This post is a continuation of The Courage to Change Bosses. Michele McCarthy (of The McCarthy Show) and I collaborate on many ideas including the posts for the series Difficult Bosses.
Pixie: Last time you suggested we talk about the drama we create as an excuse to change. When we first talked about creating drama, you mentioned that it was a fear of saying "goodbye."
Michele: Yes, humans, or at least Americans, seem to have trouble with endings and they create drama rather than ending something gracefully.
Pixie: It would be interesting to find out if other cultures exhibit the same behavior.
Michele: I agree. It would be fascinating to know about other cultures that handle endings in a dignified way.
Pixie: I think we're trained to create that drama from birth. Have you ever watched a new mother say "goodbye" to her infant. There is all this drama of hugging, kissing, "I'll miss you", backward glances . . . Then when the child is old enough to exhibit separation anxiety, the drama escalates. If the mother cannot bring herself to walk out the door and returns to the crying child, the drama continues.
Michele: I've never thought about the connection to early childhood separations, but I think that's a good insight. I think that is an example of the cultural lack. In other words, we don't have a cultural mode wherein we teach our children that endings are part of life and how to accomplish them gracefully. We don't teach by example and we don't teach explicitly.
Pixie: Exactly, and we infer that happiness without togetherness is wrong.
Michele: Also, if you think about the behavior around endings, people will focus on the drama. That's what will get discussed or that's where the attention goes and nobody pops up a level and says, "Wait a minute. I didn't handle ending this well" or, "Boy, she is uncomfortable with saying 'goodbye'." Instead we stay at the shallow level of "Can you believe he did that? What a jerk!" Or we obsess about a breakup and keep almost breaking up or we refuse to fire someone until it's a huge mess.
Pixie: We have to construct a fable to do what we want to do. I've seen people create illnesses and injuries as excuses to change. The change needed sometimes is as simple as stopping to rest.
Michele: Yes, I've seen this too. I have done that quite a few times actually.
Pixie: Me too! I remember working like a madman on projects and neglecting my self-care. Sooner or later I would get sick and be forced to take care of myself.
Michele: Freud taught that we repress what is uncomfortable or unacceptable and we hide it behind defensive behaviors and thoughts. In this case the unacceptable feelings are around leaving or ending a relationship.
Pixie: How do we relate this to the courage to change bosses?
Michele: When we are unwilling to face an ending, we create the drama to distract us from the unacceptable feelings associated with the ending. I would say this relates to changing bosses in two ways. First, if you know at a gut level you are going to be leaving a boss, allow yourself to feel the feelings of the loss. Allow yourself to know that you are going to leave. And secondly, most importantly, commit to yourself to leave gracefully without hurting yourself or others. Ask for help to ensure that you do so in a calm, thoughtful way.
Pixie: Let's describe a scenario; an example of creating drama as an excuse to change bosses.
Michele: An example would be that your unconscious has decided you can not tolerate your current boss any longer. Instead of consciously ending your work with that boss, you create some type of drama. For instance, you might get sick which forces the boss to fire you or move you to another job.
Pixie: Or you might sabotage yourself by missing a deadline? Causing a conflict?
Michele: Right. You might even set up a scenario where you decide the boss was abusive and you are going to sue him. That's very common. I had an employee once who did the work assigned but clearly had no passion for it. He obviously had passion for other work. So one day he came to me and asked for a raise and then listed all the types of work he didn't want to do for me anymore. I tried to explain that it was not a rational solution. I was not going to pay more for less, and he should go work on what he was passionate about. But I think he was afraid to leave the security of the weekly paycheck. So, I eventually had to fire him. He was enraged with me, threatened to sue, etc. That was one of the incidents that made me realize the pattern of drama involved with endings. It was clear to me he wanted to work at another job but he couldn't just pack up and gracefully say "goodbye." He had to create chaos.
Pixie: Like the chaos I talked about earlier in the mother/child scenario. I think it's learned behavior.
Michele: Yes, I felt pressure to be parental in that instance. It was as if I was expected to be his mother and fund his new career and he was enraged that I wouldn't take care of him anymore. However, I had no parental feelings towards him, so I just felt frustrated that business wasn't getting taken care of. Time and energy was getting wasted on the drama.
The drama was designed by the employee to create an ending. It was just a messy design.
Notably, that incident crystallized my initial Boss/Employee ideas. So it actually was a gift. I was so frustrated by the irrational behavior that I figured out what was bothering me about it.
Pixie: It takes courage to know and say what you want without creating chaos. Most of the time I would leave jobs without drama. I would give two weeks notice and remain friends with some people later.
Michele: That's really good and pretty unusual. I leave quietly now, but in the past I've caused my share of drama in business, in love, in friendships.
Leave us your comments. How have you created drama or chaos around change? How would you handled an employee's drama?
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