July 1, 2010

Finally Speaking Up

by

This week started out uneventful enough. I had a long list of things that needed to be done and I knew I’d get them checked off, no problem! Then the email came in. Innocuous enough, it was a question from another person on the board of directors for an organization I’m involved with. But, only at first blush. After reading through it though, the email was really a passive agressive slam.

But, being the dutiful board member I crafted up a professional response. Not one to point fingers or throw people under the bus, especially someone with the organization whose contract was up, I avoided any appearance that blame was being laid upon people who couldn’t defend themselves.

Then a response from one of the leaders of the organization. Addressed to me but several others copied. Normally, not a problem. But this time it was. For me. See, if you’re going to say something condescending or rude to someone in an email do you really need to copy other people? I didn’t deserve the email that showed up in my inbox. I’ve been on the board for some time and have a lifelong commitment to this cause (sorry, I can’t disclose the organization because ‘technically’ I’m still on the board) so I don’t deserve to be talked down to, especially ‘in front of’ other people.

It was the last straw. I’d endured enough and I was finally going to speak up and say ‘enough is enough’. My contribution has been marginalized, my expertise questioned and my time taken for granted. So rather than doing what I’d normally do and write out a pleasant letter of resignation offering some vague reason related to undisclosed personal or family matters, I emailed off a one line resignation. ‘Effective immediately, I resign my position as member of the board of THIS nonprofit.”

Boy did I feel good. Within about 10 minutes, though, my phone rings. Quite fittingly, my ringtone is the Dixie Chicks ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’. I let it ring. And I sang along to my phone’s ring. Lame, I know, but it felt so good. I felt empowered!

But time came and I had to return the call to the President of the Board. I gave him the politically correct reason for resigning, CycleGuy got a job in San Francisco. But this guy is good and totally saw right through me and my political correctness.

He asked, and I answered. I won’t lie and say it was great. Because it wasn’t. It was really, really hard. I don’t normally make waves or stand up for myself honestly. It’s easier to whitewash and make things look pretty so no one feels bad. I felt like Charlene from Designing Women. (If you’ve never watched that show, you’re missing out on a whole lotta insight into women!) I was brought up not to make waves. And I was trying not to.

I didn’t hold back. I finally had an opportunity to speak up. And I did. And I felt like crap. Not because I spoke up, but because in speaking up and saying why I was really resigning I knew that I’d be thrown excuses and attempts at placating me. I’d be patted on the back and thanked and praised — all the things that were never done.  All in an attempt to make me feel better.  Not leave the board. Not make wave.

I’ve had several conversations now. I didn’t go to the board meeting this evening. Not because I’m making some kind of political statement, but because I’m not sure I want to be part of this group any more. I have a to think about. When you finally have had enough and speak up for yourself, it’s amazing the feeling you can have.

I’ve been listened to. My opinion mattered, again. Like it did when I first joined the board. I was told I was valuable. But it still feels like an abusive relationship. I feel that pull to return to the relationship because there were apologies and promises for it not to happen again. Although there is part of me that knows it will.

I have my ringtone going through my head. The part that says ‘Forgive sounds good, Forget I’m not sure I could‘ is loud. I’m not sure if things will ever really change I think I still need time.

I’m glad I finally spoke up. I think.

Have you had enough and then finally spoke up? How did you feel? I kinda feel elated and crappy at the same time. Any thoughts about if I should reconsider my resignation?

Sara

{ 12 comments }

Allissa Emslie July 1, 2010 at 8:39 am

hmmmm….this is sort of a tough one. I think if you look at it from the perspective of “setting boundaries” then you’re perfectly reasonable to say, ” I’m sorry, I prefer to deal in a friendly business-like manner fitting of ADULTS, but this was an event or series of events that were neither business-like or adult. And since this organization’s board does not have this as their strength or yada yada, I have chosen to resign.” The point being that you have set boundaries not to be treated that way and if you are treated in a clearly un-called for manner, then it’s totally right to walk away and let them know, those were the consequences of their actions. If they’re trying to smooth things over so they can get you back on, that is ridiculous, they need to think twice next time they behave in such a manner. If you stay on, then how long before the next time it happens. If they get away with doing it this time and you act like it didn’t have some affect on you, then nothing stops them from doing worse or continuing, right? If this position were a job you depended on for your livelihood, then I would just say “turn the other cheek”, but you have a choice here and, in my opinion, I think you made the right one… Much hugs to you—I know it does NOT feel good to stand up for yourself, especially if you’re such a sweet person—which you are : )

