Follow Up Feeling Good about how to cope with a difficult team member who asserts her authority:
Two years ago we responded to an attorney employed at a bank who described an individual who asserted her authority. Just today that attorney sent a follow up reflection that discloses how he chose to cope. His experience undoubtedly has made him even more resolved to interpersonal communication that minimizes power-distance and promotes collaboration wherever he’s employed. I told him I would play is words forward so that they might help others cope with and/or prevent similar work situations:
“In my last permanent role, I had a relationship with my supervisor that had turned very sour. We had grown to dislike each other over the course of our 1yr working relationship, and our interactions had become antagonistic to the point that she berated and belittled me in the presence of large groups of our other colleagues. Her behavior was visibly and objectively hostile and unprofessional. In these instances, I maintained my composure and never reacted angrily or disrespectfully. I always responded respectfully because in those moments I didn’t want to behave in kind. Also, we had new team members from time to time and I didn’t believe that a professional needed to behave that way towards others, so I endeavored not to display conduct that would undermine the values I held. Many times, some of my colleagues would say they couldn’t believe how I could remain that calm while she behaved that way. They would say they needed to learn to be like that.
“I escalated the matter to my managers for possible resolution, but that only put a bigger target on my back because they did nothing to address the conflict or to mitigate its destructive morale on the team. I ended up finding a different job, and resigning from that role. During my transition period, I worked as though nothing were changing, I gave my all and ensured all my projects were transitioned appropriately. As I made my way out on my last day, I said goodbye to everyone including her. Some of my colleagues observed that interaction and noticed she didn’t respond or acknowledge me. Later they told me, that was the last straw for them, that after everything I had endured with her, how could I still say goodbye to her only for her to behave that way. I don’t know how but I found the strength to stay aligned with my values. I knew I couldn’t control her behavior, and I wasn’t trying to. I could however not feel at peace if I had said goodbye to everyone skipping her desk. It was the right thing for me to do and so I did. I remained in integrity with my values.
“From time to time when I met with former colleagues, they would still talk about those experiences as though it were a fable. Some chose to never interact with her after observing our last interaction. Some try to emulate the calmness they perceived from me. This experience was lesson on many fronts. First, that having strong values and sticking with them especially in times of discomfort or inconvenience are the true test of integrity. Second, that people are always watching, and we as individuals no matter our formal authority/title, are always leading. And we have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to those in the environments we are part of. Therefore, we must be careful what impressions and messages are signaled as a result of our behaviors.”