How to cope when things get ugly.

5374093757_d1334926b7_o“Well, they’ll fire you, of course.”

The words were blunt. Matter of fact. A straight answer to my question about what would happen if I did what I was thinking of doing.  

Spoken as if my career, self-respect and income weren’t on life support already. He said them as if the awful inevitability of the course I’d set for myself was of no consequence. As if I weren’t backed into a corner, angry, and terrified.

But he wasn’t being unkind.

My mentor spoke the truth – and we both knew it.

Hearing that truth was strangely awful, and freeing. If I had nothing else to lose, what was the point in worrying any longer? There was only one choice – for me, anyway. One thing that felt right.

So I made a decision.

And in that moment, the icy fear and hot anger in my chest seemed to evaporate.

Poof. Gone.

I would do what I had to do, and that was that. I’d find a way to cope with whatever happened afterwards.

I worked in a healthcare facility, and was increasingly concerned about unethical behaviors that, in my view at least, affected the quality of our patient care. And though I generally try to stay out of other people’s drama, the situation had reached a point I could no longer ignore.

To look the other way would be like violating the Prime Directive on Star Trek. You just don’t do that. Like, ever. Not if you had any control over it at all.

So I’d carefully, respectfully, reported my concerns to two supervisors, knowing it would be a tough conversation; never in a million years expecting it to go the way it did.

Rather than deal with the problems at hand, they turned on me, startling me with a slew of criticisms that ripped me apart. The entire experience was humiliating, painful and destructive. It took a long time to recover from that day.

And that was bad enough.

But the problem I’d taken to them was unresolved, and that was just flat wrong.

So I went to a colleague in the community, a mentor many years my senior, for advice. Because now, I was preparing to go over their heads, and up the line of administration at my job.

And yes, I supposed, they would fire me.  Of course.

Conflict is a powerful teacher.

And it’s one that most of us would rather avoid.

I get that. Really.

And yet, learning to lead through conflict is critical for any entrepreneur who’s moving up in her business, and any woman who’s standing up in her life.

Nothing runs smoothly forever. You will, inevitably, encounter personality issues, performance problems, communication breakdowns, misunderstandings.

As you become more successful in your business, and clearer about who you are, you will inevitably stir things up for other people.

Sometimes, you, too, will be startled by their reactions.

Not knowing how to deal with their own feelings, they may project onto you with petty comments or sharp criticisms that seem off base, out of the blue.

And it will be easy to flip right into react mode, or shut down and avoid the whole thing completely.

But there’s a better way.

When you respond in a way that is true to your values and comes from your heart, you stand in your power. You stay at your center, and respond from your highest and best self.

When that happens, you really ARE a force to be reckoned with. :)

So how do you do that?

Start here.

This will always be your first step. Step into your role as the leader in your business. Own your authority. Recognize your right to run your business in the way that’s right for you. Decide that you will address this, even if you’re not sure yet exactly how.

Seek out support. Talk to your coach or mentor. Reach out to your mastermind group or trusted friends. If prayer, meditation or journaling helps, do that. If writing out your options, practicing your arguments, or even seeking legal advice helps, do that. Gather resources. Collect courage.

As you study the problem, take time to assess what is true for you. Take an honest look at the role you may have played (or not) in creating, or allowing, the problem to develop. Focus on what you CAN do, not on what you can’t, and learn. What lessons are here for you?

Before addressing the situation directly, step away, allow yourself to feel every emotion that comes up. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Overwhelm. Hurt. Fear. Irritation. Determination. There is likely to be quite a mix, all of it human, real, and valid. No judgment. No censorship. Just observation. Allow the feelings to pass over and through on their way out.

As you move into action, become fully present in this moment. Center yourself in your body. Notice your breathing, your feet solid on the earth, the internal strength and experience you carry within. Call your mind back from all the internal stories about what to expect, and Be Here Now.

When you speak from a place of love and acceptance, for yourself, your business, even for the ‘teacher’ that this conflict has brought to you, something shifts inside – even if you feel anything but.  Your energy will come from a higher place, a stronger place.

There is nothing so powerful as facing something you once would avoid. When taking decisive action in whatever way is best for you and your business, you are calling your power back to yourself. Whether that’s having a difficult conversation, releasing someone from their obligation, or simply voicing your feelings directly and respectfully – you will come out on the other side intact.

And, I suspect, just a little bit proud of yourself. :)

Often, things will turn out in a way that surprises you. I wasn’t fired. The situation was resolved. And in the end, I left on my own terms, self respect intact.

You, too, will do just fine.

I’m sure of it.

10 thoughts on “How to cope when things get ugly.

  1. Debra Poole

    Great piece. Very helpful. Lots better than avoiding or stewing. And glad you didn’t get fired.

    1. Wendy Pitts Reeves Post author

      Me too, Debra! And the cool part now is that the only person who can fire me these days, is me. And I don’t plan to do that any time soon! :))

  2. HMF

    Hear, hear ma’am.
    Hear, hear indeed.

    1. Wendy Pitts Reeves Post author

      I’ll take that as an agreement then. Thank you! :)

  3. Melissa

    Great article! Shows what can happen if we lead with courage! Thanks!! As always your words are so inspiring :)

    1. Wendy Pitts Reeves Post author

      Thanks, Melissa. I love hearing that and really appreciate you saying so. :))

      Lead with courage!

  4. Kathleen Kinney

    Being strong, grounded, and unafraid to do the right thing are never easy. Neither is being a good leader and team player. This article is spot on.

    1. Wendy Pitts Reeves Post author

      Thank you, Kathleen. Coming from someone who’s been there, I know! :)

  5. Linda Pucci

    Such a great article, Wendy. Written from the heart and something that all leaders face at some time or another. For me the lesson is always, always to bring integrity into the game. Sometimes you might get fired or even worse. But when you follow the steps you outlined and get support, be true to your own values, in the end you can live with yourself proudly, and then you can lead proudly.

    1. Wendy Pitts Reeves Post author

      Thank you, Linda! That was a powerful time in my life, and the lessons have stayed with me ever since. It never gets any easier, but we, at least, get clearer. And that helps.

      And you are right. Integrity is the North Star here…


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