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?
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!