Tag Archives: Contempt

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

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Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

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My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

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However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

Angry Men – Dealing with Fits of Anger and the Painful Fallout

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Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:26-27

I’d like to start a conversation about angry men. Not that women don’t get angry; sure we do. For today, though I’d like to think out loud about the frightening, threatening nature of anger in men. As an emotion, anger isn’t necessarily bad. It is a normal response to plenty of situations. We all have good reasons to be angry at times. When we turn up our anger either on ourselves or others then it becomes destructive and sometimes dangerous.

[Disclaimer: I am not an authority on this topic,  but have found the articles by the men who have written and counseled on this topic very helpful – they are linked below.]

Living with someone who strikes out at me in anger is not a daily experience, and for that I’m very thankful. However, there are strong memories of unchecked anger in my past that still sting when they come to mind.

  • I was maybe 5 years old when, one night in our home, all four of us children were sitting, huddled together on a bottom bunk, while my mom, dad and an uncle were having some sort of altercation. Mom and Dad were divorced by then, and he and my uncle were in some sort of row. I remember my dad’s face bleeding and a bloody handkerchief…and lots of frightening yelling…until he finally left our house.
  • My step-dad, who is the only dad I’ve ever really known, has always been so kind to me. He, on the other hand, was sometimes a tough dad with the boys. He struggled with fits of anger, and they were the recipients of it. As the years went by, he managed to get control of his anger for the most part. Still there are memories I wish I didn’t have, and I’m sure my brothers wish they could forget.
  • My oldest brother, who saw much more than I did of our birth father’s selfishness and our step-dad’s temper, also struggled with anger issues through his life. He had an uncanny ability to bait us, as family, into escalating arguments that left us all shaking with emotion. I learned the most about dealing with anger through trying to stay in relationship with him. Two friends, who also loved him, gave me the insight I needed to NOT take the bait and to draw down the negative emotion of our conversations. One friend told me, “Hurt people hurt people.” That one observation helped me the most with my brother. His whole life was full of hurt, some he brought on himself, some he didn’t. Before he died, a few years back, he had begun the process of healing in a lot of those areas. I am so thankful that he finally saw that friendship with family was possible. We became close friends before the end. My only regret for him was that he didn’t have time for all his relationships mended before he died. Learn from this.

[There are some other situations very close to me that are still too fresh and painful to put up here….where people I love have been terribly hurt by angry, vindictive men who were supposed to protect and care for them.]

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I started thinking about this dilemma of “blowing up” anger especially in men after reading Chuck Lawless’ article 10 Steps to Deal with Anger. He offers really good counsel especially to Christian men with anger problems, but anyone would benefit from reading this article. Chuck grew up with a father who lashed out at his family in anger (he wrote about it here). Like my step-dad, his dad would later change, with God’s help…which can give hope to all of us.

Too often we downplay anger. Because it is a normal emotion, we tend to just accept it unless there is violence inflicted.  When fits of anger are typical of how we respond to frustration, disappointment, loss, or not getting our way, we need help.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law...If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:19-26

Kurt Smith posted a gripping piece on his Guy Stuff Counseling blog. Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger was taken from Kim Barnes’ article With This Rage, I Thee Wed. Her story is real and heart-wrenching. Then the comments and Kurt Smith’s responses to them are also incredibly helpful in understanding what women encounter in their anger-singed relationships.

Dear men with anger issues in our lives, please get the help you need…for your sake and that of those who love you. Often, we hear people walking away from negative relationships, but, except for when violence is present, I would support people staying together and fighting through to healing if at all possible. Still, help from counselors, pastors, or other professionals may be required for a breakthrough.

Tom Elliff wrote a small book entitled The Broken Curse, about lashing out with words and the life-long impact of such words…unless healing takes place. “Hurt people hurt people” and their weapons are sometimes words of contempt, resentment, and intimidation. Men who explode with anger have histories often of being victims of that very same kind of treatment by one who was supposed to have loved and protected them. Both the angry men and the women, children, and other men in their lives all need to examine these life patterns and work together to relate differently to each other.

Helps abound online and through various agencies…when we’re willing to face the hateful, hurtful reality of unleashed anger.

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage – John Piper – don’t miss this one.

Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger – posted by Kurt Smith, Counseling Men Blog – Don’t miss the comments – story after story of women and the angry men they have loved – very helpful.

