Today I write a column that shares one of my own problems and exposes me for someone giving advice to other that I’m not taking myself. Why do that? Well, we can all learn from each other, and I’m just as vulnerable and human as anyone else, so maybe you’ve got some words of encouragement that I can draw from!
As a little background, I work on a team of Workshop Facilitator’s who deliver training programs for clients receiving Social Assistance; money from taxpayers to pay rent and food while they try to turn things around and find jobs and regain their financial independence. Collectively we also run an Employment Resource Centre where these same people can drop by, use a computer, telephone, fax and photocopy machine and resource information. While most staff on the team do a variety of Workshops, others tend to specialize in doing just one or two, and from time-to-time pitch in with others.
Recently I found myself scheduled to work in our Resource Centre, and the schedule didn’t call for any other person to join me that day. When this happens, typically other members of the team relieve for a morning and afternoon break and the lunch period. Being all adults, I love the fact that we can just work things out on our own without every moment of our day being scripted which also takes the pressure off our Supervisor to actually plan out all our break and lunch coverage. However, on this one day, I found it difficult to get anyone to willing provide any help covering off morning break, lunch or afternoon break.
Seems two staff in one workshop didn’t feel like helping out because it was their last day with a group and they really wanted closure. Other staff working alone obviously couldn’t leave their groups to relieve me – and that makes perfect sense. Two other staff felt like they shouldn’t be pulled away from their workshop because one was learning from the other, and they felt that because they had helped cover someone the day before, it was someone else’s turn. Seemed like I was now in a position of begging my co-workers just to get my regular break and lunch coverage according to a teammate.
So I announced to four or five of them assembled not to worry, I’d just not leave the room all day. And there’s my weakness. I’m entitled to a break and lunch like anyone else. Why did I turn into a seven-year old? Truthfully I was so disappointed because our team is one that I pride myself on being part of in part because we work well together for the most part. In the end I did email a teammate and let it be known that because there were two of them facilitating one class, I would be expecting coverage for my afternoon break and lunch from one of them, and felt compelled to add in my email, “I’ve done the same for you.” Why though did I need to call them out?” The return email I got said, “No problem.” So if it’s no problem, just say so the first time instead of me involving the entire team and wasting time. Maybe they realized their original denial of help wasn’t the right thing to have done. Who knows?
I’m not a fan of confrontation, and here I felt I was drawing a line in the sand. I was disappointed I was writing an email and TELLING a co-worker to cover me. I’m not the Boss after all, and don’t want to tell anyone what they are doing unless that becomes part of my responsibilities. This was hard only because we generally look at a schedule, anticipate coverage needs and actually extend voluntary offers of help. So perhaps people were only thinking of themselves, maybe they had outside things going on that left them less able to extend themselves, or were just cranky.
So where I might counsel someone else to sit down one-on-one with a certain individual and discuss how their actions made them feel, I wimped out. I haven’t shared how let down I felt and asked if there’s something else going on or not. Of course I’m trying not to make a big deal out of this too, but I noticed a week later, the same person let down another member of the team by actually saying they didn’t feel like doing either of the two things they had choices to do that day, and would really rather stay in their office. That’s not teamwork in action, that’s mework in action. (Yes that’s a typo but you get the point even if Spellcheck doesn’t).
So while we, as the so-called experts in our fields are great on giving advice on how to deal with conflict in the workplace, we don’t always follow that advice when it comes to ourselves. That doesn’t make us anything but human, and we can all grow from time-to-time and practice what we preach.