B and I worked together for months after the break up. At first he said he still wanted to be friends, “I fucking love you” he insists minutes before we explicitly decided to stop talking – “Goodbye. I only ask you remember how I do actually feel about you.” He must have believed that he loved me, right? I can’t believe it, not anymore. Not after how cruel he was to me at work after; not after realizing things came to a crash essentially because I pressured him to show me the basic respect of not keeping our friendship a secret at work. I gave riding lessons to his daughter for heaven’s sake! I resolved to be the consummate professional after the split; B, however, was either unwilling or incapable of the same. He completely shut me out at work; refused to speak to me even though I only came to him when absolutely necessary in the course of my work.
He so clearly despised contact with me that I altered my routine to avoid him; I was in the habit of checking in personally with everyone in my unit each day; part in the morning and the rest at the end of the day at the very least. He became noteworthy in that I acted as if he didn’t exist, wasn’t physically right there as I greeted each and every person sitting around him. It amazes me to this day that no one ever said a word about what would have seemed odd behavior had I witnessed such a routine. Looking back, it’s not difficult to identify that B was lazy, entitled, vindictive, jealous, dishonest, controlling, narcissistic, emotionally abusive. Was he an addict? I don’t know; perhaps. There is no doubt in my mind that I am better off without him in my life; yet, the memories remain poignant.
I learned much about B during our brief association – much that, had I such knowledge of another coworker, I would have reported immediately, with a clean conscience. Even now I am unsure as to my exact reasons for keeping his confidences. Was it in fear of retribution? I likely could have reported anonymously, although that could not guarantee I’d be safe from retribution. The more likely factor which would’ve protected me is that B couldn’t have exposed much about me without revealing secrets of his own he didn’t want revealed at work. Again, the possibility of anonymity makes my reasoning uncertain. However, I worked hard, every day. B spent most of his time surfing the web, something a review of his browsing history would have easily revealed had it been initiated.
Then there was the cocaine. He and his wife strongly insisted he shouldn’t be judged for how he chooses ‘to recreate’ as she phrased it. I don’t know that he ever went to work high, but does that matter? As a former cocaine dealer, he could have been addicted and simply been pretty good at abstaining; that doesn’t change the fact that he didn’t always abstain. Our employer does not do drug testing; would a report of an employee doing cocaine on the weekend even be investigated, or would it be considered a police matter only? I honestly don’t know. But I have to say, knowing your coworker likes to do cocaine to unwind in his free time is more than enough to make me question their integrity.
I’ve realized that I feel guilty about having remained silent. I remember B applying for a management position; at the time, I wasn’t sure whether or not he would be considered a good candidate. Although the position wasn’t who I reported to, it was the supervisor of his exiting position, someone I interacted and worked with regularly. Were he to be hired, would he choose to disclose a conflict of interest, as he was so absolutely unwilling to work (or even speak) with me? I seriously considered applying for the position, in spite of my strong desire to never be an operations manager, just to ensure he had serious competition. Luckily, I found out my mentor was applying for the position which saved me the effort. I had no doubt in my mind my mentor deserved that position more than any other person possibly could, and that is just how it went. So, once again I faced the possibility of exposing B’s unprofessional behavior but in the end, did nothing.
Perhaps my interests were actually centered on protecting myself? Fearing that to be effective, I would have to identify myself and explain why my information was credible, it was easier to remain silent and avoid such a risk to my career. I hate to imagine I was so selfish, but it is a distinct possibility.
Something strange happened during the last few months I worked with B (early 2016). I knew that he believed he deserved a higher position, that B wanted to get in to management. For over a year, B had been in a leadership role among his section of staff (which includes a 5% pay increase). One day an email went out to our unit thanking B for his great work in this position and making it sound as though he decided to step down. I have always found this difficult to understand, given his need for recognition and control. Admittedly, were he forced to step down, such would not have been advertised. However, I can’t imagine any reason why he would’ve been forcefully removed. Still puzzling over this change, something even more dramatic occurred; B took a demotion!
His position was one of a scarce few permanent ones in our unit, so I don’t see any way in which he could’ve been forcefully demoted. Why would he choose to do this? I’ll admit I was able to breathe a bit more freely when he moved to a different floor and I no longer had to face him every single day at work, but I couldn’t help but wish to know what the hell was going on? Did he want out of my presence that badly? What other possible motivation could there have been? My mentor quickly vacated his first management position and moved to another floor; this left B reporting to my manager, who ultimately had decided not to hire B for the management position he’d applied for. At the time, this didn’t even register as potentially significant.
