There seem to be a number of articles going around the web recently on the subject of how to deal with difficult bosses, and endless complaints about feeling underappreciated, overworked, stressed, unhappy, and on and on and on. Fine, I get it, but frankly? It’s wearing me out. I’m tired of being told what to look out for, what to do, what not to do, and who to steer clear of. I need a little positivity, please—a leader, in this realm. As such, this week I’ve elected myself, and I’ll let you in on a little secret—I won by a landslide. In fact, it was unanimous. I chose myself to lead my life in the direction I want it to go, to be the change I want to see in the world (hat tip to Mohandas Gandhi) or, at the very least, to try my darndest to dispense with the negativity.
Therefore, I publicly declare that my first edict as King, President, CEO, and Rabble-Rouser-In-Chief of my life? To cultivate “The Gratitude Attitude!”
Now I’m not talking good old-fashioned “count your blessings” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But I used to joke that if you have to count your blessings, maybe things weren’t going so good. What I’m talking about is putting the lid on my complaints and instead accentuating the positive—seeing the good in people and drawing out the lessons in the painful and sometimes unproductive encounters dropped at our professional doorstep all too frequently.
The little piles of unpleasantness to which I refer include “gifts” from past supervisors and colleagues, some of whom were great, and many of whom challenged me in ways I didn’t always appreciate. I’ll tell you one thing, though—most of those times I was thrown in the deep end of the pool (as opposed to under the bus) served the hell out of me because, without them, I’d have never known just how well I can swim.
Here, then, is my very public Gratitude Attitude shout-out to the supervisors and managers and colleagues who, by virtue of their heart and knowledge and professionalism, contributed significantly to the social worker and manager I am today.
In no particular order, then, a hearty “Thanks!” to…
Lindsay is the first Case Manager I ever hired. She had been so shy at her interview I had to ask her to speak up, twice. This almost cost Lindsay the job. But, I saw something in her. Lindsay was smart and kind and was working hard toward her MSW, ultimately winning the position over some stiff competition. Within three months, Lindsay surpassed the six other Case Managers and everyone else on my staff, and there were some real good ones. Lindsay worked effectively with some incredibly challenging clients, always keeping her cool and getting the job done. What did I learn from Lindsay? Quiet people can be fierce! Wow, if you get to work with a Lindsay, you sure are lucky, because she’ll get her job done very well, go to bat for you and always make you smile. Thanks, Lindsay—hope to work with you again someday!
Coalition for the Homeless
Tim taught me more than anyone about the scrupulous respect and heartfelt compassion required to work successfully with the homeless and seriously mentally ill and, by extension, to all clients in need. Tim’s an outstanding social worker and leader—a straight shooter, courteous, respectful, and radiates an inner strength that is reassuring to both clients and staff. Tim held me to a high standard and always challenged me to live up to my promise—under his clear and caring guidance, I’d like to think I have. Tim was (and still is, I’m sure) an excellent Director of Programs at Coalition for the Homeless, and I have much to thank him for. So… thanks, Tim!
Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens
I have never had the pleasure of working with someone in such a senior position who has so much heart and humanity and compassion as Samira Alieva. On top of that, Samira is competent and real and her heart is always on her sleeve—that’s why she is universally loved and respected by every person I met at Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens. Samira is truly one-of-a-kind, and CCBQ is extremely lucky to have her. For my part, I was very fortunate to have been chosen by her to run one of the most challenging of the many programs she is responsible for. She gave me the best professional advice I have ever received, with regards to the role I assumed—“Own it!” Thank you, Samira!
Additional shout-outs to some special peeps, some of whom are still with these organizations, some who have moved on:
Richard Slizeski, Hermine Pelta, and Giovannie LaRoc at Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens.
Jennifer Ponce, Mark Comrie, Julia DiGiacomo, Raisa Torres, Kathy Dros, Christina Hoodho, Shawn Young, and Claire Harding-Keefe at CAMBA.
Dova Marder, Valerie Porter, Jose Correa, Susan Nayowith, Marcelles Georges at the NYC Department of Homeless Services.
Lindsay Davis, Celi Collado, Jesus Velez, Allan Benamer, Rebecca Isaac, Mary Brosnahan, Pam Grove, Tony Taylor, Jerry Breen at Coalition for the Homeless.
I hope you’ll take a moment to think about colleagues present and past. What qualities can you appreciate about them, even if they rubbed you the wrong way or sometimes made your life more difficult than it needed to be? How did the ways they challenged you cause you to reach down a little deeper for something you didn’t know you had? How did they help you become the professional you are today? These are the things I hope you’ll think about, not only throughout your career but in real time, as things unfold. There are valuable lessons to be learned, not only from the superstars who inspired us, but from the bosses who pushed us too hard, the colleagues who didn’t shoulder their fair share of the load, and the clients who seemed to find every possible way to sabotage their (and your) efforts to elevate their life condition.
So, let’s roll with the negativity—it’s inescapable—and get our Gratitude Attitude on!