Sunday, April 10, 2011

Open Letter to a Former Supervisor

Dear Former Supervisor:

Nearly every year for the past nn years, I have written a letter to you on the computer this week in April; I have poured my heart and soul into the letter; I have read it over and acknowledged the truth in the letter; then, I have deleted it and moved on with my life. This year, I am half again as old as I was the day of the Secretarial Meeting from Hell. That was the meeting where you walked in, told the office manager that you had a few things to say, and then proceeded to tell the lot of us that we were a terrible group of people and that you were sick and tired of all of us. You then went around the room and described each person's failings. You saved me for last; you also gave me the worst of it. I sat there taking notes, writing as fast as I could, and willing myself to not show any emotion - least of all crying.

The next four months were some of the hardest in my entire career; I filed a grievance against you, writing each sentence with as much care as I could to ensure that I never devolved into blame or rage. I withdrew the grievance after you went to the office manager's home (where she was taking a doctor-ordered sick leave - the office environment was that toxic) and told her to pass a threat on to me that you would take legal action if I continued with the grievance. I met with the HR manager, the owner of a temporary services firm, and some wise friends; all of whom counseled me to let it go and move on. At the end of those four months, I started another job within the company where the new supervisor was told during the background check that bad things had happened that weren't my fault. That job didn't work out very well, but the next one did and lasted 15 years, ending only with the recent reorganization in which I was told repeatedly that I was valued for my knowledge, work ethic, and friendliness.

There is something I want to say to you right now that I could not have said then or until some time in the last few years: You were right. From my late 20s through my early 30s, I went through a phase where I behaved as though the world was simply set up wrong, that I knew how it should be fixed, and that anyone who didn't agree with me was a horrible human being. I not only behaved this way, I mostly thought this way. Going through the crucible of those years in which several jobs in a row went awry and in which personal relationships went in wrong directions transformed me. The piece of metal that emerged from the fire of those years had been tempered, polished, and its edges rounded.

The person who showed up at my current workplace 15 years ago was a far different person than had shown up in your workplace several years earlier, and the person I have become in the course of this job is more different still. Fifteen years ago, I was still a large, open wound, full of pain and self-doubt; and I was very willing to concede how little I knew. Over the last 15 years, I have grown into a tolerant, kind, and decent human being. I am not sure if the person I was when I worked for you would recognize the current version of me; but I do think she would say something like, "That's who I want to be when I grow up." Nearly losing everything and having to take a hard look at myself, my behavior, and my basic stance toward life was a terrible and difficult experience.

Please know that I wish you well. Perhaps one day, we will bump into each other and we will converse, and the years will be rubbed away and all that will remain is a sense of, "I used to know this person, back in the day." Peace.


Sarah {The Student Knitter} said...

wow! What a courageous message to put out on the internet. Acknowledging your contribution in the conflict doesn't make what he did or said right. Good for you though for learning from what he said.

kheli said...

What a healing missive! Congratulations to you for your self-awareness. Letting go of the bitterness frees you!

Vivianne said...

I don't know, it sounds like you're being way too harsh on your youthful self. And even *if* she was right, there's ways of saying stuff, and ways of saying stuff ....