There’s been a rather non-fun cycle that has popped its head up throughout my life. The basics are that there is some sort of misunderstanding where an argument ensues. The latter have historically resulted in variable shades of ugliness.This cycle repeated itself at my last job. (More here and here.) After a meeting, I got up and me and some of the other senior employees started giving more help and direction to the junior employees. From my supervisor’s perspective, I got up while the meeting was still in progress and took over. My perception was that the meeting was over. When I spoke to the other senior employees later, they said they thought the meeting was over too.
Easy misunderstanding, right?
Not so much.
The supervisor and I had bumped heads in the past. When she approached me 10 minutes before I was supposed to teach on the Monday after that meeting occurred, she told me she wanted to see me after class. I didn’t know what was up at that time, but considering our history I told her I didn’t feel comfortable meeting her one-on-one because I thought the meeting might be disciplinary in nature and/or could turn ugly. She ended up convincing me to meet her without union representation by saying the meeting would not be disciplinary in nature. Guess what? The meeting was disciplinary in nature.
This is a violation of Weingarten Rights.
I took my complaint through the proper chain of command, and another meeting was held. This time I was represented by my union. My direct supervisor, the one who thought I usurped the meeting, was there along with another supervisor, who oversees both of us.
I felt I could see where the miscommunication happened. All I wanted was for someone to mediate a clearing-of-the-air between me and the supervisor. I understood that she thought I’d done something wrong, and that I thought the meeting had been over. I thought this would be a simple meeting where we could shake hands at the end of it and get back to work.
Instead, the 2nd supervisor immediately took the other supervisor’s side. He said the first supervisor was right, because they were the supervisor. None of the rest of the situation mattered.
The fact that my worker’s rights were violated didn’t matter.
I grieved. A compromise was reached after going much higher in the hierarchy of the organization.
Fast forward to yesterday.
This lovely cycle perked up its ugly little head again. My Department Chair and I got into it. This time, my heiny got chewed because I asked a question. My Chair interpreted my question as being sarcastic and disrespectful. I wasn’t feeling any of that when I asked it. I was just legitimately confused. We ended up going round and round, largely in front of the rest of my department and for far too long.
I got an e-mail from her this morning saying she’d like to meet. Again, I didn’t feel comfortable meeting without some sort of mediator/representative. I could just see that meeting going around and around again.
First difference from the above scenario? She tried to set up a time with the union representative.
I went to make copies, and our principal was down there talking with my Chair. She asked me casually what was going on. I told her I didn’t feel comfortable meeting without some sort of representation, since I thought doing so might end up with some sort of negative consequences. We talked some more, and she clarified the hierarchy of our organization. She wanted to meet with me, and she seemed to generally care that I was upset about what was going on.
I was feeling pretty flustered, because I didn’t think I’d have to face the meeting until later. However, she and I sat down and I told her my side of what happened.
Second difference from the above scenario? She recommended that I meet with her and the Chair to clear the air.
We three met after school, as well as an Assistant Principal. My principal set protocol to follow during the meeting, where one person talks at a time to her (the principal). She then clarifies points with that person. She then switches to the next person.
Third difference from the above scenario? Never did I feel that she took the side of one over the other. Never did I feel that she attacked me. Never did I get the impression that she thought of me as a lesser employee, even though I was not the supervisor.
At the end of the meeting, I felt that we did have some understanding and resolution. Thinking back upon my experiences at my last job, I told everyone as we were walking out that I thought what had just transpired was fantastic. It is what communication and mediation should look like. Sometimes two people bump heads, and they need a little help to clear the air. That is what happened today.
It is so incredibly different than what transpired at my previous job.
My Chair and I walked back up to our hallway together, and we cleared the air a little further.
I’m still feeling timid and vulnerable about what happened, but I also know that healing took place during that meeting.
I know communication in those heated moments is something I need to work on. And, trust me, I am way less volatile than once I was. It’s hard to get practice, which is actually a good thing because it means that cycle doesn’t rear its head as much anymore.
I am growing. I am getting more mature in this particular area. I’m glad that I’m in an organization that is supportive and helpful while I navigate some of my foibles.