Sunday, June 2, 2013

Final Post: Graduate School -- A Reflection

Forest Fire Blazing Through an Evergreen Forest
The month before I started graduate school I decided to leave a conservative organization to accept a promotion for, in all honesty, promotion's sake. In view of my personal development I don't know if this was the best decision I could make or the worst, but I'm fairly certain pursuing a promotion for no other purpose than for promotion's sake is a choice I likely won't repeat.  As it turned out, I began working in an organization which I describe as nothing less than one of organizational terrorism.   The organization and persons in positions of management were found, in Congressional reports, to follow blatant patterns of mismanagement, abuse and dysfunction. It was a place and culture of incredible greed, corruption and cruel mistreatment of much in its path. Even the Inspector General, a hefty weight in the checks-and-balance process was fired. 

It was the worst job I've ever had in my life. 

Forest Fire Regrowth
It took months, nearly a year, for me to find my next job.  I knew it would only be a plateau where I could catch my breath and recover. Still, I tried my best to help the organization and those around me. Although this organization was clearly broken there were a few who pressed on in the face of adversity to serve the mission but these efforts were often lost in the fray. I don't know anyone who honestly sees this organization able to right its broken parts.

It was the second worst job I've ever had.

In the coursework an interview with Parker Palmer captured much of what I kept seeing:
"I think, in fact, that the work place has become the battlefield of many peoples’ lives.  The place where they feel violence done to their identity and integrity as they become cogs in a machine, or deployable resources and replaceable resources used simply on behalf of some organizational goal or ulterior motive.  And that’s not a nice way to be in the world, that’s a way that murders the spirit and actually if you translate it in terms of organizational bottom line, gets worse work out of people that you would if you extended them respect at least, if not full reverence."
I wanted to leave this job and despite a growing fatigue I could not get past the interview and in all honesty I didn't want the jobs I was interviewing for. But I did begin to see each interview as practice--and through practice I learned to research the organization more intensely and ask the questions I wanted answers to. In the midst of these struggles I had to learn to apply new leadership principles--like the ones I've expressed in this blog. In his interview Palmer may as well have been speaking to me:
 "A leader has to take his or her community, or his or her organization or group through a rough passage, through white water to get to the other side, to get to the place where we can all acknowledge that God ain’t finished with any of us yet. That we’re broken, that we’re all works in progress and we need each other to help put the pieces together, to help make something better happen. "
I began to change my tactics. I found those people who were doing their best and I encouraged them and formed community with them. I spent my time differently; I focused exclusively on doing tasks that made me better and better at what I do--and I let the rest go. I made decisions no one had made before and I stood by them. I refused to participate in abusive situations.  I made peace with the organization.

The day before graduation I was offered a promotion in the progressive organization (amongst my research and interviews) I found most fitting.

I start tomorrow.