Match Girl


Dear Dharma,

I have a lot of enthusiasm and creative energy. When applied to hobbies, this is a great asset, but at work it has become a serious problem.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a troubling lack of leadership in our organization, which is a democratic Society. This means we all have the right, duty, and forum to participate in discussions about issues and solutions.  Well, at least on paper this is the case.

We’ve had a number of big changes recently that have created a lot of strain and novel situations, and the poor leadership (read bullying) has really become pronounced. Because I am one of the few people who does not respond to bullying by shutting up, I have become a scapegoat of sorts.

Wait, there’s more…

The administrators complain that fewer and fewer people come forward to help, yet they are actively turning away that assistance because it is not exactly what they want.  In other words, far from democratic. They function with the attitude of “you can vote as long as it supports the head manager’s position” – which makes it more of a dictatorial than anything. Unfortunately, the head manager has turned his biased eye upon me these last couple years, and he uses his strong influence to poison people against me. I’ve seen it happen to others in the past.

I’ve tried various things to repair relationships or simply keep my head down, but I still have to see these people and the loss of kindness in their faces when they see me.  I cannot propose even the most apolitical idea without being accused of being manipulative or conniving.

Am I an upstart? Maybe. More so I am of the belief that a team must harness the strengths of its members, not pound square pegs into round holes and then ask why no one wants the job. A strong leader capitalizes on the creative urges of her/his team.

Anyway, I’m trying to go high when the cynics go low, but I just never know when I’m going to get a good kick in the crotch for getting excited about an idea and seeing whether it fits the program. I don’t want to leave, but how can I prevent myself from dying of cold even as I hold all these matches?

Little Match Girl

Dear Little Match Girl,

Let’s get something out of the way first thing – nothing we chat about here is going to change the way the head manager handles things.  Which means the same toxic environment will continue to thrive for as long as it does. Maybe one day you’ll be treated with an unexpected resignation on his part, but until then, it is what it is.

You’re thinking, “Thanks a big heap, Dharma!  You’ve been super helpful.”

Well now, hold on a second, let a girl finish her thoughts!  Because you must know I have some…

Let’s start with you – because that’s the only place we have a hope in heck of gaining any headway.  Cuz we can’t change them, right?

You say you have “enthusiasm and creativity”.  They say you’re “manipulative and conniving”.  You say you have “excitement around implementing new ideas”, they want to “kick you in the crotch” for it.

And one small step further.  “Am I an upstart? Maybe.”

Upstart – A person of humble origin who attains sudden wealth, power, or importance, especially one made immodest or presumptuous by the change. Especially one who behaves arrogantly.

Immodest, presumptuous, arrogant.

I don’t know you, so I can’t say if these words apply.  But since you’re the one who maybe recognizes these qualities within yourself, I guess it’s irrelevant if Dharma agrees or not.  You think you have them – maybe – and I’m going to go out on a limb and say some of your colleagues agree with you.

So while your intentions are fantastic and grounded in enthusiasm and creativity, do you think you’re coming off as… an upstart?  Because the thing is, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a situation where people throw their arms around the immodest, presumptuous, arrogant one and say “Let’s all be one together!!”

Just something to ponder…

On to your actual question…

“I don’t want to leave, but how can I prevent myself from dying of cold even as I hold all these matches?”

I’m interested, after your fairly impassioned description of the situation, why you still want to stay.

If you could find a similar job with similar pay in a way better work environment, why on earth would you want to stay?  Of course, I don’t know if such a thing exists, but I have to assume your position is not the only one in existence the world over…

Cuz the thing is?  I don’t think you can have it both ways.  I don’t think you can expect to stay and still get the changes you are after.  Think about it! List all the dynamics that would have to change for this to work for you and then tell me how likely that is to happen.

If you choose to stay, I think the only saving grace you might have is to make yourself not care so intensely about what’s going on there.  Find other things to focus on that make you happy. I know you want to make a difference and I admire that, but uhm – maybe recognize who’s pounding a square peg into a round hole…?



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