complainer" to anyone not involved (such as a future employer). No matter how talented, no one wants to hire a whiner and it's not illegal to avoid hiring whiners.

Employment and career advancement is not just about whether you have the skills needed to make the widgets, it's about whether you can get along and work cooperatively, whether you can take direction and criticism, and so forth.