In life we meet awful, greedy blowhards.
I’ve worked for some, and God! The proverbs
They preach sicken my stomach. They’ve scarred
My heart and lightened my wallet. Offers
Of work from spoiled creeps are not worthy
Of the future me who still hates past me
For not passing on the opportunity
To sell my time and my good name. Lordy
How I’ve been turned upside down by the
Charlatan. Banks sure give a lot of cash
To mediocre talents. But let me
Look at myself. I bought this balderdash.
So what was I seeking that I’d partake
In foolish schemes and terrible heartache?
-Allegra Jordan, 2019.
To be clear -I’m in a great situation today, but I’ve stepped through a lot of mud to get here. I currently run a park to help military families reintegrate between deployments. I love the work and my team. I’m very careful about who gets on that team and who stays. We have excellent team hygiene and a positive culture.
This poem is not so much about bad people at work. This is not news that there are greedy, bad blowhards in business.
But there comes a time we have to look in the mirror as to why we choose to work for people who do not treat us well. Usually the answer has to do with something that happened a long time ago – our need to be cared for by an authority figure who seems to know what he or she is doing.
The good news is that an ancient wound usually has nothing to do with today’s situation. You can, in many cases, find a different work partner and, at the same time, get your emotional wounds healed by something outside of the work environment. (How? Check out Bessel Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score. It’s about trauma – which, at its root is ‘love gone wrong.’)
The blowhards for me? I’ve a long history in business. Some people are wonderful and highly ethical. Others are not. I started working as child helping out my dad in his unairconditioned Alabama hardware store. I was deeply involved in start-up culture when the Internet emerged. I handled the press for the Enron investigation; saw a charming classmate from Harvard go to jail and was a witness for the prosecution when I was 21 – my debate coach murdered my debate partner. I’ve seen unethical people rise high. (I’ve seen great people rise high too.) I’ve worked with people all over the globe. I’ve had the honor of supporting some great peacemakers – who needed to be great because of greedy blowhards who enslaved, killed, looted, etc.
It fascinates me how some people can subtract value, as well as my own vulnerabilities to being charmed by selfish people. One must always be alert and even then, at times we get burned.
In the end: be the manager you never had. That cures a lot of old hurts. Your scars are informative – so use that for good!