Stand Your Ground

An opportunity came up early December 2022 that I politely declined. It was an invitation for potential projects in 2023 and looking at my commitments for the year, it was only professional that I turned it down.

I seldom reject work since I left corporate in 2012 and continued my career path into coaching and training. Being my own boss sounds fancy but really, being a gig worker means that I don’t always know what work comes round the corner and when, so I do my best to accept new work within my purpose and passion.

What I didn’t expect from my simple “Sorry but I cannot participate” will escalate into a drama that spanned 3.5 months that included bullying, threats, insinuations bordering defamation, legal clauses thrown around and withholding of payments due for work previously completed. A bigger loss would be if I didn’t reflect and learn from this unpleasant experience. Trust me, it’s impossible to coach myself, but here goes…

Let’s start with the good news…

i)             I am surrounded by supportive loved ones. I sought counsel from 3 people and the advice and perspectives they shared were priceless
ii)            The working arrangement was dissolved end January 2023 officially but was finally resolved 15 March 2023 when the company paid up what they owed me
iii)           I never wavered from my stance and approach
iv)           It was hard but I stayed professional throughout this drama, choosing to say less
v)            Grateful for the unwavering support I received from my coachees especially when they weren’t privy to the details 
vi)           It only spanned 3.5 months - there were days when this weighed hard on me but more days when I was at peace and joyful

And the bad news?

i)             I feel responsibility towards my coachees and feel that I’ve let them down
ii)            A working arrangement that was going well from 2014 was dissolved suddenly
iii)           The outcome was a lose-lose considering how 11 coaching relationships couldn’t continue; and from the commercial angle
iv)           The mental and emotional stress experienced from the constant insinuations and insults
v)            Having to experience unpredictability when you are dealing with someone who is irrational
vi)           I realised that the agreement I signed was painfully one-sided to benefit the company and included terms that though not always enforceable, denied me my rights. Why did I sign?

So here’s what I learned –

i)             Stand my ground, be right but not righteous
ii)            Seek counsel and don’t stomach this alone. Review the (at times diverse) advice but take responsibility and make my own decisions
iii)           Be clear to all parties, set some clear milestones, then move on with my life
iv)           Speak up; and less is more especially when my ego doesn’t like it
v)            After I’ve done what is within my control, I can just stay hopeful
vi)           Be willing to question and challenge legal agreements even at the expense of not being considered for the project.

What I would have liked to happen but now know better:

i)              That the good person wins, the bad guy loses (sometimes, we all lose and you need to decide what the trade-offs are)
ii)             A driving force and bigger entity will take your side and fight this for/with you (you are the driving force you can count on and if support appears, that’s an unexpected bonus)
iii)           The legal route will surely sort this out (not always and may not be worth the money, time and effort you will be spending)
iv)            Common sense and professionalism will prevail (in the long run maybe, but surely not all the time and definitely not in this instance)
v)             If you keep totally quiet, people will respect that you took the high road (say something balanced and mention that your silence shouldn’t be taken for agreement or guilt)
vi)            Past actions predict the present and future actions. (the past educates us to prepare for the present and future, but doesn’t predict what is in store)

On that last sentence, I end here as I remember the education, not just the experience.

Learning Haiku in Japan