“..anyone who’s ever lost their temper knows that anger is often just a louder form of sadness.”
~ Sydney Levin Senior Homepage Editor, AOL.com
I’ve been pondering on all that we learn about life via the wonderful world of business, especially as I watch our youngest navigate college course selections for his fall semester. He has no idea what he wants to do, career-wise (who does at 18?). He’s venturing in slowly, taking a few classes and working. And I’m fine with that. If it takes him longer, so be it. I don’t care. I’d rather he wade in and embrace the current on his legs than jump off the deep end and drown.
We were discussing different class choices today and one that jumped out at me was “Business ethics.” This course focuses on office culture, confidentiality, diversity, communications etiquette, dining etiquette, dress code and sexual harassment.
Wow, how could I have benefited from such a course in my tender years.
You see, like most of us, I took the usual “pre requisites” and later, coursework that was specific to my degree. I could have used a class that taught me what to do when someone put me down, discounted my input, or stared at my chest too long. I could have used the practice to learn how to deal with men who leered and women who back-stabbed.
But, like most of us, that wasn’t an option. I learned the hard way. I learned to laugh off someone’s stupid comments and leering eyes. I learned, over time, to speak up and make it clear when their jokes weren’t funny.
I think back to when I was working as an executive administrator for a global corporation. Most employees were well-behaved, polite and extremely dedicated. But there were always those few executives, all men, who took their positions of power just a bit too far. They enjoyed their status and expected others to grovel. Many did. I wouldn’t. There was the aged goat who spoke condescendingly to us about “never fishing off the company dock” and then went on to marry his secretary, 25 years his junior, 3 months later. I recall the time that one suggested that all we (admin staff) were good for was “prettying up the outer offices and making sure their homes were managed.” My gasp gave me away. I remember his beady eyes boring down on me and feeling the dread that washed over me like a summer’s rain. He turned and, in front of a room full of colleagues, asked, “Did you have something to add?” And I did.
I unleashed a hornet’s nest of commentary, spewing years of pent-up frustration at that greasy little twerp. I related what it felt like to be discounted and how rude it was of him and his cronies to treat us all like second class citizens. I wish I could tell you everything I said, but I can’t. What I do remember is that others in the room faded from my vision as my focus became his sweaty face. I watched him chew his bottom lip as the color drained from his cheeks and his knuckles gripped the table.
Unlike a Julia Roberts movie, it was not my finest moment.
There was no applause, only stunned silence as I made a quick exit.
Oh I was mad and, some might say, justifiably so.
But, in the process, I lost control and ultimately … I lost ground.
It was an important life lesson: I had to learn how to be heard without losing myself along the way.
He never heard a word I said and, looking back, I can’t say I’m surprised.
But I did.
I heard it.
And I learned from it.
And that’s why the kid is now signed up for “Business Ethics 101.”
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And you? Have you ever lost your cool in a corporate environment? What did you learn from it?