Counseling Men Blog – Guy Stuff Counseling

Brad Hambrick on Anger

Top 7 Bible Verses on Anger – Jack Wellman

7 Ways to Help Men Resolve Anger Issues – Jed Diamond

Battered Person Syndrome – Wikipedia

The Angry Heart – Biblical Counseling CoalitionBlog - Anger - Angry man - Biblical Counseling CoalitionPhoto Credit: Biblical Counseling Coalition

Monday Morning Moment – Contempt is Cancer in the Workplace…and Any Other Place

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In a culture that clamors for political correction, how is it that contempt can be so freely expressed? Even rewarded, at times? This is an enigma for me. Contempt at home or in the workplace divides people, often against one another. Like cancer, it can spread if left unchecked…changing people and impacting product.

Having a certain measure of confidence is positive for all of us on a team. It’s freeing to be in relationships with people who have a strong sense of what they bring to the table as well as what others bring. Confidence and humility actually partner well together. When we have an honest understanding of our strengths, we also extend humility as we defer to the strengths of our colleagues.

The problem comes for all of us when confidence shifts into arrogance. Worse yet, when arrogance darkens into contempt. Arrogance is an attitude of thinking so highly of oneself that we tend to put down the thinking and efforts of others. Contempt is similar except the emotions are stronger and more mean-spirited.

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What makes contempt so cancerous in our relationships is that it tends to spread, both internally and externally. When we allow ourselves the luxury of contempt, we grow in our justification of it. It may have started with an unappreciative boss or demanding client, but contempt, unchecked, will inject its poison indiscriminately.  We become comfortable with our disdainful opinions of others…at work, in our families, and pretty much toward anyone who crosses or annoys us.Blog - Contempt 2 - liveforchristresourcesPhoto Credit: LiveforChristResources

Chris Johnson, CEO, Simplifilm Inc. of Portland, Oregon, wrote a piece confronting contempt as a cancer in the workplace. He offers 5 steps to preventing contempt from shattering our work and our work relationships:

1. Don’t Vindicate Yourself. A customer had an experience they didn’t like. You don’t need to prove if you are right or wrong. That’s not relevant. What’s important is making a judgement: is this worth fixing?

2. Look At The Opportunity. Some people are surly, disrespectful, ungrateful and wrong. Some of them have big jobs. Some people like that have power. Learning to work with these people — without getting drawn in — is a skill that you should have.

3. Always Err on the side of empathy. What are the consequences of being nicer to someone than they deserved? What are the consequences of being meaner? Will too nice of a response to a human ever ruin a career?

4. Cultivate Improvement Bias. When something goes wrong at Simplifilm, there are two components: what do we do with our transaction, and what do we do with our system. For the transaction, we try and fix it with empathy. We believe that we caused it. Because if we caused it we can improve our system.

5. Rethink your filter. Most people say “block out everyone, make customers prove themselves to you.” Being available can be hard. Many filters are vanity in disguise. If you knew the people that answered their personal emails…Chris Johnson

Contempt like cancer can be smoldering without our awareness. I am generally a positive and empathetic person, but, if I’m honest with myself, there are those in the workplace who don’t experience much compassion from me. It’s an uncomfortable confession to have to make.

As we practice mindfulness in our relationships at work, we hopefully will remember to respond instead of react. We can rein in contempt by refusing to think ill of others, by staying engaged, and by acknowledging none of us get it right every time (exercising humility).

On the old TV sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frank, Ray’s father would often make observations that sizzled with sarcasm. One comment remains a part of our family’s lexicon: “People are idiots!” It’s so easy for any of us to look at actions or decisions made by others and shake our heads…until we remember that we all have it in us to do the same. Contempt can be diagnosed…and treated…

…with empathy, compassion, and humility. Not necessarily the coolest or trendiest work (or relationship) processes in our culture…but… What a difference they can make in the tone of our meetings, the depth of our relationships, and the measure of our own character.

So let’s get after it!

How Contempt Breeds Business Cancer (& 5 Ways to Kill It) by Chris Johnson

Contempt or Compassion by Brian Fletcher

Detecting Deception by David Berglund – SlideShare [Slide 76ff]

Confidence vs. Arrogance – and Knowing the Difference by Michele Cushatt

10 Ways to Tell if You’re Confident or Arrogant by Carmine Gallo

How Contempt Destroys Relationships by Susan Heitler