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It’s Not Easy Taking the High Road.

by Oct 24, 20134 comments

I invite readers to submit “Guest Blogs” for publication here. This week’s blog comes from Patricia J. Moser, a Certified Higher Ground Leadership(R) Pathfinder whose profile you may find here.


MoserIt is always challenging to be inspirational in the face of negativity and bullying. Yet, when you choose to meet problematic situations with inspiration, compassion and, dare I say, love, one can achieve outcomes that nurture the soul and transform what appears to be a negative into a positive.

Recently, I was counseling a friend (let’s call her Jane) who was at her wit’s end in dealing with her leader. She described her boss as a bully—someone who seemingly didn’t trust Jane and who appeared to be ungrateful for all the “above and beyond” work Jane was performing. Jane’s workload had tripled in the past 18 months, to the point where she was working 70-80 hours per week, leaving her no time for personal relationships, or her own well-being, both of which were suffering. She was overwhelmed, stressed out, and tears would well up in her eyes whenever she discussed the situation.

Jane had scheduled a meeting with her boss, and her intention, she said, was to confront her with “guns blazing”, and point out her leader’s deficits and demand from her boss what Jane felt was her due.

I asked a simple question. “And what do you think her reaction will be?”

Jane conceded that, at best, it would be a nasty encounter.

“So, knowing that, why would you proceed in that manner?”

I indicated that it might be better to first “deposit in the bank of goodwill” before making a withdrawal. Jane was making a lot of assumptions, which might not be correct. She was assuming her leader knew about her extra work, her efforts, etc. Her negative emotions could be creating a preconceived and distorted perception of who her boss truly was. I suggested that instead, she consider approaching the meeting in an inspirational and authentic way, keeping in mind Robert Greenleaf’s great quote, “In saying what I have in mind, will I really improve on the silence?”

I’m sure that internally Jane was rolling her eyes when I gave her this advice, as she continuously said “This isn’t going to work.” I asked her “And if it doesn’t, what have you lost? You can always go back to confrontation, but once you confront, you cannot go back to inspiration!”

After the meeting, Jane reported that although it was difficult for her to do so, she had decided to follow my advice. “And how did it go?” I asked. “Amazingly well!”

Jane recounted that she began the conversation by acknowledging that the organization had really thrived under her boss’s leadership. She also indicated that she greatly appreciated the confidence that her boss had shown in her by giving her so many additional responsibilities, because these made Jane feel not only that she was contributing substantially to the organization, but that she was learning and growing as well.

She then suggested that her leader might not be aware of the other side to this additional responsibility—the excessive hours and the impact this was having on Jane’s health and her personal life. She asked her boss if she could review a report that would provide some insight and clarity to what she meant by “excessive.”

The outcome of being inspirational and authentic? Jane’s boss was quick to emphasize how much she valued Jane and her contributions to the organization. She said that she recognized that she had given Jane additional responsibilities, but had not been aware of the amount of extra effort that it was taking. She thanked Jane for providing her insight and committed to continuing the dialogue and considering alternatives, in order to improve Jane’s situation.

I don’t know what the long-term outcome will be. For the time being it has improved, yet I find myself often talking to my friend again, about taking the high road, because it is very easy to fall back into old habits. She has tasted how powerful “improving on the silence” can be by taking the discussion to “Higher Ground” which resulted in a better outcome than she thought possible.

In Native American lore, there is a story about the Fawn who had heard that the Great Spirit was calling her to the Sacred Mountain. However, in order to reach the mountain, it was necessary to pass a demon. Many before had abandoned the journey they began to the Great Spirit, having been terrorized by this fire-and-smoke-breathing demon who gained its power from their fear.

But the Fawn had no fear, and upon encountering the demon, she gently asked him to let her pass. The Fawn was filled with love and compassion as she looked upon this demon bully. The lack of fear surprised the demon and no matter how hard he tried, he could not frighten the Fawn. Her love and compassion penetrated his hideous heart and he melted away, no longer being able to generate the fear he depended on for his personal energy. The Fawn continued to ascend the Sacred Mountain paving the way for others to follow, so they could visit the Great Spirit without fear of the demon.

Inspiration, love, compassion, authenticity and courage, can be used in corporations, and in everyday life. Bullies only gain strength if you allow them to. It is your choice.

Taking the high road isn’t easy, but it will provide rewards in ways you won’t believe are possible.

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