I had a call the other day, someone had recently experienced a change/shift in her work place. What was a simple and comfortable place to work had morphed into a season of stress and tension. Not knowing if this new dynamic was a temporary pain as the result of transition, or if this was indicators of the transformed company culture, she was examining her options and her attitude. In reflection she began to flip through her past work experiences, moving backwards to think on scenarios that prompted her leaving in past jobs.
“I’m wondering, is it me, am I the common denominator? Or is it the places? Am I the one messed up or do I just pick messed up places to work?”
Great question. My response?
“Yes. You are the common denominator.”
I continued, “But you can’t not be. You show up in every place you work. And that’s all of you, the good and not quite so good. You always bring yourself to work, but that doesn’t mean there also aren’t other things happening.”
I shared with her similar questions I’ve asked myself. It seems the same things irritate me most every place I work or volunteer. I always seem to hit that one moment in that one meeting where I feel crazy. It’s amazing how that one personality, that is the sandpaper to mine, seems to be in every work place. That’s because I am also the common denominator. I’m critical. My glass is perpetually half empty, and my face gives away every thought I have. Anyone want to work with me? 🙋🏽♀️
I also show up fairly organized, efficient, a tiny bit creative, love doing research, adore playing devil’s advocate – which is great for strategy meetings, I love a good theme, and I add life through sarcasm. So there’s those things too.
I have yet to meet a personality that is entirely perfect, nor entirely terrible. And when you work, every place that you work, that person that is you, shows up. You may be able to be “someone else” for a season up front, but eventually you will be you. And if you show up as you, that means they show up as them, and they can’t not either.
After a frustrating work call I had a conversation with God, “Why does this stuff always bother me?! Why does this seem to happen every where I work?” I can just picture God’s head-tilt and bless your heart expression, “Oh, sweetie, it’s because that stuff bothering you is part of who you are. We just have to manage it.”
You being you, doesn’t mean an organization or office is all right or all wrong. Systems do struggle. Communication is rarely perfect. Teams are made up of people that have a variety of skills and not-so-much-skills.
I love the question, “Am I the common denominator?” I’m not sure most people don’t just skip ahead to blaming others or insisting on being the victim, but I’m not sure we will always have a “yes or no” response to the question. I think we have an unavoidable, “yes” along with a dash of, “but also…”
Learning to recognize the patterns in our relational dynamics is huge, and I believe it’s the only real way to reaching peace and clarity. Work patterns, dating patterns, friendship cycles, repeat church dynamics, cyclical family drama, you show up in some way to all those things; and seeing how you are showing up clearly, is beyond valuable. But it is only a piece of the puzzle. You can only go “as far as it depends on you.” (Romans 12)
If you are the only common denominator you can manage, that’s great news, cause you’ll always be there. The challenge is to learn as much as you can about how you show up, and what you bring. I tend to think the other pieces fall into place after that.