Anger and regret

Work got difficult. I spent a fair amount of time discussing this in my session, but because I didn’t really take in any of Ron’s comments, except one or two, I’ll just write about it as I’m thinking it through now.

I feel I messed up. The way I always do – it’s not my work, it’s my interpersonal skills. I started to feel outraged and hard done by, and I expressed that, and it did not go over well. At the time, it seemed so justified to me. But now, two days later, I wish I had handled things better.

I’m actually waiting for the other shoe to drop – imagining the director calling me into a meeting to take me to task on this. I imagine how I explain it all….I don’t want to keep thinking about this, when it hasn’t yet happened and may not.

It’s hard to explain what happens in a way that makes sense. I know I got caught up in a trauma response – I seriously over-reacted, and then, because I felt totally justified, I didn’t apologize or try to make it better really.

I’m a writer, and my work gets reviewed as a part of my job. Often there are a lot of silly changes that make no difference, which I make. Then there are changes  that would make the document incorrect, which I protest. Then there are changes that just make the document worse from a usability/communications perspective, and those I first protest, explain the problem, but if a boss insists, I then make the change.

Anyway. I have a co-worker, C, on this project who isn’t a writer, but has other good skills. We’ve been having some conflict, because I don’t like his power plays. We’re equals, but he keeps trying to take over the project. In meetings, he ignores me. If I say something, he doesn’t respond to what I say. He won’t look at me at all – he only concentrates on whomever has the most status there. I would have liked to set up a more collegial relationship – we suffer the same problems with management and with the project. We have lots in common. Why can’t we be on the same side?

So I’m already irritated by this, though have said nothing much. How to address feeling ignored with someone you don’t really have a relationship with anyway?

Then also on the project is the business lead, E. I like E, and he does listen to what I say and does not ignore me. I really respond to being accepted and listened to – I don’t take that for granted at all. And, we are very often in agreement as to how the documents should go. Which is surprising, for a math person to understand about documents.

A very large part of E’s personality is that he avoids all conflict and disagreement. Everything must be happy and pleasant. Anything else is ignored. If there’s a lot of conflict, he judges the person and tries to go around them. So, not someone who will work through disagreements, or even understand if anyone gets angry.

The project has been more or less stalled because of mixed messages and lack of higher management input. We are using my part of it as a test, because I was finished first, and wanted to take it in to the head of the division to see if this is what he is looking for. We’d use this as a model for all our other projects, taking any feedback as direction for our other projects also.

E was supposed to have this meeting. There have been other little meetings in the past with the head (I don’t attend), with confusing outcomes. And yet, the head is very concerned apparently that we are meeting his goals.

So, this meeting never happened, and there are no plans to re-schedule.

So I was surprised about this, and kind of fed up. It’s been months, and no input from management, and we’re stuck. So I was mad. And E is just not good at managing projects, so who knows what he communciates….part of this is likely his fault, but definitely not all. I can see it’s a tricky situation to navigate.

So we get into a meeting with E, C and myself. E says the meeting never happened.  He doesn’t acknowledge that this is a problem. So his inspiration is to have C ‘channel’ our actual boss, K, and do a new critique of my document, and he also will do another critique of my document, trying to anticipate how K will think and what he will want.

I thought this was a completely ridiculous plan and I did say so.

E had already done a review as part of our process. This meant we’d have to go back into the review cycle, get our sign-offs again. How could C mind read what K would think? No matter how perfect the document, someone reviewing will always be able to want things different. It’s almost like the drive to edit and change is stronger than common sense, for most. It makes little difference how many changes someone else has made.

And I felt so fed up. Here we are, going in circles, and E’s solution is to keep picking away at my document, when we have no actual feedback as to what they want done differently. As if we can mind read the problem away. God that seems so ridiculous to me. It still does, even now I’ve cooled off.

