Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Some Days You Are The Bird And Some Days You Are The Moth

A Casey McCorison photograph: Costa Rica 2009
A Casey McCorison photograph: Costa Rica 2009

Have you ever been buzzing around at work, taking care of business (you thought), figuring things were going OK and that you were on track with your professional relationships, your career and your reputation, when—zap!–you were hit by criticism, an attack you never expected or a negative event of crisis proportions in your life or career?

Have you ever been responsible for giving an employee bad news about work, administering a disciplinary action or intervening about behavior or performance that must be corrected immediately?  Have you ever investigated something and realized the end result was going to be negative for an employee? Have you ever inadvertently or purposely snapped back at someone unexpectedly or used your influence or authority to thwart them in something they were trying to do that you didn’t like or didn’t think was right?

Many of us have experienced going to work and thinking things seemed fine–but by the end of the day everything had changed for the worse. It can be a frightening, upsetting and life shaking experience.  Sometimes, like the photo above, we are seen as the one who is responsible for the turn of events and sometimes we are the one who gets stopped in our tracks. Either way it can have a long-term negative effect on how we feel about ourselves, others and work.  

The situation may be so bad we can’t do anything but wait it out and hold on to the reality that something else will overshadow it eventually. However, we always can improve things to some degree if we focus on our work, our personal and professional missions and keeping lines of communication open. Never build a wall around yourself thinking that will keep the discomfort out–it only traps it inside.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) had some good advice about that. He was an Irish philosopher, statesman and political theorist who served in the House of Commons in Great Britain and contributed to many key political decisions.  He has been quoted and admired by both conservatives and liberals, but found himself alternately applauded and reviled during his lifetime. He said,

Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.             

That advice may seem excessively simplistic when you find yourself under attack, trying to recover from a painful experience or trying to get your team, section, department or office back on track. However, it is the one bit of advice that will ensure you move through the situation and come out of it stronger and better.

Work on–and do your best work. Work on–and support others who are behaving and performing effectively. Work on–and reach out to those who are going through the same thing.  Acknowledge your errors and apologize if it is appropriate; commit to improving your performance or behavior if that is needed; talk positively about the future. Work on with confidence the situation will pass and the good work you are doing will help it happen sooner.       

In the world of birds and moths many things are deadly and permanent. In your world and mine, surprises, changes, jolts and shocks may happen regularly. The negative results can be lessened if you don’t despair.  However, even if you do, keep your focus on how you want to be seen, what you want to achieve and what you can contribute.                        

July 31st, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 8 comments