Andrew and I needed to go with the flow this week, so we split our session into two parts. They were ideally supposed to be 15 minutes each, but as conversations go, they were twice as long. The benefit of having two sessions was checking in and making a reasonable and interesting goal for Andrew, which was to be a Bystander, not a Mover. WE thought about his week and when he was around people for opportunities to interact. He’s a postman, and therefore on his own most of the day. So we thought of various places where he could essentially hunt for a conversation need of a Bystander.
Another thing I learned about Andrew is that his work schedule is very demanding. Through the week I wondered how he found time to eat dinner and do school work.
Just before our session one, part two, I emailed Andrew to give him kudos on some work he did (he’s n both of my classes). What grad student doesn’t feel the benefit of some praise?
Now we’re on Skype, reviewing posts he’d made about a scenario at work where he Opposed. According to Andrew’s story, his workplace has a lot of regulations and standards that don’t really have weight. Typically, he hears the empty threats of authority and goes on his way, knowing that nothing comes of them. Typically, he is unfazed. However this time, he shared his thought, “Either way, I’m good.” And his supervisor was upset by his ‘insubordination.’ So Andrew and I explored why she might have been upset by his words.
We sorted through his story of the Opposition he practiced with his supervisor. By the way, it was originally his intention be a Bystander, but this situation came up and he found himself in the dynamic of Opposition. How did she react? Was she red in the face and yelling back at you? No, he said. She just threatened to write me up, and that doesn’t do anything.
At Andrew’s office, The US Postal Service, authority is confusing, over used, and too many people seem to have authority. One person might have ten direct supervisors to answer to, and each of those ten have ten more supervisors above them. So on and so on. It sounded to me like a recipe for a lot of pressure from higher ups and stress. So, I borrowed from my coaching to ask Andrew, What would it be like to find common ground with your supervisor the next time she confronts you that way? If you were in her place, all you would want to do is go home and put your feet up- just like you do now, am I right? Andrew considers earnestly, which is great feedback for me that I’m connecting. So how would you interact with her , if you could edit the conversation in your mind? Andrews voice becomes less aloof and more warm, I’d say- and he tries out a couple of phrases. I see empathy happening.
Then he tells me he’s “difficult”, which is an honest admission. He says, “I don’t rally like authority.” And I get to tel him that I’m no good with authority, either. So we compare what we think is over use of authority, and at what point is it bothersome/annoying/provoking. So, it seems like the challenge for Andrew in his work place is to practice Opposing authority without seeming disrespectful and insubordinate- because that won’t get he results he wants. He knows this, I’m just acknowledging it.
I asked him how he felt about he praise I’d given him for his creativity in school this week. He appreciated it. Something I think I understand about Andrew is that praise is good for him, and authority is problematic. I know this feeling first hand, “a problem with authority” doesn’t necessarily mean being openly rude or disobedient. For some, authority is a dark shadow. I think Andrew will perform best when he knows he is doing these exercises for himself, and that his effort will be seen as such.