“I didn’t get you. What happened? I thought we had sorted this out.”
“Well, maybe I don’t really understand it myself but I just feel so constrained here. I don’t know how to say otherwise.”
And this is how it went. The review – an inescapable act of predomination of one individual over the other usually not by the virtue of skill but rather of authority. I had been softspoken since the beginning and I was accused of it as well. Now, here I was, voicing my opinion loud yet sugar-coated so as to not hurt the feelings on the receiving end.
Disclaimer – I initially started writing this post based on an incidence at my workplace but quickly realized that its implication could be very well extended to personal life and other spheres of human interaction. Given my inability to cram up all the relevant experiences, regardless of their significance, into this tiny post I chose to restrict its domain within the previously intended scope.
Yeah! people. This post is about people and how their behavior has broken (and thus I have mended) my measuring dial a thousand times.
Due to my technical background, taking an analytical approach towards any matter, even social interaction, is something that comes naturally to me. Anyway, human beings are highly irrational entities and hence keeping all the biases and presumptions out of the equation really helps to see it through a rational lens. Although, the possibility of inducing my own human error cannot be entirely neglected.
Sometimes, I wish to find independent quantifiable parameters in order to represent reality even better. There ought to be a function, right? – the toughest expression, immensely complex, ever-changing, peculiarly behaving in nature and yet when you finally understand it, everything starts making sense. Welcome to the crazy side!
A few days back, I found myself in an interesting dichotomy.
Consider this – suppose, you enter into a completely new social environment, say a workplace. The length of engagement is ensured so that you are bound to be there a little longer than what we could be referred to as a short stay. You try to get accustomed to things, naturally, trying to understand the people around you while still keeping your own character in check, in order to not overdo it. You have to be “professional” (means the real you has to act within certain etiquettes) and carefully gauge what suits this setting and what does not.
And while you are doing this, it is highly probable that you are being misread because there still exists an invisible barrier in communication. If the ice has been broken, there now lies this puddle in between and we both have to meet the midway. In other words, they are equally trying to understand you and through this ordeal of understanding each other, there arises a huge misunderstanding on both sides.
What do you do now? Do you take a leap and state your opinion openly (which may fall on deaf ears)? Do you take a step back and consider if it’s actually your fault? Do you openly bash the others because you haven’t been adaptive enough or do you try to be accommodating, stay silent and give it some more time?
I don’t know the answer to this question but I can confidently say that my introversion usually takes over my inner desire to establish a clear line of communication. Also, I’m a little freaked out because workplace dynamics hadn’t panned out in my favor thus far. There are a lot of little things at play – draining mind games, favoritism, office politics, blame games, backstabbing, crazy manipulations, and uncalled speculations – all of this because we let our assumptions ride the decision than simply
asking talking about it in person. Who even says exactly what goes in their mind, right?
In fact, me writing this post could very well be a consequence of those shortcomings but given that I sat on this topic for over a month in order to be absolutely sure about its content, I choose to believe it is not so.
Having worked in Engineering Management for more than a year and then in a creative field for a while now, I can consolidate my observations into following few sentences (mostly within the scope of this post) –
- Most people are just bad managers. They lack the very basic instincts one ought to have – empathy, compassion & respect. That’s something no business school teaches you. No matter how technically sound you are or how you see things working out if you don’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you are not helping your subordinate to flourish. Your words would either be ignored or misconstrued in order to prompt contradictory behavior.
- If you think you are a good one (so you get to tick all the boxes when exercising your authority on others), then the road is full of thorns for you. You sub-ordinates will be lauding praises but the upper management would be breathing fumes. So you have to find a middle ground for yourself.
- People say that they want an open conversation but it is rather an opportunity to exert their dispositions onto you. They would crook, mold and twist and skew the dynamics until it suits them. No one is ready to listen, even though they would throw tons of advice on active listening here and there. Patience is a lost virtue and humility is seldom reminded.
I never really talked about my previous workplace on this blog because no amount of words, that I am capable of, can hold together my sufferings. I thought of expressing it through imagery & visual storytelling which I can do much more comfortably. But even that is stuck in the editing phase for months. Every time I sit to put together an account, the burden of those past moments almost eats away my patience.
My friend once joked – “What doesn’t cease to amaze me is life. How it pushes you to the rock bottom and then make you dig a little deeper.” We laughed but this very well summarizes my experience.
Regardless, any kind of workplace is fascinating in the sense that you see people of all kind and characters, with their skills, strengths, and quirkiness sitting under the same roof working towards a similar goal. I’m talking strictly in the sense of a startup. Corporate is altogether a different beast to tackle. Needless to say, it also doesn’t take into account how invested or detached once feels from the common goal.
It seems like just yesterday when we were seeing each other for the first time, saying those awkward hi and hellos. These faces, whom now I relate to my friends’, cluelessly scanned our new surrounding where we would be spending at least one-third of our weekdays together. Then we were gauging each other’s compatibility, forcing our disagreement aside in order to act in synchronous harmony. And now here we are, already discussing work and bouncing ideas off each other, cracking jokes and laughing aloud, hanging out on a Friday night.
Each of us has different stories of ending up here. We have different experiences and hence we hold different perspective over the same thing. There are different plans on where life goes from here. The diversity is huge even in this small subset and the complexity increases exponentially when more people are added but camaraderie is what one seeks.
What would I remember when I am not here tomorrow? The hangouts, the jokes and the good times or the banality, the conflicts and the silent groaning of dissatisfaction?
So, here’s a request – for one moment, just look at a person, not with an intention to force your authority on but rather to be in company of. Have patience & compassion and you would be amazed how wonders are created out of a genuine human connection.
Song highlight – Glad to say that I am on a quest to find some new music again. Two that stand out are Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR Music and wonderful Gia Margaret. Although, I am featuring something different here because I love the vibe of this video. Enjoy!