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What Would You Do?

Margo was one of ten members on the management team at the social services agency where she had worked for nearly twenty years.  The team consisted of three men - her boss and two of the program coordinators, and the rest were middle-aged women such as she, who were in charge of various programs, departments, and administrative functions. 

The dynamic of this group was such that Margo often jokingly referred to the weekly gathering as the "mismanagement meeting".  The boss was largely ineffective, and very nearly a puppet of the personnel coordinator, who loved to draw attention to herself and was known for not thinking things through well before acting.  Her problem solving skills were sorely lacking, and the two of them together ran the agency by the seat of their pants.  This created no end of in-house drama and more than a little discontent. 

Most of the women on the team were fairly reticent,  preferring to visit among themselves during the meeting, chatting and gossiping, and rolling their eyes.  Rarely did anyone dare to speak up or speak out in a manner that wasn't consistent with the current group philosophy, which tended to be do as little as possible while earning good pay. 
 
There was an unspoken understanding that the boss did not appreciate anyone who dared to question or contradict him, no matter how soundly based their information or well thought out their input.  He would get very red in the face, sputter and stammer and rapidly shut down any further dialog on the subject.  

Margo was a bit of a warrior, and tended to  rock the boat now and then, determined to move the team in the direction of dealing with important issues affecting the agency and the clients served.  She hated these weekly meetings, and saw them as a tremendous waste of time and energy.  She knew from experience that any planning was likely to go no further, all talk and little substance.  She endured the meetings only because attendance was required, and they usually ended with her feeling even more frustration than before.   

One thing that really bothered Margo was the tendency of the group to talk trash about whichever members happened to be absent from the meeting that week.  She thought it seemed more like a gathering of Jr. High students in the lunchroom, chuckling over problems in the absent person's area, poking fun of their management skills, and almost always sinking to the level of personal attacks under the guise of humor.  That's what got to Margo - the belief that whoever was not in the room was fair game and fodder for the team's amusement.  Margo's boss, and his sidekick the Personnel Coordinator, were two of the worst - often instigating the "jokes" that led to snickers round the room.  

Week after week Margo had left the meeting feeling dirty, unhappy with herself that she had done nothing as this backstabbing went on.  It wasn't her way to talk bad of others, and she didn't like being around those who did.  She had tried to sit quietly and ignore it, but the others merely interpreted that as approval or aloofness, both far from true.  

One day the conversation finally crossed the line.  Snide remarks were being made about a male coordinator who was absent, alluding to the fact that he was gay. Soon the boss was doing an over-the-top bit of mocking effeminate behavior, and Margo had had enough!  After all, the guy who was absent was one of Margo's only real friends in the agency, and she knew it was wrong to let this continue.  

Margo felt the fury grow within her, and she spoke out sharply.  She reminded those present of how immature and inappropriate the content of their humor was, and that it bordered on harassment and possibly illegality. She went to say that she felt these weekly trashing sessions were rather pathetic and certainly not conducive to team building, and that she for one, would no longer be a part of it.  With that, she picked up her pen and notebook and walked out.  

Margo heard later that the room grew very quiet, and the boss's face grew very red.  Margo had dared to embarrass him in front of everyone. She would pay for that, she knew, and she no longer cared.  Not one person still remaining at the table had spoke up in her defense or in support of what she had said.  They had moved on quickly to other topics, and  the meeting was soon adjourned.  No one said anything to Margo about her outburst, but she was secretly pleased to notice that such attacks under the guise of humor never took place again... at least when she was present. 

Margo didn't really care what the others said about it behind her back, she went home that night and was able to look herself in the mirror for the first time in months without being ashamed. She had made the hard choice to stand up for what she believed was right.  What would you have done?  Would you have sided with her, or would you have remained silent?
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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday,
where this week's prompt is "choice/choices/choose"
we'd love to have you join us!

16 comments:

  1. Good for Margo. The best thing for everyone is to be yourself. Obviously the concern of the meeting was not to improve the flow and competence of daily business.