Of course, E and C think I’m being defensive. I don’t want anyone making changes to my precious words. But that’s not really it. I don’t think them nit-picking away at the only document any of us have managed to finish is going to help. It’s like denying the real problem, while torturing me.

Anyway. Why could I not have been diplomatic? Because that’s not my nature. But also, I’m pretty sure, because something got triggered for me. I still think I have a valid point of view, it’s just that I expressed it so poorly.

I was relentlessly criticized as a child, and never supported. No one cared how I felt, and I didn’t really even know someone could care how I felt, or that I was being mistreated. Likely those feelings, of being criticized and sometimes raged at by my father, came rushing to the fore and I defended myself.

We did have some ‘critique’ meetings of my document. Actually, some of the discussion was interesting. I’m not sure the changes I’m being asked to make will actually help anything. C’s suggestions are pretty much terrible – he doesn’t understand documents, plus he entirely misunderstood the goal of the process I’m documenting, so he tried to change it to more clearly explain what he thought the process does. Since it doesn’t do what he thought, most of this stuff he wants to change is wrong anyway.

I know E will likely not address any concerns with me directly, as he must avoid conflict (according to his inner dictates). I’m worried he’s gone to our boss, K, to complain about my attitude, and that K will dress me down. I wanted to quit this job on the spot, last week when this situation first happened. I just felt it was unbearable to be there. Which is a bit odd – I’ve been interested in the job up to the previous day, and suddenly, I need to quit? Instead, I went for hour long coffee breaks and did little work.

My outburst happened Thursday. Friday I still felt completely justified, though I was complying with what E had asked, and I was much less angry. But as the day wore on, I became afraid that my boss would be pulled into this and I’d be told off.

Now today, Saturday, I’m picturing myself apologizing to E and C about over-reacting. That’s what I think I need to do, though I didn’t feel the need last week. Not because I’m afraid of the boss, but because I did over-react. However ridiculous things get, I need to roll with it, or at least express disagreement calmly.

Sigh. One thing – because I have this quality of acting in a way I don’t like sometimes, I do understand when others do the same. Yes, I react to them at the time. But after that, I understand that people get angry, they sometimes do things they later regret, and I don’t hold it against them necessarily.





  1. e.Nice said:

    There is always the wish we had handled something different, or done better, or been perfect (maybe thats just me), but it doesn’t sound like you did anything that you need to apologize for. Maybe I’m missing something but its ok to try something different when stuff isn’t working. Could you call a meeting?

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah. I never did get clarity as to what happened, or how anyone else felt. I know C and I were on bad terms ever since, but he’s come around today. There’s a huge difference in how he acts. I just want to quit. Thanks Nice.

  2. Cat said:

    Hi Ellen, I can relate to overreacting to situations that trigger the CH issues. I talked about it in therapy and wonder if we do overreact inappropriately, or if we just feel very guilty for expressing an opposing opinion. I wonder how much your colleagues fret over pushing forward with their views. We do tend to hold a better understanding of other people’s anger and I suppose they probably understand ours more than we realise.

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah. I know C for instance does not feel bad for expressing his opposing views. And are my CH issues anger, or being over-sensitive and too worried about what other people think? I have no clue at this point and remain confused. Thanks Cat.

  3. Rachel said:

    I understand that intense self-judgment and hypercritical part that says we must always act the way we “should.” That voice has a hard time thinking it would be possible to be a good person or good communicator even if it isn’t done perfectly 100% of the time. What I want to say to that voice is “thanks for trying to get Ellen to be the best she possibly can. Your input is valuable, and, let’s speak respectfully to one another and offer flexibility and forgiveness when errors are made. When we are learning to cops with feelings and triggers, it might be a little messy. And that is okay. That is part of learning.”

    • Ellen said:

      Aw, thanks Rachel. I like that kind approach to the inner critic!

  4. We can all overreact at times. Dont fret too much about it. They seem to be causing issues where there doesnt need to be any. Its not all your fault. XX

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