Resentment and poison, failure and feedback

Readers, I am processing something that happened this week, and I beg your indulgence as I move through my stuff. Maybe you find other people’s processing interesting. If not, skip reading this post.

Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. – Malachy McCourt

Social work professor and authenticity researcher Brene Brown posted this quote on Facebook yesterday. (No, I don’t know her in person, but her work is pretty awesome, as are her TED Talks.) The timing for me to encounter this quote was perfect. On Monday night I had a meeting with someone who told me he has resented me for a year, since we both came onto the leadership team of a social and educational organization.

Suddenly I got insight into the tension I’d felt coming from him and how he related to me as if I were a bad employee to be corrected or micromanaged, his dissatisfaction and hypercritical attitude toward any mistakes I made, and a lack of support, gratitude, and appreciation for anything I did, even to the point of undermining me (which was why I wanted to meet with him, to tell him I didn’t like that a bit, you jerk).

It had the ring of truth to it. I also felt horrified. Frankly, it’s creepy to have someone tell you that they’ve resented you for a year. A year!

I left after about 20 minutes. Clear that I don’t want to work with him any more, I ended our “conversation” by resigning. I felt disappointed, but also that there was no real choice. Interest has tapered off. I don’t have hope that the organization will survive.

Later that evening, I found out another person on the leadership team had resigned that morning. And yet another person — also a supporter who has shared his gifts with this organization — soon decided after fruitless and frustrating conversations with this person to take his talents elsewhere. After learning this, I quit as a member.

I just wanna say this:

Hey, dude. Maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s you.

Maybe members sensed your hidden resentment and decided not to come back. You probably think that’s too woo-woo. But maybe there’s a whole field of awareness that you’ve been blind to.

You were a real pill to work with, and as much as I loved doing my role, even imperfectly, I’m okay with severing our association. Relieved. Let me get away from your poison. I came away with many new relationships with people I do like. I even liked you sometimes, but not as a leader.

Here’s a beef: You don’t use the skills this organization promotes to resolve problems! When I asked you what the outcome was that you wanted, you avoided answering my question. Others have noticed that you have difficulty answering a clear, direct request with a clear, direct answer. The meaning of communication is the response you get.

You went off on a tangent but actually got the outcome I think you wanted — my resignation — without ever directly asking for it.

So, um, you could have just asked for my resignation at any time without all the drama, you know. So why didn’t you?

Dude, where’s your well-formedness?

I don’t even think this has much to do with me. It’s more about his ego.

I understand that he’s working out something karmic in his life. This is not about what he thinks it’s about. It’s about self-revelation. He doesn’t seem to know himself very well or be effective in a leadership role. If people don’t trust him or have confidence in him as a leader, then he’s not a leader, no matter what title he has.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what good leadership is. It seems clear to me that it’s situational. People talk about leadership style, but the style has to match the situation.

What works in an employer-employee relationship where you pay someone to fulfill your agenda will not work in an organization composed of volunteers. That is much more about relationship skills and consensus building, rapport and responsiveness, not command and control.

New awesomeness arises out of the ashes. I am free to pursue my best interests, and that’s already taking shape in a very satisfying way.


Update a week later: Everything is perfect just the way it is. When this guy is my age and looks back on who he was at this current time in his life, he will have great perspective on how much richer his map of the world got. His identity, his role in creating this, his ability to be congruent, his skills in relating to people and in leading people will all be vastly more developed and nuanced. He’ll have better insight into why I found it necessary to resign.


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