A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Don’t Take It Personally?

“The principle of acting in good faith is at the heart of decent work.”

Richard Eyre

I’ve been dating for two years. I’ve become a bit of a “3 date wonder” – meaning I rarely end up having more than three dates. There have been a few exceptions but even those dating relationships don’t last more than a month or so. I can only speculate as to what went wrong as I don’t hear from these men again; they just disappear. My friends tell me it’s no big deal and I shouldn’t take it personally.

Meanwhile, my daughter has recently lost a longtime childhood friend; they didn’t drift apart, they didn’t move away from each other and they didn’t appear to have a huge falling out either. My daughter, after consistent urging from me, reached out to her old friend and was told that she just didn’t want to spend time with my daughter anymore, but that it wasn’t personal.

Finally, a friend of mine was “let go” from her employer two weeks ago; she hadn’t been slacking in her duties, she hadn’t slugged her supervisor nor had she missed any deadlines or performance outcomes. The HR Director and her Manager said they were simply exercising their right to terminate her “at will” and that, you guessed it, she shouldn’t take it personally.

I call BS!  

Anytime you decide to severe a relationship, whether it be dating, friendship or otherwise, for reasons other than obvious technical or behavioral performance failures or misconduct, it is personal!

And without an articulated reason, rejected individuals will naturally assume something is wrong with them! Sometimes, the individual has enough self-confidence to deal well with this situation but often, the individual perseverates about it, loses sleep about it, internalizes it to a point of depression or anxiety, etc. Trust me, it’s a crappy feeling.

The above three scenarios all have something in common; they are all missing “good faith.”

  • When did we become so apathetic that we quit caring about others’ feelings?
  • When did we become so lazy that we decided that working on relationships wasn’t worth the trouble?
  • When did we become so cowardly that we denied people honesty?
  • When did we become so complacent that we opted for what was easy as opposed to what was right?
  • When did we become so self-centered that we cared more about our own desires than we do about others?

To me, it comes down to good faith – have we done our best to deal with someone honestly and openly?

From a dating perspective, good faith goes a long long way. Dating as an adult…a divorced adult at that…is extremely difficult. We all have baggage from our previous marriage. We all have an amount of regret and perhaps even shame. We all have fears about being vulnerable and being judged. I will assume many of us haven’t dated in decades and, therefore, are probably confused about how it works, how to act, what role to play, etc.

Without honest communication and feedback, we are at a loss as to what we are doing right or wrong. A cup of coffee, a lunch date, a dinner date – when these things are accompanied by laughter, apparent interest and attraction but then, out of the blue, one ceases all interaction, it is confusing. The “dumped” individual has become a victim of “At Will Dating” where apparently, it’s acceptable for people to simply disappear without any apparent reason.

Slide1From a friendship perspective, good faith plays a role too. I wonder what makes a 17 year old girl decide to swiftly blow off a friend she’s has known since kindergarten? Is it bravado hiding a deeper insecurity? Is it hurt feelings or a misunderstanding from a long time ago that hasn’t been forgiven? Lord knows what is going through the mind of a teenager. Regardless, the confused and hurt friend who got rejected is a victim of the “At Will Friendship” where courtesy and empathy don’t exist.

From an employment perspective, good faith becomes a legal issue. We all know (or should know) that “At Will Employment” is not a Get Out of Jail Free Card anytime you need it. There are many “exceptions” to this doctrine that need to be assessed, the most important of which is the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. There is a reason this “exception” is so widely used: it is reasonable to expect the parties to behave honestly, fairly and in good faith.

How many of us have had the “At Will” doctrine come back and bite our managers in the ass? How many of us have realized, probably too late, that the employment relationship could have and should have been salvaged but the manager didn’t communicate well, didn’t engage with the employee openly or otherwise didn’t provide honest feedback? How many of us have thought we were “ok” when leaning on the “At Will” doctrine but lo and behold, found there was an intentional breach of good faith and we were actually defending a rat?

I admit I’m a bit emotional…having been “dumped” recently does that to you, I suppose.

Notwithstanding my emotions at the moment, I think we could all benefit from considering the “lessons learned” from our previous “At Will Employment” fiascos. We can draw the necessary inferences regarding “Good Faith and Fair Dealing” into all of our relationships, workplace or otherwise.

  • I believe we should exercise patience with one another as we evolve as humans.
  • I believe we should find the good in others and let them know how much we appreciate them.
  • I believe we owe each other honesty when we don’t appreciate or like what we see or hear.
  • I believe we need to own our feelings and communicate them professionally and kindly, even if they can be perceived as “bad news.”

We teach this to our managers to avoid litigation; should we not teach it to our children and practice it ourselves when it comes to our personal relationships?

AccountabilityAppreciationAt Will EmploymentCommunicationsEmpathyEmployee RelationsFair DealingFairnessGood FaithLeadershipRole of HR

Heather Kinzie • February 24, 2015

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