As my leadership class approached, an email went out to all of the selected participants several weeks in advance of our first day of class. More than a year later I still find myself unable to name the emotions I felt when I saw B’s name on the list of recipients. One thing was certain; there was absolutely zero chance of us both attending this training. It would not be a safe place for either of us, which would immediately defeat the purpose of attending with the goal of growth. I was tied up in knots, having received a spot in what is considered a highly competitive and prized training but knowing I absolutely could not do so with B in attendance.
Agonizing over what to do, I planned to seek MCF’s advice. I was trying to work out what to say; what to ask, how to explain the problem. I seriously considered admitting that, “once upon a time, B and I were in love.” After becoming B’s manager, I was forced on one occasion to confide in MCF that B would absolutely not help me when MCF (a manager in my unit at this point) instructed me to ask him for something work-related. I said as little as possible at the time while still admitting that B had shown a pattern of utter unwillingness to work with me. Other than this brief (read: private and stilted) admission, nary a word of B’s less than ideal work ethic ever passed my lips.
Finding my courage lacking, I attempted to work up to asking MCF’s advice, whether I should exclude myself from the training or take some other action to try to resolve the issue, by asking if he had any staff doing the training. He said he had one and offered nothing further. So, I let the subject drop. Before I could bring myself to try again, our unit once again received an email about B. This time, that he was resigning and Friday would be his last day.
Once again I find myself puzzling over B’s reasoning; I want to know why!? He recently applied for a management position, then took two significant steps down in his career. In spite of this, he was clearly planning to be around for at least six months longer, the duration of the leadership training in to which we’d both been accepted. Where was this coming from? Is he taking the coward’s way out because even working in the same building as me was unbearable?
I get it now; this is all extremely self-centered of me. Looking back, I’m honestly a bit surprised I was feeling this way, but I recall it all clear as day. Now I wonder if B was angry, feeling passed over once again for a promotion he believed he deserved and didn’t receive. Perhaps he stepped down seeking space from the managers he newly despised and transferred to the easiest place he could working from someone who had supported him, MCF. I remember being so jealous when B confided that MCF was mentoring him in B’s leadership position, MCF having held the same position himself among a different group of staff in our unit at the time. What I wasn’t sure of is who I was more jealous of; B for having MCF’s interest and attention, or MCF who now had no qualms about grabbing B from his desk at any time and disappearing for a private chat. One thing was for sure – any time they were talking, I couldn’t tear my eyes away!
Still other possibilities occur to me now; B’s wife became pregnant in January 2016, so perhaps he simply wanted (or needed) time off to care for her and the child they were expecting. I was so deeply disturbed when her pregnancy was announced in our unit; what a mess of emotion even now. Our unit held a baby shower for them – I didn’t attend. I knew they wanted to have another baby, but somehow the knowledge of her pregnancy still fell as an unending, physical blow. I even went so far as to text B and verify there was no chance the child was H’s, which seems so unreasonable a thing to have done now.
Does it matter that I kept silent about B in the end, considering within six months of the break up he no longer worked for my employer? At the time I told myself I believed keeping his confidence was the right thing to do, but I know now that my mind was clouded with heartbreak as I made that rationalization. What if I had reported him, anonymously or otherwise? Would that have been the right thing to do; that which I have no doubt I wouldn’t hesitate to report about another coworker? Or is whether or not something is right or wrong about one’s motivation alone? I was, and even now remain, uncertain as to my motivations at the time. Would I have avoided this guilt I feel now had I chosen to report B, even uncertain as my motivations were at the time? Would I have regretted being uncertain as to whether or not my motives were pure after reporting him? Would I have been outraged if my employer had done nothing?
I’d say it doesn’t matter except feeling guilty all this time later indicates that it does; there’s something here I need to resolve within myself. I know it’s my instinct for everything, but I now imagine a different conversation with MCF. What would he say were I to ask, “How important do you believe motivation is in judging one’s actions? For example, if one were to do the ‘right’ thing for the wrong reasons, would that action no longer be ‘right’?” I trust his response would be thoughtful and kind. I’m not sure (never am) when I will next see him, but perhaps I will find sufficient courage to ask if this guilt is still weighing on me.