In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.”
I can handle myself, in my humble opinion, and I have stood up for myself on many occasions in my life and in my career. You learn how to do that growing up and working in Chicago. I am usually a problem-solver and I have learned how to handle difficult, angry, sometimes psychotic, somewhat hostile people, coming out physically unscathed, though often mentally exhausted.
Helpless, I am not. At a loss for words or actions, yes, especially when dealing with people while on an uneven playing field. This happens when I am dealing with narcissists, people with stubborn and/or irrational thoughts (who may or may not be family), and people who receive the perks of favoritism and a friendly relationship with authority. In this case, you just learn to cut your losses and keep your mouth shut if possible. The words will either fall on deaf ears or blow up in your face. You are going to get trouble if you try to fight fair with a dirty fighter. It can be best to wait until others see the truth on their own, in the right “AHA!” moment.
Take it from me, you will not get into the heart or mind of someone stubborn or set in their ways anymore than you will someone who is intoxicated or intent on not seeing the truth. Some people, especially in a work environment, are willing to take drama from someone who always has something to say, jumps up first, and then wears him/herself out to play hero so they can keep doing what they want. in other words, they get the job down but create drama along the way that is brushed off onto someone else. I have worked with someone like this. She volunteers for everything, gets overexerted, has to take time off because she gets sick/kid gets sick/something came up/etc., asks you to cover and then takes credit later, possibly throwing you or someone else under the bus for the accolades.
I realize that when you work with a group, not everyone will view life through the same lens. You will agree on some things and disagree on others. You will learn what to leave out of pleasant conversation at lunch so you don’t offend anyone, as I have, though it’s perfectly ok to offend me. I don’t expect that everyone will like me, or even get a long with me, however, I expect you to engage me in a bit of conversation if I am sitting at the table with you and another person. No one should feel like they are not at the table, or that they are observing strangers, as I have will at lunch with colleagues.
Rather than feeling helpless, or more like at a disadvantage, I try not put myself in that situation again. I do my work, I will speak to this person through email/text, and I will avoid any chance for phoniness that is not required by the department. Funny thing is that I have been an advocate for youth and adults for years, teaching them how to be assertive and how to advocate for their needs. Yes, you should stand up for yourself, especially against blatant injustice, violence, mental anguish and other varieties. You should protect your body, mind, property, and self-respect.
Sometimes protecting your pocket trumps your self-respect until you can find another place to fill your pocket. I tried to be open with a boss earlier in my career when she asked my opinion and encouraged me to express concern. This lead to me receiving a memo the next day asking me to decide if I wanted to remain employed with that agency. When I stated that I did, I was told that my decision would be considered… so much for open and honest communication. My legitimate safety concerns were held against me, so I left. Fortunately, this was at a time when I had few financial responsibilities. Your best option might be finding the right person to advocate for you, or both of you, maybe a person with some authority or opportunity to put a bug in the right ear.
What are your suggestions for dealing with a difficult co-worker, someone with a “hero” complex, or someone who charms people and takes advantage of it?
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