The sounds of sadness

“..anyone who’s ever lost their temper knows that anger is often just a louder form of sadness.”
~ Sydney Levin Senior Homepage Editor,

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.”

 * * *

And you? Have you ever lost your cool in a corporate environment?  What did you learn from it?

Categories: Attitude, Faith, fear, Growth, Life, Personal, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “The sounds of sadness

  1. I really appreciated this post. If you lived closer, I would beg you to teach a course on this stuff @ the local community college..and I would bring @ least two other people w/ me!!!!!

    • and I’m thinking that greasy little twerp did hear you and probably remembers that conversation to this day 🙂

    • well, DM, you are far too kind. I don’t know if I could teach the course but I sure do have a host of lessons learned to share with young people … number one: no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

  2. I have lost my cool at work. A couple of times. Once, back in the early 90’s, when a supervisor kept referring to a coworker as a ni**er, when she wasn’t around. I had it. And lost it in front of 5 other middle management staff. I quit the job and the supervisor was fired.
    I think your son will definitely benefit from the class. I’d love to take it! And p.s. I still haven’t figured out what to be when I grow up… lol, 2 degrees and multiple careers later… leaving the baby birthin’ business after 16 years… should be a blast!

    • Oh that would be a terrible situation to be in, Sandi, but somehow, I knew you would stand up for someone being disparaged like that.

      And, to your point, I don’t know what I want to “be” either — there’s far too much pressure on kids these days to have it all figured out. How about this: be a good guy, a stand-up guy, someone whose word means something. That’s enough for me 🙂


  3. The class sounds interesting. I’ve never blown up at work, but I’ve had many a conversation in my head, or out loud on the way to or from work! But blow up or not, we all have to learn some things in our own time, in our own way. The point is to learn! ~ Sheila

    • absolutely, Sheila – the point is to learn.

      Oh the conversations I have had in my head … and muttered under my breath!


  4. I didn’t really “lose” it, but probably wasn’t far from blowing a gasket! lol I took a walk until a cooler head prevailed. I learned a lot about the grapevine of gossip, though.

    • You were smart to take that walk, that’s for sure. And yes, the gossip machine is endless but it can divulge useful info, too.
      Thanks for weighing in!

  5. I agree with DM: I’m pretty sure the little twerp heard you. Reading your post takes me back to my secretarial years, beginning when I was 18. Goodness! I sure would be a different employee now….and maybe not for the better!
    Good luck to your son in all his future endeavors. With you for a mom, I have a feeling he’s going to be just fine!

    • It would be fun to go back in time to those days but take with it the wisdom and insight we’ve gained after all these years. I know this for sure: no one would be talking down to me now as they did then.

      Thank you for your vote of confidence, Dianna. I am sure he’ll be just fine; it’s the navigating through all this other “stuff” that rustles up memories and lessons learned.

      Cheers to you!

  6. Ohhhh…the conversations I have with my daughters when they ask for work/job advice. One thing about gossip, although useful at times, don’t repeat it. I would cringe if someone quoted me. I hope that course includes listening, really listening, especially if you have an ipad or cell phone and all its apps in hand.

  7. PS: I know where Prestwould Plantation is (although I’ve never been). We used to have a boat race near there. It’s about 2 1/2 hours from us. That’s neat that Bacon’s Castle showed up on your Google search. If you EVER plan a trip this way, I would love to show you around!!

    • that is super cool! Do check out the book, it was very well done. If I ever get your way you can rest assured I will definitely want to meet up 🙂 MJ

  8. My solution is to avoid corporate environments–at all costs. Great that he’s taking the class. Hope you have a lovely weekend, my friend!

  9. BobG

    I always thought “business ethics” was an oxymoron.

    I remember having a supervisors almost apoplectic from my telling them my thoughts on the job they were doing. At no time did I use bad language or raise my voice, but I thought at least one was going to have a stroke because he was so mad. Sucks to be him.

    • Good one, Bob!

      I’ve witnessed something similar and it wasn’t my favorite experience, that’s for sure. Thank you for weighing in, I appreciate your input. MJ

  10. You would be a great teacher. I mean, you already are but if you were teaching a class on stuff like this…I would sit at your feet and listen…

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