A Communication Fiasco

When I was in my 30’s, I was working at a church and they offered me a volunteer position because they knew I had a landscaping and construction design contractor license. At this job, my boss, let’s call him Roger, assigned me to work with another volunteer, we’ll call him Chris, to design and install landscaping for their large grounds. Chris was an older gentleman, had very little experience, but was well connected in the church. He also had a reputation for being difficult to work with, but I still thought I was the kind of person to make this work. We worked together on the landscaping plans and execution. 

I drew out the layout and made the plans. While making the plans, I figured out what supplies were needed and how much inventory was needed. Chris said it was too expensive even though we had the resources and I told him that we shouldn’t cut corners – the plan was the bare minimum to get the job done correctly, and the cost was reasonable. To make a long story short, as we were working together, and he was putting things together, I mentioned that he wasn’t doing things the right way. Chris repeatedly installed some irrigation incorrectly, and when he left, the groundskeeper and I had to fix his mistakes. It was an easy fix, but Chris wasn’t open to learning and was mad that we were correcting his work. Obviously, we clashed, and he was complaining a lot to Roger. 

When I talked to Roger, he gave me an ultimatum; he said to either work with Chris or get out. I felt good helping the church but felt bad over not being able to see eye-to-eye with someone who was helping me. I told Roger that I would leave the job and he told me to tell Chris. I told Chris I’d be leaving, and I also said I’d pray for him and “God bless you.” 

The next day, I got called in right away to see Roger. Roger asked me if I said the F-word to Chris. My jaw dropped to the ground. Why would I say the F-word to him in a church? As he was an older gentleman, he had a hearing aid, too. It was clear that he either misunderstood what I said, or he wanted revenge. Why wouldn’t he confront me instead of later going to my boss? I was devastated. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t angry enough to say something like that. It felt terrible to feel like Chris was taking advantage of my disability, and that my boss didn’t believe or support me. This would have been easy to resolve if he had just talked directly to me.

My thoughts

Roger couldn’t see how things were really going. Saying or not saying the F-word was something that couldn’t be proven, and it was out of character for me. It left me feeling hurt and I completely left the church not long after the incident. I think that Roger should have been involved in telling Chris I was leaving to avoid these types of accusations or misunderstandings. It’s best not to get too personally affected at work because it can lead to bad decisions, such as how Chris reacted to what he thought I said.

How would you have handled this situation? What would you have done if you were Roger?

Years later, Chris and I crossed paths again when he applied for a job at my company. I was shocked. I told him the story of when we last worked together and reminded him how it ended. He apologized. Communication is important and when miscommunication happens, people should be patient and figure out why.

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