When my kids were in school, they sometimes were assigned group projects. Many times, the teacher selected the groups, rather than allowing students to always work with their friends. (This may make the work less fun, but when you friend is a slacker, you appreciate this.) Sometimes, these projects caused tension between the kids. Sometimes one student took control and was bossy, other times the “leader” didn’t allow others to do much work or the opposite, expected one person to do most of the work. While as an introvert, I realize that these projects can be extremely stress-inducing, they offer an important life lesson, so I reminded my kids that we all need to be able to work with others. Life is a team sport.
Over the years, my kids have also encountered a couple teachers with whom they did not see eye to eye. I heard complaints from them and other students that Mister or Misses So-and-so didn’t like them and that their grades suffered as a result. They complained that no matter what they did, the teacher wasn’t satisfied with their work. The point was that they could not achieve success because this authoritative figure was in their way; they felt powerless.
I listened, then told them that their perception may or may not be true, but that either way, this is life. Sometimes you have to work for and with people you don’t like. Sometimes people will be difficult and put obstacles in your way. I told them that this may be the first time they were encountering this reality, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. This was in no way an acceptable reason to give up. There was work to be done, and it was their responsibility to complete it. Part of being a grown up is working with people who don’t agree with you, perhaps even don’t like you. It’s a lesson better learned when young than when your job and livelihood depend on your success.
As adults we have experienced such challenges. Most people I know have worked for a difficult boss or with a difficult co-worker. Complaining about it or refusing to cooperate doesn’t accomplish anything. The job gets done when you work together rather than fighting about the process. Careful thought and considered discussion are more likely to result in change than pulling rank and calling names. Like it or not, we are role models. Our children are watching. They are more likely to do as we do than as we say.
After a contentious campaign season, it is time to move forward. Half of the country is happy they got the candidate they wanted, half is sad because they did not. Whatever side you fall on, come January, we will have a new president. He will be the president for all Americans, whether you voted for him or not. Our nation is divided, more now than ever in my lifetime, but it is not doomed. We can effect change. We can show the next generation how things should work. We are stronger together.