Friday, October 8, 2010

Playground politics

The end of the work week, and not a moment too soon—thank God it’s Friday. I found myself wishing for the end of the work day already around 12 noon, after a particularly ineffective and confusing meeting, but of course I couldn’t leave for home at that time, even though I wanted to. The woman who never played hooky in her entire scholastic career has suddenly learned what that temptation means. I want to run away from most forms for stress. The more uncomfortable the situation, the more I want to exit it. I don’t want to get embroiled in any work-related conflicts after twenty years in Norway because they never get resolved—all people seem to want to do is to hear themselves talk about them ad nauseum) and I see no point in rehashing a lot of situations that have already been discussed and buried. I cannot believe the amount of inefficiency that exists and that people tolerate as part of their work life. Meetings account for much of that wasted time.

The day was a bust because of the ineffective meeting, but also because of a phone call I received from a man who is the leader for an organization that I belong to. He was upset because he felt that another woman whom we both know had been rude to him in a public setting and he wanted me to side with him. It was not a suggestion but more of an order, and I do not take kindly to being told how I should feel or what I should do in most situations. Those who know me know that this is a dead-end approach with me, to try and order me about. His next tactic was to try to make me feel uncertain about another work-related situation that I have asked both him and this other woman for advice about. He kept insisting that I talk only to him about this situation and not to her since he was the leader, and that also does nothing for me. We live in a free country, as I was often wont to hear from my peers in arguments when I was growing up. I absorbed that way of thinking, thankfully. So in the back of my mind, when someone is telling me what to do or trying to bully me into changing my mind, my inner voice is telling me something else--I’m free to decide for myself. We’re not in grade school anymore, where playground politics dictated who you could and couldn’t talk to and who you could play with or ignore. I won’t be bullied into taking sides, and in this particular situation I actually have decided already to side with the woman involved because all she ‘did to him’ was to voice her opinion, and he seems to have a problem with women who do that. I don’t have that problem. I prefer people who state their opinions and who allow others to do the same. I am suspicious of people who always have to be right, always have to dominate, always have to have the last word, always have to drown others out by talking over them, always have to be king of the playground. I often discuss playground politics with one of my co-workers who has done a lot of politically-related committee work in my workplace. She often comments on the childish behavior she sees and has experienced around her. I have to agree. I haven’t seen much to impress me in the way of conflict negotiation/resolution in the twenty years I’ve worked here. It might just be my workplace, but I doubt it. The playground kings dominate and are always trying to push people about and to get them to do what they want them to do. It has never worked particularly well with either her or me.

The most efficient thing I did all day was to clean and organize our laboratory work area together with Aasa, one of my co-workers who shares my dislike of clutter. It took us a couple of hours to get it in order again. We threw away a lot of old boxes, papers, and plastic items, and by the time we were finished, the lab benches were suddenly attractive work areas again. They have looked like a mess for quite a while now. Once again, the elimination of clutter helps to free us mentally. I swear I might start a business to help people organize their daily lives—either at home or at work or both. I think it might even be reasonably successful and that I might enjoy the work—or at least that feeling of efficiency that one gets after finishing up. And best of all, I would not have to deal with the kings of the sandboxes and their playground behavior.

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