“I did not attend his funeral; but I wrote a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain
Several lifetimes ago I had a porter who was an elegant workhorse. He always came to work fifteen minutes early, hardly ever took a sick day, and honestly didn’t seem to like taking vacations. He sometimes worked through at least part of his lunch break, and was always there when he was needed, always easy to find, always cheerful and friendly and open, always looking to see how he could be helpful. Working circles around the other staff members, he didn’t need to be coached, ordered, or supervised, or pushed into getting work done.
I could depend on Melvin to do what needed to be done without my asking, or telling him. He was a dream come true, and a delight to work alongside.
I had a resident in that same lifetime, who, shortly after moving in, developed an irrational emotional attachment to Melvin. Out of the blue she started hating Melvin. Elsie, it was soon learned, was pregnant, her hormones raging. When Melvin delivered a package or cleaning to her apartment, she was as likely to scream at him as anything.
She blamed Melvin when a contractor two floors up started making noise too early for her in the morning. She blamed Melvin when the cleaning didn’t include all of the items she had been expecting.
Kind of reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw on the highway once. It read: I don’t have PMS – I just really hate you.
She was a nightmare. Melvin became nervous around her (who wouldn’t), petrified of her rages, and began to decline to deliver dry cleaning or packages to her apartment anymore. We worked around it. We hoped it was only because she was pregnant, and things would get better post-partum. In the meantime, we decided that all we could do to help was to keep the two as far away from each other as we could.
“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” – Will Roger
The weird thing is, it seemed it was only Melvin that Elsie chose to loathe. She was an angel to the rest of us. I couldn’t figure out how such a sweetie could be so nasty, all wrapped up in the same package. It was truly like she was two people. It seemed there was nothing that Melvin did to bring it on, except to exist, to be. And long after the baby was through the terrible twos, she still showed her negative emotional attachment to Melvin.
There is no accounting for taste, as the saying goes. There is also no accounting or explanation for emotional attachments of the positive OR negative kind in some people, at certain times.
Ever wonder why it is that someone suddenly falls in love with someone in a totally improper situation? It might have happened to you as a teen, or since adulthood. Or to someone you know, or knew in the distant past. No matter how inappropriate or damaging it can potentially be, it seems that some folks cannot help themselves, they just fall in love with some one, what I call developing “irrational hots” for somebody else. We see this all the time where a supposedly happily married person suddenly develops an infatuation with a person not their spouse, and all hell breaks loose in their established relationship.
It’s the same way with the hates. No matter how dumb or irrational or destructive it might be to themselves, their families, or others, there are times when someone will develop an irrational and inexplicable hate or extreme dislike for someone else.
“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.” – Dennis Wholey
There’s nothing that the victim, or anyone around the victim, can do to talk him or her out of that sentiment. Since it’s irrational, it cannot be explained, nor can it be justified. Nor can it be changed if it cannot be seen by the perpetrator. It just is, and it’s all too real. It seems impossible to deal with, it’s unfair, it’s unjust, perverse, troubling.
How do you deal with such an illogical and unreasonable emotion, whether it’s directed at you or at one of your staff?
The first thing to realize is this: to the extent that the person on the receiving end has done nothing wrong to deserve such irrational, ignorant unjustified hate, there is nothing that can be done to ameliorate it. That is to say: if it’s irrational, then there is no reason for it. If there’s no reason for it, there is no direct way to combat it.
There is an adage to the effect that time heals all wounds. Of course it isn’t really time that does it. The human creature is such a resilient living thing that in time we heal anyway, some times despite ourselves.
There are many ways to deal with an irrational emotion directed at you or your people. One is simply to say, “I don’t care what you think of me, it bothers me but I will go on doing my job no matter what.” Almost as if to say: If I can achieve notoriety by being hated by the right people, what’s that say about them? Like a badge of honor, it may be something in which to take a perverse pride.
“This is courage in a man: to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends.” – Euripedes
Which is some ways is exactly what Melvin did. He tried to avoid her, because to have invective and blame hurled at you day after day for just doing your job is a huge emotional drain. But he never lost his concentration, never stopped doing his job. Since there was nothing he did to deserve the treatment, he just kept on going as if it wasn’t happening. Didn’t lash out, didn’t strike back. Just kept on keeping on, doing his job.
To keep on doing your job, and doing it well, right through adverse treatment, now that’s the essence of real character.
We all get this to a certain extent at some point or other in our lives; I think supers and other building support personnel in New York City get it more than those in many other service sectors. I get frustrated and discouraged at times and wish to quit, to give up, to stop slogging on and working through the criticism.
It can really work for you to have a thick skin in this vocation, because in a mid-level management job such as this, you are quite often given great responsibility yet have little real power. Consequently, you get the blame for things you have no power to change. You must often look to, and wait patiently (or impatiently) for, others to come to a decision. In many cases you have to wait for someone else to make a decision about the bigger picture before you can make a lesser decision that really should have been made yesterday, or last week, or even last year.
I wonder sometimes if I have skin of sufficient thickness to keep on. I get discouraged and disheartened and wonder, at least momentarily, if I’m in the right business. But keeping on, my friends, is exactly what we must do. Even when you get the blame for something you have no responsibility for. Even when you feel like you never get the recognition for your loyalty, for your honesty, for your great work ethic, for work above and beyond the call of duty, for a particular job well done, even when you get only blame for someone else’s decision that was less than well made.
“To be loved is to be fortunate, but to be hated is to achieve distinction.” – Minna Antrim
Even when the hatred or revulsion or disgust or distaste or aversion or loathing or abhorrence toward you or one of your crew is palpable, and no matter how illogical or unreasonable or difficult or perverse or unjust, this is not the time to quit. Think about it all you want, talk about it if you must, but DON’T DO IT.
This is exactly the time to step back up to the plate, to gain new resolve, and take another crack at bat.