As a child I remember hearing and repeating one disparaging joke about Ethiopians. That was the breadth of my awareness of that people. As an adult I find myself working alongside them. Just before taking this job, for a different reason, a white South African friend shared with me that what he knows of Ethiopians is that they fight, meaning they still have backbones–regardless of which side they’re fighting for.
A seemingly unrelated second memory from when I was a child is that my dad owned his small business. One day he came home from work and shared with my mom that his secretary essentially gave him the what-for about how he didn’t know how to do anything right. I can’t remember all the details but I remember how angry my mom was that my dad didn’t stick up for himself. My dad would tell you to this day that he does not like or believe in confrontation, and that he intentionally searches for the way forward that includes everyone being happy.
So, here’s the memory merge. Just over one year ago I began this new job. Shortly after beginning in one department I was moved to another. The man that trained me in this new department, on day one, lambasted the workers in our department on the earlier shifts. (It’s a 24-hr factory.) I remember thinking, “If he’s saying that to me about them on day one, then what’s going to stop him from saying that about me if I’m ever on another shift than him?”
Suffice it to say my suspicion was correct. The minute another worker quit, I switched shifts and subsequently discovered that my former-trainer was talking shyat about me during the pass-down every morning.
Dread, in any form, is no fun. Over the course of time I shared the situation with my Ethiopian co-worker and friend, and at first he thought I was probably not assessing things accurately. After a bit of contemplation he changed his mind and said, “You know what? If you’re complaining about him, something is off.”
To my sheer delight, my Ethiopian friend later initiated the following conversation. He said, “You know what, Pete? K- and I used to argue and get into it with each other every day. Then one day I said to him, ‘K-, if you have a question, something work related, you can ask me. Other than that, do not ever, ever, ever, ever, ever talk to me again.’ After that he stopped talking to me. These days we talk, sure. But it was only after a long time had passed.”
The funny thing about the entire thing is that when it comes to watching someone else be attacked, I won’t stand for it for one second, and I will shed any and all concern for myself and my circumstances as I move in to defend. But when I’m the recipient, I just absorb it.
Other advice includes the following gems. My mom says, “Be happy there is only one.” One of the Reverends from church says, “A lady once told me she had a similar situation at work. She prayed that the LORD would bless the co-worker. In three days they were promoted to supervise another department and peace was restored.” A friend from school, also randomly South African, said the biblical course of action would be address the dude one-on-one, then escalate to supervisors and HR when he doesn’t change. He also exhorted that I ask the LORD to change both our hearts.
Here’s what I did. Well, first, you need to know this. One night at the club, one of the girls told me that some guy was getting a little too handsy during the lap dance and so she stopped and then he stiffed her on the money. She came to me because I was the manager at the time. I asked her what she wanted and she wanted both her money and him to be thrown out. After entirely too much talking with the dude, I got her the money, but decided that he could have another chance. When I reported this news to the woman, well, let’s just say that the look this woman gave me was something I would not wish on anyone. I said to her, “Okay. You’re right. He’s leaving now. I’m probably gonna get slugged though.”
Sure enough, I told him I changed my mind and his friend and him had to leave. While looking at his friend, I felt the dude’s knuckles against the back of my skull. After slight and inconsequential chaos he was then escorted out. (It never ceased to amaze me how the party never hesitated, no matter if fights were happening, or where–including on stage between girls. Customers just wanted to get wasted around women, girls just wanted money. But everyone expected these things to happen and the company to have staff that was able to handle them surely and painlessly.)
The lessons were many, but most notable for my current predicament was that I went alone. I should’ve had another guy with me. And I did from then on.
So I didn’t have the one-on-one chat with my co-worker last week. I prepared to head to HR and get the third person involved from the get-go, especially because the problem is exactly that this guy is a hot-head and totally unapproachable. Upon resolving to get HR, I decided I wanted one more instance before I went, and as these things go, the week went off without much drama, especially considering there’s a new trainee that keeps him occupied.
What’s so funny to me about it is that I know myself so well that I know I won’t refrain from answering his BS responses in words and tones that must-needs compel him to action during the consequently never-gonna-happen one-on-one chat.
Is this self-awareness what my dad felt? Is he a all-or-nothing guy that just chooses nothing? Who knows. Pretty sure we’ll chat about it after he reads this.
Okay. Not to be picky, but I’m really only looking for stories about how you got the person fired. We’re fooling ourselves if we think these people change. I can only think of one sure way, but I don’t feel like getting hit. Whatcha got?