Warning: Do Not Feed My Tiger
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.
I really wish people wouldnâ€™t challenge me. Iâ€™d much prefer just to go about my business and just live and let live, but every so often, Â someone has to decide theyâ€™re going to mow me down to get their way, and thatâ€™s when things get ugly.
As far as patterns go, it tends to be (1) because I have a reputation at work for doing things differently and setting new trends, so people Â think Â I might be willing not just to bend guidelines and ignore poorly written policies but to break the rules and ignore my sense of right and wrong. The other pattern is that (2) people see my sense of cooperation Â and my quiet nature and think they can run all over me or hurt the people I love. Big mistake on both accounts, because those are the two instances where I turn into a Mama Tiger and my claws come out.
Itâ€™s almost funny to see how people from decades ago react to the Mama Tiger in me. They remember me as a shy, brainy teenagerÂ who was, at heart, a people-pleaser.
Back before I learned to play with swords and The Morrigan. Theyâ€™ve not really known me as a mother and a defender/protector Â warrior Â archetype. Â They Â think Â Iâ€™m Â as docile as my mother.
I am not my mother.
Iâ€™ve spent Â most Â of Â this Â week Â thrilling Â my Â boss Â by cleaning out Â my officeâ€¦while Â listening to business and archeology podcasts. In the Â year and a half Iâ€™ve been in this office, itâ€™s the first opportunity Iâ€™ve had to do some serious Spring Cleaning, Â mainly because everyone Â else is on vacation and after the funeral, I have very little vacation time left. Iâ€™m getting rid of stuff that I never thought I would, but hey, Iâ€™d have to go Â to a museum to read whateverâ€™s Â on those 5-inch floppies from 20 years Â ago. But this little archeology project of my own is bringing up a lot of memories Â of different â€œissuesâ€ Iâ€™ve had at work over Â the Â years. Â I Â remember, Â more Â than Â once, Â driving home and wondering how we would pay the mortgage if I had to quit my job and that Iâ€™d likely have to make that decision the next day if I didnâ€™t prevail.
There was the one where a contractorÂ called me and asked me to waive a clause. Well, I canâ€™t waive that clause. Ever. Itâ€™s statutory. As in, it Â would be illegal for me to waive it. I was polite and informative, he thanked me for my help, Â and I thought Â all was well. Â The nextÂ thing Â I knew, I was being called into my bossâ€™ office and yelled at for not being â€œcustomer orientedâ€ and having my competence and integrity questioned. Huh? That particular boss was Â a Â nice Â guy, Â extremely Â submissive,Â Â and Â absolutely hated conflict of any sort. So he lectured me on not upsetting our vendors and told me to â€œjust do it.â€ I said no. I felt Iâ€™d been put in a position where I had to defend my course of action, so I dropped Â everything Â to do a little research and to put my argument in writing, which I happen to be quite good at. In doing so, I discovered that the contractor was trying to bilk us for an extra, unplanned two million Â dollars. The deeper I dug, the more crap I uncovered. Â I refused to give in, and by then, I had legal counsel Â working Â with Â me. Â I Â still Â donâ€™tÂ consider Â that Â a â€œwinâ€ but we did end up in a stand-off, with us not giving him another two million and the contractor not signing off on the one document that would have allowed us to go after him for thirty million in damages.
Another time, I refused to use illegal methods to do my job and was subjected to countless guilt-trip manipulation tactics and then people threatening me to the point where I had to pull out the research, dig in my heels, and fight back hard. I offered them eight other Â ways to accomplish Â the Â same Â thing, Â but Â they Â were Â determined Â I would do it their way and that theyâ€™d for me to do it their way. I was taken off the program and it was given to my supervisor who was ordered Â to Â sign the contractâ€”and did becauseÂ he was worried Â he wouldnâ€™t Â get Â promoted unless he did. So he signed it, believing his career was secure if he did. Except that he didnâ€™t get the next promotion. He got ousted Â instead. Â A couple Â of months Â after that, the same people whoâ€™d had him sign the contract I wouldnâ€™t touch showed up in my office to see if I might sign an extension to it, â€œsince, um, um, your former supervisor Â isnâ€™t, Â um, Â with Â us, Â um, Â any Â more.â€ Â And Â thus ended that contract!
Then there was the case of another boss, The Gutless Wonder, who slickly told me he would never â€œforceâ€ me to Â sign Â anything Â but Â made Â not-so-subtle Â threats Â about what would be reflected in my appraisal that year if I didnâ€™t give in. In this case, it was about a high-ranking Â person whose appointed position was a conflict of interest with Â his Â profession, Â giving Â him Â the Â ability Â to Â give Â or squelch funding for the organization I was in, depending on whether we gave his Â company Â a contract for his pet project that Â weâ€™d Â already Â concluded Â was Â garbage. Â I refused to play, even with a dozen or more high-level men pressuring me to give the guy a contract so he wouldnâ€™t destroy their careers (everyoneâ€™s since retired or died). No one at the higher levels wanted to stand up to the guy and no one at the lower levels would stand up to them. After months, I finally Â prevailedâ€”with Â the help of an astute legal counsel and a 22-year-old Â lieutenant Â with a Ph.D. from CalTech and no fear of being without a job.
Those casesâ€”and quite a few moreâ€”all started out with someone trying to force me to do things they knew were wrong, things I knew Â were wrong, and each time, with a great sigh becauseÂ I really didnâ€™t want to have to stop and go fight it, I dug in, my Mama Tiger claws came out, and neither hell nor high water could make me veer from my course. I remember once explaining to my boss that if he was going to make me have to take the time and effort to defend my position, then I would put everything I had into it and I would lay out a case like heâ€™d never seen before. And I did.
The thing is, those were times when it was my integrity Â that Â was Â questioned Â and Â I Â was Â protecting Â myself. When it comes to protecting Â my kids or my mom, and probably my mate when that should happen again, I am even more Â intent Â on meeting Â any challenge, Â no matter how much research I have to do or how many skeletons I have to pull from the closet.
For the protection of the people I love, there is nothing I wouldnâ€™t do.