Gloating, the Art of Reveling in Another’s Misfortune

fortune cookie

I was walking through the library today and overheard two patrons talking about a mutual acquaintance.  The one patron was gloating, experiencing pure glee at being right.  She kept saying, “I told her this was going to happen.”  She was smiling a shiny smile and radiantly animated in her retelling of this story and I began to wonder about the shear frequency I witness gloating and participate in gloating.

I do enjoy being right.  I think like many librarians, I’m slightly (Hey, it’s my blog and I get to determine which adverb  I’m going to use!) obsessed with knowing.  But, now, the question I ask myself is when does my need for knowing and my need to be right flood over the line.  When am I in danger of feeling satisfaction at someone else’s expense.

I’m going to try and observe these feelings in myself over the next several weeks and I’ll report back.

I’ve tried to ferret out a lot of negative thinking from my brain; but, these thoughts of self satisfaction still sneak through.  It would be easy to assume or state that I never have these feelings/thoughts; but, that would be misrepresenting that which is true:  I am human, with human failings.

How does this translate to the workplace?  How can we make sure we are supporting our coworkers instead of waiting for them to fall?  This is generally only difficult when faced with a difficult person.  It’s easy to support your coworkers who are team players and get along with everyone, who refrain from mean gossip and keep their end up.  It’s harder to be generous when it is a coworker who is difficult to get along with, who is themselves a gloater, who doesn’t pitch in and help others, who is a complainer or who is just grouchy and unpleasant.  This is where the challenge lies.

I, of course, have a little story to relate.  My ex, Kate, is an extraordinarily gifted listener and observer.  She is not a gossip and although she has human failings like the rest of us; she is not mean.  Several years back, she started a new job and it took no time at all to figure out that one her coworkers was quite difficult and to say she was not liked is an understatement.  She was grouchy, unforgiving, stingy with time and support and a  meddler.  Kate’s coworkers would talk about this person and Kate refused to participate.  As time passed, Kate noticed something.  The difficult coworker felt left out.  The next time there was an opportunity to invite this coworker to an after work gathering, Kate invited her.  She invited her again and again.  You know where this is going right?  This is not the Hallmark channel.  The difficult coworker did not completely change her ways and win a popularity contest at work; but, she did begin to feel included.  The gossip about her subsided.  Her meanness let up and she even meddled less.  She’s still not the easiest person to work with but the extreme tension in that office has dissipated and it has made it a better place to work and I’m sure their “customers” feel it too.  And considering that their “office” is the rehab unit at a level one trauma hospital, any positive adjustment in morale would be an enormous benefit to those they serve.

So, the question is….

What would happen if instead of gaining satisfaction in a difficult coworker’s failure, we instead focused our energies on helping them succeed?

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