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Is it hooky or healing?

A colleague has gone on short-term disability following the flare-up of an old back injury. You are both in the running for the same promotion, one that you feel you deserve and one that you need so you can make ends meet. One day you spot your colleague zipping down the ski hill. What do you do?

By Connie denBok and Bob Giuliano

What will I do? I plan to enjoy my day on the slopes. If I cross paths with my colleague, I’ll greet her as an old friend, and if I don’t see her again that’s fine. When I get back to work, relaxed and mellow from a great skiing weekend, why would I create new anxiety for my employer and colleagues?

To paraphrase Jesus, “Is not life more than food and the body more than a six-inch base of powder?” Or, “Which one of you by being anxious can subtract a wrinkle from your face or add a month to your lifespan?”

I think I deserve the promotion; I’m confident in the quality of my work and optimistic that my life will find some kind of balance — even if I end up with the same old job or choose to look for another position where advancement is possible.

The worst-case scenario? I don’t have the money to ski as often as I’d like. Actually, I think there are three worse scenarios ahead of that one.

The first is that I feed my anxiety about job security and find it necessary to undermine my colleague: whether the back pain is real or she’s taking a mental health day, something stress-related is going on.

The second is that my workplace pits colleagues against each other. Do I want a promotion that will be mine until the next gladiator comes to take me out?

The third is that my identity is so rooted in material success — my promotion status, my ability to support a lifestyle that includes skiing — that it becomes the altar before which other values are sacrificed, my god.

We have very little control over the people around us. They may be stressed out and anxious about many things, ruthless and committed to selfish ambition — or just clueless. My colleague may spend the next week in traction for one trip down the slope. The only person God has put under my real influence is me. 

Author's photo
Rev. Bob Giuliano is a retired minister who lives in Owen Sound, Ont.

I am enraged! I have known all along that he is a slick manipulator. Although he exploits our company, they keep bragging about how competent he is. He has no loyalty to anybody but himself.

I, on the other hand have been faithful and hard working. I go the extra mile. I come to work early, stay late, take the dirty jobs. I introduce new ideas that the company likes and uses. My colleague jumps on my bandwagon, making himself look good.

He can talk his way into anything and out of everything. Now, here he is having a holiday called “disability”: an old football injury, he says. We have all been doing extra duty while he has been rosy-cheeked on the ski slopes.

My anger sees things that I had never seen or even thought before. So I take a step back and remember just how “brilliant” I can be when I am mad, how “clear-sighted” and “articulate” I am when teed off. Maybe I need to cool down, think some more, talk to somebody who won’t stoke my anger.

I do know some folks with back trouble for whom the pain is intermittent. They speak of the mystery their back pain is to them. There seems to be no clear cause of the attacks of spasms and crippling pain. One guy I know finds that vigorous exercise is a way to some relief. Just standing or sitting at a desk is murder.

So, I soften a little. I admit that my colleague has been a pretty good guy. A braggart all right but an encourager, too. Maybe his pain has made him the sometimes kind and considerate guy that I have seen him to be as well.

I leave it alone and compete for the job on my merits, not his demerits. I promise myself that I will not say to him, in front of the boss, “How was the skiing, buddy?” Being the jerk that I am, it might slip out, defeating me more than him.

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