On Second Chances

Let's face it, this industry has its share of drama and bitchy behavior. I have seen my share, from ego-trips, to misunderstandings, jealousy, payment issues, backstabbing, ball-dropping, flaking, and all manner of slights real or imagined. Considering artistic pride and the fact that many working artists started out as socially awkward outcasts who now have to work with others, there are so many things that can go sideways. Add in cliques,youthful impulsivity, and media depictions that bitchier is better, and it's a miracle that the industry survives at all.

So how to wade through this mire when you are likely to keep crossing paths with those who you may have had troubles with?

First, try to avoid drama in the first place. Don't gossip, don't step on toes, and don't get too cocky. Give your best and your work will speak for you.

If conflict does arise, remember that you can always choose who you will and will not do business with. That is your prerogative as a business owner. I do have my own small list of those I will not currently work with.

"Currently", note that word. Oftentimes when someone knows they've done something wrong, or that they have skirted the edge of it, they'll try avoid the person that they've slighted, trying to avoid the guilt, anger, or self-deprecation that they feel when they see person. I once had someone say they felt like they were going the principle's office when they saw me. It was in the middle of a conflict where my toes were being stepped on and the boundaries of my role were being invaded. I said that the feeling was there because they knew this was not right. Many people will hold grudges or guilt for years, and never resolve it. This is not good for someone in their personal life, and it can be a major hurdle in business. I've seen how much people can grow and change, through time and experience, and I like to leave them that opportunity. For my own personal policy in life and business, I believe in the Irish apology. This comes from an Irish triad I read many years ago:

"Three things needful to one who has done wrong: to acknowledge their wrong, to seek to be upright, and to make restitution."

Acknowledging a wrong shows growth and a willingness to accept responsibility. Seeking to be upright is actual change and strengthening of character. Making restitution does not always have to be financial, sometimes it is helping someone make up for time wasted by the drama, or kindness to make up for nastiness, promotion to make up for slander. It's making it right. This is far better and builds more loyalty and security in friendship and business than an insincere "I'm sorry you feel that way". I don't expect or give groveling (awkward for everyone), but there is a huge difference between that and "You know that thing I did? Yeah, that wasn't cool and I'll try not to do it again. In the meantime, I know it affected you or your business in this way, can I help make amends by doing this?"

But what if someone is clueless and doesn't know what they did? Then you don't have a right to hold a grudge. This may be from being raised by a bunch of New Englanders, or from a life surrounded by gay men, but nobody ever has to question where they stand with me. I don't do passive-aggression, but I don't act needlessly rude or mean either. I am honest and straightforward, and expect to calmly lay something out, deal with it, and move on. I have work to do. This has been infuriating to some of the more histrionic types, who want to spool up drama and attention, or the avoidance types who want to ignore any conflict until it inevitably happens again because it wasn't dealt with the first time. For the most part, though, I find this is why my best long term business relationships are successful and vastly fruitful. We all guide and grow with each other. Sometimes that growth comes through making mistakes, as much as it comes through victories.

The fact is, at some point, if you are actively working  you will have conflict in this industry, with a coworker or a client. I take it as a measure of pride that I can work alongside those I have really butted heads with and still have mutual respect, in fact, they often strongly promote my work, having seen my professionalism forged in fire.

How have you handled work conflict? Any tips or mistakes?

No comments:

Post a Comment