Sunday, December 28, 2008

Processing Betrayal in the Workplace

My Leading Petty Officer (LPO) decided to bail on mandatory training for the holiday. I did not realize this until one of my colleagues remarked, "You'd better tell your corpsmen to get back to work. They need to stop paging themselves out of training." I was furious and embarrassed.

I walked into the main office where all the HMs were sitting and talking and asked if everyone had attended training. One of the HMs said pointedly, "Some of us did, ma'am."

The LPO laughed.

I was speechless for a moment, then said, "What a great leadership example you set." I turned and walked back to my office. They went to lunch.

When the corpsmen came back, the LPO stuck his head in my office. "Ma'am, I just wanted to let you know that I took what you said to heart. I'll be going to the afternoon training session."

It has been several weeks and I am still angry about it. I don't understand why this still infuriates me. Part of the problem is this LPO is a cross-rate---he did not attain second class in the HM field, but exposure to the fleet should have impressed upon him the importance of setting the example and completing mandatory training, no matter how much a waste of time the training may be.

This article, Betrayed? 7 Steps for Healing, provides a good process to work through the feelings aroused by betrayal or a loss of trust. I'm pretty sure my HMs have already worked through the first step (Observe and acknowledge what has happened) and have moved on. The LPO came to my office and apologized for his behavior later that day so we've also accomplished step 2: Allow feelings to surface.

Step 3 says to Give employees support. I am still finding it difficult to be in the same room with this person---I feel uncomfortable in his presence...which makes me angry at myself. I sent an email message to him stating I was still available for mentoring and coaching, but he never responded, so I can only imagine he is just as uncomfortable.

In order for me to work through this, step 4 suggests Reframe the experience. In this step, I have to look at the role I played in this issue. Clearly, I did not have him think through the scheduling of training attendance: having all HMs but one at the morning session would not allow flexibility for emergencies within the clinic. In discussing this issue with the Senior Enlisted Advisor and the Department Head, I have realized that my leadership efforts and input are neither wanted nor desired. Asking myself questions like "How can I change my response?", "What choices or options do I have now?" or "What can I learn about myself and others from this experience?" gives me valuable insight into myself and my own actions and responses.

In step 5, they suggest I Take responsibility. I should ask myself, "What can I do now? What is in my control and what isn't? What can I do to make a difference?" In this case, I can simply give away control (ha! I never had it!) and refer questions on any clinic operations to the Department Head for action.

Step 6 is the hardest: Forgive. I must free myself of the anger, bitterness and resentment. "What needs to be said or done to put this issue to rest?" My biggest complaint here is the lack of communication and my lack of inclusion in clinic operations.

Finally, step 7 is Let it go and move on. As with Kubler-Ross's work on the stages of death and dying, I will not be able to accomplish these steps in order and all at once---it takes time. I love the model posted at the top of this article.

Click here for more information about the Reina Trust Building Institute and their book, "Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective Relationships in Your Organization, 2nd Edition (2008)."

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