Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to set a boundary with a gang member

So I used to work in a space that also employed a gang member of sorts. I will remain vague with the details to protect the guilty and myself.

One day I brought in an employee, lets call him J, someone I personally hired and invited to work for us, to fill in for someone. At some point in the evening, I walked over to where J was stationed to check on him.  As I was coming around the corner, I saw J suspended in mid air, being lifted by his collar by the gang member. I rushed over to interrupt the inevitable battery.

The gang guy was pissed off because he was stopped by J and asked to pay an entry fee. Clearly, J did not realize that the gang person worked there. How would he know? He was just doing his job, what I had instructed him to do, charging guests when they entered the space. The simple misunderstanding could have been corrected with a few words. It wasn’t. Luckily, I happened along and was able to diffuse the situation. I felt like an animal handler, soothing a savage beast, patting down the raised fur. Scary! J, who was indeed a good sport, was luckily left unscathed.

I rarely dealt with this guy, the gang member, at my job. We were doing completely different things in different areas, but that day our paths crossed and his actions affected me, because they affected someone I hired. Yuck.

The situation really pissed me off and I was not sure what to do. I wanted to have the gang member fired. I called the bosses but they were not sympathetic. They said next time I needed to warn my employees not to stop gang members. They were right, but I did not want there to be a next time. I wanted to quit. I did not want to ever have to deal with something like this situation at my job.  I did not quit and the reality was that it happened and I did have to deal with it. 

After thinking long and hard and admitting that yes, I did have to warn any future employees of the situation, I decided I needed to speak up to the gang member and let him know that his behavior was not ok to me. I could not just ignore what happened and continue to work there with him.

So I went and confronted him. I was scared to death but I saw no alternative. I could not live with myself if I did not express to him that his actions were not ok. I could not be a silent witness. I knew that what I felt did not matter to him, and that i would not change him but I needed to look him in the eye and talk to him for me.

Corny as it sounds I silently said a common prayer under my breath as I approached him. Terrifiied, I took a breath and said that it was not ok for him to threaten a worker. I told him that the guy just made a mistake. As I was saying the mistake part, he was speaking over me, laughing nervously, saying he did not threaten him. I was not interested in arguing, just getting what I needed to say off my chest, so I continued and said that if someone did not realize he worked there, he could just explain that he did and not threaten the workers, something to that effect. I was so nervous I can barely remember what I said. Anyway, that was that. Then we hugged. Yes, I hugged it out with a gang member. Maybe he heard me or maybe we agreed to disagree, or maybe nothing. But something happened for me because uncomfortable energy dissipated and I went on my merry way.

Who knows, I may wind up in an industry with a shady side again but for now I have much gratitude that I am not. I am lucky. All I know is that in this life I need to keep my side of the street clean. I am the only person who can take care of me. When something does not feel right in my gut I need to trust my feelings and handle it in an appropriate manner. Be brave, have courage, speak up, tell the truth, to the best of your ability. In the end it always feels better and it is easier than you think.  I write this to remind myself. 

trippy i know, thus the alice coltrane soundtrack, with pharoah sanders, oh yes...

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