Wow. I’m not saying I’m a saint who never has bad thoughts about others, but when presented an actual opportunity to experience some good old schadenfreude, roll around in it, wallow for a while, and maybe even gloat, I find I can’t dredge it up.
Let me share what happened, as vaguely as I can. Last year, my favorite boss ever, was “let go” as they always said in La Leche League while firing anyone with institutional knowledge or history in the organization who didn’t drink some very bitter Kool-Aid.
Even though we were prepared, those of us who worked for this boss were sad, really sad, because we’d done a lot of good work together and were a great team. Of course, we had nothing to do with whatever the C suite’s issues were, and that wasn’t our call. But, it hurt some of us a lot, including the old boss.
Fast forward to today, and the person responsible for that “letting go” (and for me losing the two coworkers I tried to hire last year) was let go today. I had dreamed of the day when that darned so-and-so got their comeuppance. I was ready to take immense pleasure in the pain of that other person, true schadenfreude. But, no. I felt sad, instead. I know how hard it is to see that unemployment train coming and have it roll over you. All I could feel was empathy toward my former nemesis.
Why? Well, I’d recently gotten to know that executive as a person, and saw them as more than just the instigator of a really bad year. I found out things we had in common, and our mutual humanity won out over my biases. Shoot, the stuff in those unconscious bias books is actually true; you really can’t hate someone you know as a well rounded person.
How about that? I’m not as vindictive as I thought I could be, when it comes down to it. And that’s a good lesson to learn. I’m sure I’ll be fine as the changes keep coming where I work. It’s normal, corporate America stuff, after all. But I can still have empathy with former colleagues as I keep trying to keep up with the changes.
Actually, I feel like I had an omen or portent of the future this afternoon. As I was walking in the courtyard trying to get my bearings (me and big changes are just not friends), I found myself surrounded by common whitetail dragonflies, all female. They’re a symbol of change, metamorphosis, and good things to me. I felt comforted.