Yesterday I blundered. While that in itself isn't unusual for me, it made a powerful impact on a coworker - and for that, it will take awhile for the apology to take root and grow.
Several weeks ago, our team (a mighty group of four individuals) became adrift in a sea of bureaucracy. Our supervisor was promoted out of our lives. The five of us were quite a team - each with his/her own competencies that enabled us to do quite well - and we produced some spectacular programs and policies. Then the five became four. Management decided the four of us would rotate in leading the small team - if the plan suited. It did. My rotation was to be last; I'm much more comfortable in a support role - not in a leading role (although my dear husband would argue quite convincingly I am wrong).
And here the blunder slowly took root. First the dynamics of the team of four need to be described. I'm completely and utterly retirement eligible - and have been since the 26th of February when I turned 55 years young. In June of 2006, I have been working for 30 years. Hence - age + years of service equals completely and utterly retirement eligible. Team member two, the sole male in the group, can retire in four years. Team member three, a recent transfer to the group and a lovely lady, is eligible also to retire in four years. And then team member four - a bubbly younger lady who can retire in fourteen years.
Names were drawn out of a hat, and team member four undertook the role of leading the team. Bubbly young lady with lots of energy with fourteen years to go before she can retire. After two weeks on the job, the blunder was planted.
She's a very detail orientated individual - doesn't like to leave anything to chance - and after hearing her express more than once the degree of stress she was experiencing, I shared the concern. Unfortunately, not to her - but to another team member. Subsequently, part of the conversation was overheard. Interpretation - criticism of leadership role.
I now know that stress can be expressed in many different manners. Some may threaten their computer screens; some may find satisfaction is tossing a stapler or two against a wall; others may bang their head a couple times against their keyboards - all of which are highly suitable for those of us in office settings. Team member number four expresses her stress in such a manner that it allowed her to simply let out steam.
Today, the apology. And tomorrow and the next day and forever more - more than one lesson was learned.
One - unless the stress expressed by another individual involves bodily injury to me, ignore it.
Two - unless the stress expressed by another individual involves same individual's head to explode suddenly, ignore it.
Three - always try to imagine what your comments, however well intended, might mean to someone else. Interpretation is everything.
Four - apologies mean nothing if the act is repeated.
All I can say at this point is - I'll never stop learning.