    I fear for Margo because insubordination is not an easily defendable accusation. If her boss decides to pursue this line, there may be no hope for her job. Through the years I have found if they want to get rid of someone, there is always a way.

    Hopefully it will wake the remaining team enough to do less of this tom foolery and more of what they are paid to do. They may also have been uncomfortable with the game and yet felt compelled to play or lose their jobs.

    I have always been one to speak up and sometimes was told...not my business, just do your job. I hope I would have been able to add to Margo's statement. I would probably join her in the unemployment line.

    Petty immature conduct is not my cup of tea but we all drink many flavors of tea.

    If I did not speak up, I may have spiked their drinks at the next meeting with something that would cause them to vacate due to a bathroom emergency. Then while they were gone, they would wonder what was being said about them.

    I do hope this bravery has improved the situation.

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    1. I love your idea about spiking drinks at the meeting, the thought actually occured to Margo more than once, something along the order of "Skinny N' Sweet" made famous in the movie 9 to 5. :-)

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  2. You should never talk or joke about someone that you could not do with them present, ensuring their feelings are not hurt. If criticism is necessary such as in performance appraisal it is important to stress their abilities and potential and where they could develop their skills to improve. However I have only met a very few bosses like that!

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    1. Margo's boss didn't quite fall into that last category, Old Egg. I have also met very few who did. I'm not sure why it's so hard to find management that focus on the positive and work hard to surpress negativity such as was occuring in these meetings. Always wondering what people are saying about you in your absence is demoralizing.

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  3. This is a relevant post on many levels. Thank you for this.

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    1. Ahh yes, McGuffy Ann, that thing about making cruel and snide remarks about people that you are supposed to be on a friendly basis with. Bad business, bad news. Nothing good ever comes of behavior like this, and real friends don't participate in or allow others to make fun of their friends!

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  4. Margo had the guts that, sadly, not too many people have. People are cruel and need to be put in their place much too often. I hope there were not consequences for what Margo did. I would like to think I would have done the same thing. If not by speaking up, I would have given them my "go to 'you know where' and shut the **** up" look. Believe me, I've used it before and it works!

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    1. I'm happy to report that "Margo" lived thru this incident and continued to work there to fight another cause another day. The boss considered her as a "crack-pot" as that allowed him to dismiss her remarks without taking anything she said seriously. The others might have secretly applauded her willingness to stand up for injustice, but they weren't about to stick there necks on the chopping block to support her. She learned that early on, that no one had her back, even when they had promised they would. It didn't stop her though, she did what she thought was right, consequences be damned.

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  5. Yea Margo...got to love her for standing up for what was right!

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    1. Margo is the kind that will go to battle for other people's rights, and sometimes for her own. She doesn't like to see people being picked on or treated badly, she cheers for the underdogs in life. :-)

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  6. I think it was a mistake for Margo to make her protest and then walk out. It was too extreme. In such meetings (and I have attended many), it is better to stand firm, and make a moderate protest, each time there is something that one doesn’t approve of, and in that way, influence the spirit of the meetings. This sounds as if she waited too long to react, and then reacted too strongly, which in fact, weakens her position.

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    1. I think you have a very valid point here, Shimon. Margo tends to let tings build up inside her, then explode when she's finally had her fill. It is healthier and more productive to deal with issues as they present themselves. I think as she goes along in life she develops more confidence to do that.

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  7. Hey, she handled it her way...at least she handled it! Perhaps taking a more moderate tone & staying in the meeting would work for some, but for Margo, it was personal. It was her friend they were mocking. I applaud her!

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    1. You hit the mark exactly, Bobby, at this particular meeting it became very personal for Margo, she did indeed stand up for her friend, and it was the right thing to do!

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  8. Bravo Margo. There is no right time to speak out nor them people have the right to lamb based others. Imagine if Margo is not in the meeting. HA! What do you think those people are saying to put it mildly. Margo is a keeper.

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    1. Thanks! When Margo was not present at the meeting they were most likely talking about her!

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)