Sara July 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Hi Allissa,

Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a helpful comment. You’re right about my staying on and when will it return to this, not if. If it were a paying job I would turn the other cheek or go about voicing my concerns differently. It wasn’t just one event either. It’s been awhile in the making and I’ve sat back and stayed quiet hoping it would change. Boundaries, yes. I need to set them and not allow them to keep being moved.

Again, I appreciate your input and insight.

All my best,
Sara

Amy @ Dealusional July 1, 2010 at 8:57 am

Tres appropos, my friend. Didn’t we just have a conversation about standing up for ourselves last week? I think you should do a VLOG! ;o)

Sara Blake July 1, 2010 at 9:14 am

I give you many kudos for standing up for yourself. I think often out of feeling obligation and politeness we don’t speak up in a situation where we feel that it is “wrong”.

As for if you made the right decision with the recognition, obviously it is up to you and your feelings. I did notice one sentence in your blog that would make me as a reader think you are making the right decision. You said “But it still feels like an abusive relationship”. No one should have to endure any type of relationship where one feels abused or not valued. Remember your self worth and that your presence can be valued else where.

Good luck in your journey through this. This isn’t really from a song nor a famous person but one of my favorite quotes is “Regret nothing because at the time, it’s exactly what you wanted”.

Sara July 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Sara,

Thank you for your kind comment and support. I love that quote too about not having regrets. I have them all the time, because I start to second guess myself. I appreciate your stopping by and sharing your thoughts and encouragement.

Kindly,
Sara

TracyC July 1, 2010 at 9:53 am

I think you did the right thing, and I am proud of you. I know it was hard, standing up for oneself nearly always is, but it was necessary. Any organization that treats their board members in such a disrespectful manner should not expect to have many members left. (((hugs)))

Wisconsin Mommy July 1, 2010 at 11:06 am

I think you did the right thing. The fact that it felt good is a sign that you were right in standing up for yourself! You can find other ways to give back to your community (or cause) that don’t wind up taking AWAY from who you are.

I recently did something similar with a “friendship” that had become all take (on her part) and no give. It didn’t feel good, so to speak, but I felt like I need to respect myself if I was asking her to respect me.

I’m usually a lurker but had to speak up on this one 🙂

Sara July 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Hello Wisconsin Mommy!

Welcome and thank you for commenting. I’m guilty of lurking at blogs too, so I understand. Thank you very much for your kind comment and for sharing your situation as well.

Hope to see you around more,
Sara

V Demetros July 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I think you did the right thing and the evidence of that is that you felt good afterward. You have to sleep well at night and now you will. Besides, that is a great example for your daughter to follow- don’t let anyone walk all over you.

Carrie July 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm

i’d stick with the resignation

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang July 1, 2010 at 10:51 pm

I completely relate! I rarely speak my mind when there is a chance of making waves… I have to be really, really passionate about something to rock the boat… but the older I get, the more value I see in standing up for my beliefs.

It sounds like you did a really wonderful job gently relaying your concerns then taking it to the next level when you were asked…

You are a smart, kind, amazing woman ~ it is their loss, hang in there!

shifra July 2, 2010 at 6:55 am

I have been in this exact same situation!!! I went back for more because I thought I was needed and the organization couldn’t get along without me… Until I finally quietly resigned after 6+ years. Guess what?!?! They didn’t actually need me. They are doing fine without me. And now I have extra time for the most important organization I am a part of – my family!

You can decide if you will stick with it for now or not. You give so much- you should at least feel valued!

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