Warning: Do Not Feed My Tiger
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.
I really wish people wouldn’t challenge me. I’d much prefer just to go about my business and just live and let live, but every so often, someone has to decide they’re going to mow me down to get their way, and that’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 think 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 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.
It’s almost funny to see how people from decades ago react to the Mama Tiger in me. They remember me as a shy, brainy teenager who was, at heart, a people-pleaser.
Back before I learned to play with swords and The Morrigan. They’ve not really known me as a mother and a defender/protector warrior archetype. They think I’m as docile as my mother.
I am not my mother.
I’ve spent most of this week thrilling my boss by cleaning out my office…while listening to business and archeology podcasts. In the year and a half I’ve been in this office, it’s the first opportunity I’ve had to do some serious Spring Cleaning, mainly because everyone else is on vacation and after the funeral, I have very little vacation time left. I’m getting rid of stuff that I never thought I would, but hey, I’d have to go to a museum to read whatever’s on those 5-inch floppies from 20 years ago. But this little archeology project of my own is bringing up a lot of memories of different “issues” I’ve had at work over the years. I remember, more than once, driving home and wondering how we would pay the mortgage if I had to quit my job and that I’d likely have to make that decision the next day if I didn’t prevail.
There was the one where a contractor called me and asked me to waive a clause. Well, I can’t waive that clause. Ever. It’s statutory. As in, it would be illegal for me to waive it. I was polite and informative, he thanked me for my help, and I thought all was well. The next thing I knew, I was being called into my boss’ office and yelled at for not being “customer oriented” and having my competence and integrity questioned. Huh? That particular boss was a nice guy, extremely submissive, and absolutely hated conflict of any sort. So he lectured me on not upsetting our vendors and told me to “just do it.” I said no. I felt I’d been put in a position where I had to defend my course of action, so I dropped everything 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 dollars. The deeper I dug, the more crap I uncovered. I refused to give in, and by then, I had legal counsel working with me. I still don’t consider that a “win” 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 ways to accomplish the same thing, but they were determined I would do it their way and that they’d for me to do it their way. I was taken off the program and it was given to my supervisor who was ordered to sign the contract—and did because he was worried he wouldn’t get promoted unless he did. So he signed it, believing his career was secure if he did. Except that he didn’t get the next promotion. He got ousted instead. A couple of months after that, the same people who’d had him sign the contract I wouldn’t touch showed up in my office to see if I might sign an extension to it, “since, um, um, your former supervisor isn’t, um, with us, um, any more.” And thus ended that contract!
Then there was the case of another boss, The Gutless Wonder, who slickly told me he would never “force” me to sign anything but made not-so-subtle threats about what would be reflected in my appraisal that year if I didn’t give in. In this case, it was about a high-ranking person whose appointed position was a conflict of interest with his profession, giving him the ability to give or squelch funding for the organization I was in, depending on whether we gave his company a contract for his pet project that we’d already concluded was garbage. I refused to play, even with a dozen or more high-level men pressuring me to give the guy a contract so he wouldn’t destroy their careers (everyone’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 prevailed—with the help of an astute legal counsel and a 22-year-old lieutenant with a Ph.D. from CalTech and no fear of being without a job.
Those cases—and quite a few more—all started out with someone trying to force me to do things they knew were wrong, things I knew were wrong, and each time, with a great sigh because I really didn’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 he’d never seen before. And I did.
The thing is, those were times when it was my integrity that was questioned and I was protecting myself. When it comes to protecting my kids or my mom, and probably my mate when that should happen again, I am even more intent on meeting any challenge, 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 wouldn’t do.