Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fighting "Should"

I've had two visits with my sister over this break, and both focused on her story of my brother-in-law's frustration at work over an ex-employee, begun with the phrase, "You're sort of a feminist, what do you think?"

First, I am not "sort of" a feminist. I am a feminist, as unpleasant as that word has become for many (and why?).

Second, the problem doesn't have anything to do with feminism, feminist thinking, or even really women, other than the ex-employee was one.

The problem as I see it is that my brother-in-law, like many including myself and my sister, are thinking about how the world "should" work, and not how it does. Bad idea, and I am actively weaning myself from that point of view.

Why? Because "should" is for fiction writers (and yes, I use it). "Should" is the same as "fair": not an active force for real in the Universe. I do believe in justice, karma, living consciously without harming others, and respect. I no longer believe in "should."

Thank the Powers That Be!

"Should" is useless. Let me explain. This employee was once an active, productive worker; she became a problematic subordinate who threatened to sue the company, saying my brother-in-law was sexist. He isn't, but not the point. He did everything right, including documenting her below-grade behavior; his bosses love him, especially since the bottom line has increased every year he's been in charge of this part of the company. His evaluations, bonuses, and raises all point that out.

She lied. She misrepresented her work, his attitudes, and her situation: she outright lied on paper and in person, and that was proven. BUT she got her settlement. The company paid her to go away, rather than go to court.

As my sister said (forcefully, at least four times in two conversations), "This shouldn't have happened. She should have been fired without reward."  She's right in "should" terminology: but it did. And a year ago! Why are we talking about it as if it was today? Twice?

The two of them are reliving the "should" of it and missing the point. The bad girl left. She's gone. And his bosses still love him, didn't blame him, and told him so. The decision was made over his head and he's not been held responsible... except by himself. He thinks his other employees don't respect him because of this--but he's not dealing with that issue, which is right in front of him. He thinks his bosses don't respect him--which is patently untrue and in fact the reverse is true: he doesn't respect them, because of their decision, which was a business decision, not a moral one (for them). Both my sister and her husband are angry, frustrated, and worried about something that is over for everyone else. They are stuck.

"Should" creates this: it makes you replay the same thing over and over, wondering why it didn't work out like LAW & ORDER or BUFFY (because they're TV shows, dude!). "Should" gets you stuck in the past, not seeing clearly the present or the future, taking away your opportunity for change.

I say it: those students "should" have done their homework, that politician "should" have gone to jail, that guy "should" have called me back because we had a really good time... BUT they/she/he didn't.

My advice to myself: Let it go. Move on. I have to deal with what's really in front of me and how I can effect a different outcome next time--by changing my methods, or response, or communication. I cannot change or control others, only myself. "Should" is about what other people do--as I see it or as I want it. It is useless, because they won't or can't or don't want to and I cannot make them by the method I am using now.

I am not responsible for the behavior of people who "should" behave better. I can only respond to what they do/choose in the most honest, direct, open way possible as I feel is right. Which doesn't mean it is right for everyone--only me. And maybe I need to learn a new way to communicate with the "should" folks, rather than expecting that their morality/situation is exactly the same as mine: it usually isn't.

And I "should" let "should" go.


  1. This post is interesting to me...since like you I have tried to eliminate "should" from my life as well.

    What probably sticks in the craw of your sister and BIL is that in some areas, academia is one, people bring frivolous lawsuits, looking for easy money. People will continue to do this until there IS resistance. I know that it sometimes more cost-effective to "settle." But "settling" has a way of producing more such lawsuits.

  2. I agree about my sis and BIL--I completely understand their frustration and agree that the turn towards settling is a bad one. For myself, I just know that the constant cycle of "should" thinking is so time-consuming and backward-looking, that I'd rather think about how to really get what I want next time. Make a better outcome, because now I understand what can change--me--and what can't.

  3. The next time this comes up, just point out to your sister that this woman better be able to live off her settlement for a good long time, since her chance of getting and keeping another job has been greatly reduced. Especially if she wants to stay in the same field and geographic area. This is what happens to woman who are right when they sue, whether they win or lose, so think how much worse it is going to be for someone who was wrong.
    What you call "should" I usually refer to as "justice", as in the phrase, "There is no justice.....", which I chant as needed to calm myself in such circumstances.


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