Posted by: Anne | June 11, 2011

the cautionary tale of Mr. (I’m) Right

Years ago, a co-worker of mine was getting angry describing a dispute he’d had with someone else. Listening to him talk about it, the exchange sounded to me like a simple difference of opinion, really nothing worth getting worked up over, and I tried to (impartially) say that. He was not to be consoled, so I tried to reason that “just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t make them wrong.” “Yes, it does!” he replied, as if I’d just said the stupidest thing in the world.

Okay, now, I’ll admit that there are those Big Issues where we truly believe we’re right, and if you’re a confrontational sort of person, you’ll take any occasion to voice and/or defend those beliefs. If you’re non-confrontational like I am, you are secure enough in your beliefs to hear other people’s opinions, and you realize that you’re probably not going to argue anyone into seeing your point anyway.

That was my point with my co-worker: there are billions of people in this world, and if every differing viewpoint makes you fighting mad, well, you’ll probably be angry a lot and your health will likely suffer. Why not just agree to disagree?

Recently I’ve seen another danger in stubbornly clinging to one’s strong opinions. As I’ve mentioned before (at my blog), my OfficeMate is one of the most opinionated people I’ve ever met. On the surface, he seems very easygoing, but after you’ve shared an office with him for a year and a half, you see that he’s very … *affected* by what he thinks about things. He will interpret a situation a certain way and then be angry over some wrong that he’s perceived.

Late last year, OfficeMate and I both felt that our training situation wasn’t working out. OfficeMate turned in his resignation, and because the higher-ups value his work skills, they negotiated a change in the training situation to appease him. They rehired a Former Employee and put him in charge of training us because that’s what OfficeMate and I said we wanted.

However, since Former Employee returned, OfficeMate still hasn’t been happy with the training situation. He has taken to complaining to me that Former Employee has changed and that he used us to get rehired. Seeing things that way makes OfficeMate so mad that he can hardly respond to any work-related critique from Former Employee in a civil manner.

This has not gone unnoticed by Former Employee. Because OfficeMate hasn’t even tried to talk things out with Former Employee, Former Employee truly doesn’t know why things between them changed. All he sees is that OfficeMate won’t come and ask him questions, and because of that, OfficeMate has been late in finishing all of his recent projects. So, Former Employee asked the higher-ups if they could bring OfficeMate to the parent company for a month, so that maybe they could find a training method that suits him. And as I write this, my OfficeMate is many, many miles away in the Midwest, and he’s got one more week before he gets to come home.

As I see it, although Former Employee is not the most people-y person out there, he does want to do a good job. And the higher-ups agreeing to endure the expense and trouble of bringing OfficeMate to another state to train for a month reinforces how much they value him as an employee. Sadly, I’m fairly certain that OfficeMate still sees everything that happens and has happened as supporting his initial impressions of the situation. He still believes that Former Employee is out to get him, and he’s concerned that he’s in Nebraska because the bosses have bad news to tell him. He doesn’t realize that he wouldn’t have had to take the trip at all if he could’ve put his negative assumptions aside and found a way to work with Former Employee. His strong opinions have blinded him — to his own hurt – from looking at the situation objectively, and his subsequent actions are causing some negative repercussions.

The moral of this post can be summed up in three words of caution: Self. Fulfilling. Prophecy.

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