“I don’t get it. I should have gotten the promotion. I’m better than he is.”
“She never notices all I do for the company, she sucks as a boss!”
“It’s not like it was my fault! WTF was she doing checking up on me?”
“He got me written up for being late a bunch of times.”
I used to hear stuff like this all the time when I was in banking and dealing with so-called “adults“. To be honest, it was mostly the younger adults, but not always. Now that I’m out of the business of dealing with adults, I hear a lot of complaints from kids that sound eerily familiar and worry me about the future.
“She got me in trouble for dress code violation!”
“I got yelled at because I had my phone out during a test. I was just checking the time!”
“He gave me Friday Detention because I didn’t turn in my homework on Tuesday.”
“Stupid Principal, called my parents because I didn’t go to school yesterday, now I’m in trouble at home too.”
What are all these people really saying? Really, they are expressing their own disappointment in their jobs or in their performance at school. The adults know, however deep-down, that their setbacks are not the fault of the other person. They know that their own behavior led to the situations about which they are reacting. It just feels better to bitch about who wronged you were. They know that there are probably reasons why one person will get a promotion over another. Sometimes these decisions are unfair, but most of the time they are justified. They know that bosses have a lot on their plates, and sometimes don’t have the ability to see everything they should. They know that part of their bosses’ responsibilities might be to make sure that they are doing the job they are paid to do. They know that they are held accountable to be at work on time every time.
My kids at school are at a precipice. I want to believe that they also know that they can’t blame Teacher X or Principal Y for their own misfortune. I want to believe that they really understand that they chose to violate the dress code. I want to believe that they know that they can’t pull out their cells during a test without opening themselves up to the possibility of being accused of cheating. I hope they understand that there are consequences for actions, and in the case of not doing homework, for inaction. I want to believe that they understand that cutting class is a big deal, and parents get a little pissed about these kinds of things.
But should I?
It wasn’t until fairly recently that I put it together in my head that the parents of the kids that complain about the world being against them are the same people who are complaining about how the world is against them! This is a learned behavior.
So how do we fight back?
It starts with me: If you are a parent, or like me, a teacher, or any other kind of role model, you need to let it start with you. We all have bad days at work, bad months even. We need to be honest with ourselves to recognize that sometimes stuff just happens. Sometimes we contribute to the problem by our reactions, and sometimes we create the problems. We need to act and react in a proper way so that those watching us with little eyes can learn the correct way to handle adversity.
Take control early: All of the above statements share one thing. They are all statements of reaction. Too often, we get busy, or bogged down in day-to-day details to think about proactively attacking situation. If my boss isn’t prone to notice the contributions I make to the company, maybe I should take some time to point out, in a respectful way, how valuable I am to the company before I get frustrated.
Be your best you: I get that it can become tough and monotonous to come in to work every day and give your absolute best. That’s what vacations are for. That’s what time off (weekends or just time between shifts) is for. I’m sorry, and I know full well how hard it is for me as well, but you have to be the best you possible whenever you go to work. Not just because your boss will like it, not because it is your job to do your best, but because doing so can motivate others around you to up their game as well.
These are just three of hundreds of things that you can do to deal with many of the setbacks that seem to creep up when least expected and least wanted. I’m sure there are more ideas, and I look forward to hearing what your ideas might be.
Of course we don’t just try to shift blame when it comes to work. Dylan wrote this song, but I firmly believe Mr. Cash did it best. Enjoy!