21 March 2009

An Inescapable Dilemma

In my previous post I explained how many workplaces, being hierarchical, are set up to strenuously oppose boundary setting by those lower in the hierarchy with respect to those above them.

There is very little admission of this in most 'management made simple' literature.

You won't find many time management articles or books, for instance, whose authors honestly admit that most workers are not permitted any real ownership of their time - which is, of course, the first prerequisite for actually managing it.

You won't find many books in the 'One Minute Cheese' genre that accurately describe the backlash experienced by a harried middle manager who puts a 'Please Do Not Disturb' sign on her locked office door for two hours, because she is being interrupted so frequently that she can't complete a single sentence, let alone a paragraph, of the rush report she's just been assigned - and told she must complete by the end of the day. [In a particularly noxious variation on this theme, these interruptions come either from the same person who assigned that report, or people who are being referred to her by that same person.]

Nor will you find many books that honestly admit that, in many organizations, managers who do successfully limit their time and investment in the workplace often do so less than honorably, by foisting their responsibilities onto others.
Telecommuting is one favored method of responsibility evasion for this type of manager; when emergencies arise, the off site manager inexplicably can't be reached via vmail or email - and a peer or subordinate who is physically on site will be left 'holding the baby'.

Another method of responsibility-ducking is the Holiday Dump strategy I described in my previous post - where one manager takes time off and arranges coverage by dumping their responsibilities on a colleague or subordinate [who, in the most noxious version of this game, is given no advance notice, not even the courtesy of being asked for assistance].
The inescapable dilemma that many of us face is simply this: our workplaces are abusive. They are emotionally and psychologically toxic places, and we are often denied the right to protect ourselves from this toxicity.

This gives rise to a secondary dilemma - even when we successfully identify, address, and manage to eliminate as much abusiveness as possible from the family, faith, and recreational dimensions of our lives, we may find it far more difficult to do the same in the occupational / professional dimension. And this can be terribly frustrating, even to the point of hindering our ability to fully recover from abuse.

Why? Because as long as we continue to be forced to experience abuse in any aspect of our lives, we continue to experience a 'crime in progress'. We are not yet safe, and therefore we cannot fully heal. Healing can be fully completed only in safety, only when we are no longer exposed to injury.

As a very poignant Yom Kippur article - written by Barbara, author of the "Sanctuary for the Abused" blog [and quoting trenchantly from the late Kathy Krajco], explains, "... it is as impossible to forgive a crime in progress as it is to forgive a crime in advance. Purporting to do so amounts to saying it is no crime ..."

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