During a trip back to Minnesota last year for training on my new job, my trainer whispered conspiratorially that she thought that our manager gave her work that she thought that her manager should do. “I’m not the one who has to write the reports”, she said. Earlier in the day, she had spoken to me not so quietly that the previous payroll person was just awful at the job. “I always had to correct him”, she exclaimed. “He just couldn’t do the job. I had to keep telling him the same thing over and over again!” She also told me that the new payroll person, wasn’t picking up the job as quickly as her past experience indicated that she could.
I didn’t respond to any of her comments. I should have come back with something a lot stronger than silence. My mind wasn’t so quiet. I knew the previous payroll person. He had left the company because of the way my trainer had treated him for the past eighteen months. She had been demoralizing him and criticizing him constantly. In a state of anguish, he had finally resigned. He had told me that he really liked the company and the other people that he worked with, but he just couldn’t take any more from my trainer who had made his life unbearable and caused him so much stress and degradation. I was quite astounded that she would also say something about her manager. She and the manager were pretty cozy.
I learned a long time ago when I lived in Climping (outside of Littlehampton in West Sussex) never to believe what another person tells me about someone else. I was serving in a church leadership position and needed to find someone to oversee the homemaking meeting for the ladies at church. I felt inspired to suggest a particular lady’s name. I will call her Lynn although this is not her real name. Lynn accepted the call to serve as the Homemaking Leader and I worked closely with her. When she was called, I was approached several times about Lynn with people telling me to be careful as Lynn was a terrible gossip and very unreliable. This information did affect my relationship with her at the beginning. However, I learned very quickly that Lynn was not like that. She was such a sweet lady and would do anything for anyone. She also never talked badly about anyone in my presence. After this specific learning experience, I vowed that I would make my own mind up about people and not listen to what others say.
On that trip to Minnesota, I had been working twelve hour days without breaks. On the day before I flew back home, I took a lunch break for an hour with one of my friends from work who had been brought into town at the same time. It was nice chatting with her and catching up on each other’s news. When I got back to my desk, I grabbed some papers that I wanted to scan in so I had access to them when I got back to Utah. Whilst I was at the photocopier, I heard my trainer say to my manager in a surreptitious manner, “She’s back!” That just confirmed to me that the trainer was also talking behind my back about me in a derogatory way just as she had our manager and the two payroll people.
This behaviour is a good example of duplicity – when a person will talk about somebody when they aren’t present in a critical and demeaning way – but wouldn’t dream of saying the same things to the person if they were there. It can be guaranteed that a person who exhibits this type of behaviour with you will be saying things about your weaknesses or other untruths to someone else when you are not there. This is the opposite of integrity. Having integrity means to be loyal to those who are not present. In these types of situations, one should defend those who are absent. When you defend those that are absent, you build trust with others. My husband is a very good example of this. My husband and his first wife are divorced but my husband never says a bad word about her. He never runs her down. I know that my husband will never talk badly about me to someone else even if we have had a disagreement.
In an earlier post, I talked about the acronym of ‘HARD’. To review, this stands for:
I spoke about how it was hard for me to be ‘Honest’ and ‘Direct’. I particularly find confrontation and speaking about my feelings to be difficult. This amounts to dishonesty as one is not being honest due to omission. It also leads to being just like my trainer. I won’t tell the person that I’m upset with them but I will vent to my husband or a close friend. I do not see much difference in that than with the behaviour of my trainer.
I am a great fan of Stephen R. Covey and reading his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ about sixteen years ago really helped me put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. He says in this book that ‘Integrity includes but goes beyond honest. Honesty is telling the truth – in other words, conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words – in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations’. He further extrapolated “Integrity also means avoiding any communication that is deceptive, full of guile, or beneath the dignity of people. ‘A lie is any communication with intent to deceive,’ according to one definition of the word. Whether we communicate with words or behaviour, if we have integrity, our intent cannot be to deceive.” (Pg 195 and 197).
Instead of remaining silent when my trainer was sharing information about my manager and the payroll personnel, there is an alternative choice. Stephen Covey puts it like this: ‘… Suppose you were to start criticizing our supervisor and I basically told you that I agree with the content of some of the criticism and suggest that the two of us go directly to him and make an effective presentation on how things might be improved. Then what would you know I would do if someone were to criticize you to me behind your back?” This is something for me to seriously consider doing when these circumstances present themselves again. That way I will be ‘honest’ and ‘direct’. This will take great courage but it will help me to be congruent with myself. This is what I need to aim for.
It is easier to take the course of least resistance: to belittle, to criticize, to betray confidences, to gossip about others behind their back. This is also a form of pride. One form of pride manifests itself when one seeks to build oneself up by pulling another down. Belittling, criticizing and gossiping function to knock the person it is aimed at down; at the same time aggrandizing the perpetrator. Pride is really destructive and possessing it is the means of destroying an individual, a family, and a society. When one is seeking to build oneself up at the expense of another person there is no respect for another person; there is no love. Stepping all over another person to gain respect or success is detrimental and self-sabotaging. How can one trust a person who does this?
The way in which you treat one person says a lot about you. It shows whether you can be trusted or not. What I learned from my parents was to have values and to make choices in my life based on principles. When I interact with any people, I need to do so by maintaining the same set of principles across the board. I wish to be a person who has integrity. There are some cracks in my armour as I have just discussed and my goal is to close up these weaknesses by learning to be honest and direct with those that I associate with. It is a work in progress but the most important thing is to be moving in the right direction.
(First published in Roaming Brit on 24th April, 2018)