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Feelings are the true F-word.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pairing Strife

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 5, 2015

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It’s remarkable how often people are blind to the true nature of their relationships; even more remarkable than the resulting number of bad conflicts, really bad romantic comedies, and truly horrific divorces. The only thing more frustrating than being blind is having to act as a seeing-emotion guide to one or both of the parties involved, either because you want them to ignore their differences or wise up to them. In any case, telling them how you feel about how they feel will probably make things worse. All you can do is remind them of their duty to do what’s right for themselves and hope that experience helps them see their way out of a horrible, unremarkable outcome.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve got two guys working in my warehouse who both do their jobs, but they can’t get along with one another, and their squabbling puts everyone on edge. The younger guy is very motivated and hardworking, but he feels the older guy is stupid and slows him down, and he gives him crap about it. The older guy isn’t lazy, but he is a little stupid and slow, plus he’s sensitive and he feels the younger guy doesn’t respect him, which is true. I’m their boss, so they both complain to me, but I don’t want to lose either of them because it’s a pain to train someone new. Plus I like them both, I just can’t stand how much they hate each other, and I can’t get them to sit down and work it out because it’d make things worse. My goal is to get them to get over this bullshit and get back to work.

As their boss, you have a right to insist that people working for you treat one another with respect and leave it to you to judge whether or not they’re competent. More realistically, however, bosses really just have the right to mediate between childish employees and absorb animosity. All this for better benefits and your own parking space.

Of course, being that you’re more like a father than an enforcer to your employees, you have as much power to make them get along as you do to get your kids to stop bickering in the minivan.

So, if you try to put your foot down, then the guy who’s being disrespectful may lack the perspective to respond well to criticism and have a tantrum, and the guy who’s actually being disrespected is going to keep bumbling into antagonizing his nemesis. In other words, trying to get them to back off of each other only increases the level of conflict.

If that’s the case, ask the disrespector to review his job description, emphasizing his lack of responsibility for the work of others. Yes, feeling invested in the results of a team is sometimes helpful, but here it’s more likely to cause trouble. Tell him you’re satisfied with his work and his reviews will depend entirely on how he does his own job, regardless of the performance of others.

If he tells you he can’t tolerate stupidity because he cares too much about the overall performance of your unit or the satisfaction of your customers, thank him for his concern, while reminding him that that’s your job to evaluate, not his. That’s why they pay you the big(ger) bucks.

Make it clear you’re not asking him to compromise his standards, but rather to improve his boundaries. You expect him to do his best, which means treating his co-workers with respect even when they’re not easy to work with. If this guy is really as stupid as the disrespector thinks, then sooner or later he’ll screw up so majorly that management will have to step in, which will be an especially fun day at the office for everyone involved.

If your annoyed employee can learn how to respect boundaries, he’ll move up. If not, he’s the one who is slowing down the team and forcing you to pull the minivan over until everyone can get it together.

“I can understand why competent people get frustrated working with those who are less competent, but I’m the one responsible for judging performance, and I will be clear about my boundaries with those who are not clear about theirs.”

My daughter’s behavioral problems started when she began cutting herself when she was 13, and ever since then, we’ve dealt with one crisis after another. After her latest stint in residential treatment over the summer for her eating disorder, her mother and I thought she seemed healthy enough to get through this last semester of high school without incident. Unfortunately, she’s saved the best for last and announced that she’s met the love of her life—a bouncer at a rock club who dropped out of high school and almost certainly deals drugs. She promises to finish high school but also promises to marry him the first chance she gets. I love my daughter very much, but the past five years have been so tough for my wife and me, and if we can’t find a way to save her from a crazy marriage, it will kill us. My goal is to get my kid away from this loser and prevent her from throwing her life away.

It’s not uncommon for parents of intensely depressed adolescents with eating disorders to cash in the college fund, take out a second mortgage, and/or sell off some organs in order to put their kids into residential treatment. Only then do they find that their kid has formed intense, dangerous relationships with other troubled kids. It’s so common, it should be listed among the side effects of treatment, right up there with nausea and dry mouth.

The prime reason for these liaisons is not the treatment, of course, or bad parenting, or even adolescent stubbornness; it’s the nature of your daughter’s unhappiness and the relief she feels from being in love with someone who, like her, feels their love is the salvation of an otherwise unhappy and meaningless life. It’s what she’s been yearning for, even if it’s also her possible downfall.

Yes, a relationship with a junkie can be terribly dangerous, but your ability to save her from this danger is limited, and expressing your feelings can easily make it worse. So instead of despairing, or casting about for a way to kidnap her, disappear her intended, or change her mind with fear or guilt, remember that your chief weapon is to help her learn from reality.

Admittedly, the realities she may encounter have a high risk of causing permanent harm. Usually, however, the results are painful but survivable: a boyfriend who cheats and steals, self-destructs, or goes to jail. That’s when you have your teaching opportunity.

Your goal isn’t to get her to be a different person or admit that she loved a bad person and was stupid to ignore her parents’ advice. It’s to embrace the fact that she’s a very emotional and unhappy person who can easily fall in love with someone who is not good for her, and that it’s her job to learn how to better protect herself. Just when she feels most hopeless, convey your hope that she can learn and become stronger.

Don’t try to save her from a crazy marriage. Do hope that the relationship will cause trouble before any permanent harm is done and that the lessons she learns will help her heal in a way treatment never could.

“I can’t stand watching what my daughter is doing to her life, but I know she can’t help having very intense, negative emotions and problematic relationships. I will try to put fear aside while I teach her how to manage her personality and learn to protect herself.”

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