Friday, March 6

Part of the problem or part of the solution?

I have a piece of paper on my bulletin board on which I've carefully typed the words: "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

As I've looked at it recently, I've reflected on the times I've been part of the problem and those during which I've tried to be part of the solution. Over the past few weeks, I fear the balance has been more in favor of being part of the problem rather than solution. So then I found myself wondering why that may be.

The company I work for has been going through some organizational changes, some of which have not made me happy for reasons that really aren't important and that really aren't very good. At the end of the day, I still have a job (so far). I'm luckier than many. So my recent problem-oriented behavior suggests that I've mostly been petty, which is unusual for me. That's not to say I can't be petty because I can be, but I tend to try to keep that thinking in my head rather than act on it.

What I've had the disquieting opportunity to see is the ripple effect of my pettiness and how it smacks of that junior high behavior I so often disdain, but also how it can be hurtful to people with whom I have to continue to work.

As I have witnessed or experienced the error of my ways, I've been able to redirect with those people I've hurt or offended. That process is not particularly pleasant, but it is restorative. Perhaps those individuals will, over time, forget my clumsy behavior. I think I need to behave as though they have, but keep in mind that perhaps they have not.

Like many, it's easy for me to focus on the negative of any situation, though I've become more adept at processing the information, learning from it, and moving on. I used to anguish over the negative comments in my course evaluations. Now I read them, consider the negative comments in balance with the positive ones, consider the context and weigh the likely motivation of the student(s) to determine if there is something I can do the next time, and move on.

In some meetings with some people now, I am often acutely aware of a little voice in my head reminding me of my more negative behavior and even more aware of how that voice influences how I behave in the meeting and how I respond to some questions or comments. I don't always know if that is me still attempting to do penance or if that is me trying to be part of the solution.

I really do prefer to be part of the solution. Not only is there less mental self-flagellation, but it's a more positive effort in general that can genuinely help others feel good about themselves and their work.

I suppose I could get a tiny balance and drop something in one tray each time I'm part of the problem and drop something in the other tray each time I'm part of the solution, but I think it's dangerous to keep score like that, at least for me. And I think I know when I've been naughty or nice; something in my psyche seems to be aware of that behavioral and attitudinal imbalance.

Just now I seem to be working more on the solution side. I'm hoping I can continue that streak for a while. It's just a much pleasanter perspective on my work world and a much nicer view of my colleagues.

Here's to being a useful and collaborative part of the solution.

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