Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I do not know how to cope with other people's martyr complexes.

The great luxury of my regular lifestyle is that I don't have to play nicely with others, which has always been a challenge. I'm never really happy in a working group or a team unless I am running things -- but the responsibilities of leadership make me anxious and depressed and ultimately burn me out, which is why I left management.

Being a stage manager, though, is kind of ideal: I have authority without the ultimate responsibility for decision-making. I'm now dealing with far more people on a daily basis than I'm used to, and getting back into a small-group dynamic was one reason I wanted to do this. Social skills atrophy with disuse, and I worry that my current lifestyle is a bad cycle: I live and work the way I do because I can't suffer fools, thereby reducing my opportunities to learn how.

Not, I hasten to say, that anyone I'm currently working with is a fool. In fact, as one of my colleagues said last night, this whole process has been a sort of 15-way blind date, and as such, it's working out amazingly well. The actors in our cast are talented, bright and game for almost anything, and we don't have a diva in the bunch. They're assimilating a massive amount of information (information that's still changing) in a very short period of time, and I'm blown away by them.

We're all working very hard, and everybody seems pretty cheerful about that; last Friday aside, I'm cheerful myself, and having a great time.

But yesterday one of my colleagues made it clear that this intense workload is causing him suffering, and indicated that he needs some sympathy and admiration for this suffering -- and I had none to give. I was sharp, for which I need to apologize today. I also need to figure out how to respond to this without feeling angry about it, and how to give this colleague what he needs so we can all get through the next three weeks in peace, and remember the experience fondly.

So how do I do this? How do you respond to unspoken messages and unexpressed needs? How do you help change the narrative in other people's heads?

Five Random Songs

"The Bleeding Heart Show," The New Pornographers. Excellent cheering-up music...

"Every Day is Like Sunday," Morrissey. ... followed by music to send you back to bed. "How I dearly wish you were not here."

"Spring & All," Mary Chapin Carpenter. From a tribute album to songwriter Greg Brown.

"Trouble of the World (Coming Home)," The Nappy Roots. Gospel hip-hop from the soundtrack of The Ladykillers.

"Six O'Clock News," John Prine. A sad song about how a young man goes wrong.


JIM LAMB said...

You are asrking me how to sooth someone's hurt feeling? HA!

AnswerGirl said...

No, that part of it I have a handle on -- I can deal directly with anything that's expressed directly. I just hate having to respond to things that are implied and unsaid, things I'm _supposed_ to notice but are not actually presented to me.

norby said...

Unfortunately in this case, when it comes to dealing with this martyr you have two choices-treat them as the martyr they wish to be, or ignore them.

My mother and aunt both have a good handle on the martyr complex and dealing with them can occasionally be very time consuming and tiring to say the least...

Moira said...

You have no idea what you were supposed to do. You made it up and believed it. Make up something else and believe that.


Maybe what you thought was implied was only inferred.

Hang in there and don't ever volunteer to be a bag lady again.

Anonymous said...

As the manager, ask the said martyr if they are behaving professionally, then afer they respond, inform the martyr why their behavioral choices are unprofessional and derimental to the team. Then ask the martyr what changes he/she will make to improve their behavior and follow up with their plan and progress. If they do not change and their behavior remains unprofessional and unacceeptable then you have the choice to let them go or stay. It's moree difficult to deal with a family member than an employee martyr though....