I had an interesting introspective moment today. (I was going to say a self-examination moment, but that just sounds dirty).
I posted a sign on the inside of the door in an employee-only bathroom at my office yesterday, which is a single stall/locker room/shower setup with no ventilation fan. A few people have complained about smells over the years, so I thought I’d try a joke and see what happened. I posted this: “If you don’t use air freshener, the terrorists win. Do you hate America?” (wording credit to passiveaggressivenotes.com)
What happened was that many people laughed. Some people came up to tell me how funny it was. One anonymous person ripped the sign off the door, crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. Without saying a word to anyone.
This passive-aggressive act (ironic considering where I borrowed the wording for the sign) snapped on an ugly side of me that tends to over-react, fight dirty, and rage over inconsequential’s. So I fished the sign out of the trash, smoothed it a bit, and hung it back on the door. When they do it again, I planned to print a new one and hang it back on the door. Repeat ad nauseum until they grow a spine and use their words like the other children.
Right afterwards I felt triumphant. I had “scored a point” against my unknown opponent. I would “win the game”.
But what a stupid game to waste time on trying to win. I got a burst of energy and snark-credit amongst a few people I told, but I also got stress. The energy was highly negative. I, like anyone who engages in this kind of passive-aggressive battle, became slightly paranoid wondering who my “opponent” was. I worried that it might become a “thing” that would end up creating more negativity in the office if the person dragged supervisors into it (or worse, it WAS a supervisor). All morning I’ve been more sensitive to perceived slights and negative gossip and less receptive to good news or positive events. Truthfully, once the initial “victory” energy wore off, I was in a pretty damn bad mood.
I found it really interesting once I stepped back and realized what was going on. I’ve been in a pretty good mood since I started the happiness project, so the contrast with what I’ve felt this morning is pretty clear. Simply by taking a hostile action towards an unknown person (who probably isn’t worth the effort or concern) I disrupted my mood, which disrupted my physical well-being (acid stomach, tension headache), my relationships (it’s harder to hide a piss-poor mood than most people think), and my work performance (since I was wasting time, energy and thought on such a stupid thing.) When you count up the negative effects, the small pointless victory and the fleeting smug illusion that I might change someone’s behaviour become very much not worth it.
While the world of an office is very small and boundaries are important, there is a point where the loss outweighs the gain. Certain little things will do me more harm than good to fight. If there’s a choice between being happy and being “right”? Sure it’s a case-by-case decision. Fighting for a worthwhile cause can be very satisfying in the long-term, boosting confidence, self-esteem and creativity. But there’s a definite like to be drawn between the worthwhile cause and the worthless. Petty things are not worth my anger, even if they’re entertaining to others.
I should work out a resolution to address this. Maybe, “Let the Petty Things Go”? or “Decide First Whether it’s Worth it”?
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