Dear Getting a Grip: Hey, I recycle, I wash and reuse my plastic storage bags – I even compost! So why at work does Miss Greener Than Thou have to constantly nag me with her passive aggressive, “You sure are making a lot of copies!” and “Do you really need that many paper napkins?” She doesn’t seem to realize that her green evangelism isn’t converting me, but turning me into a resistance fighter. I know it’s immature, but whenever she feeds me her born again greenisms, I feel like taking, horrors, two whole paper towels in the washroom instead of just one. Who put her in charge of my conservation efforts?
Dear Compost: While “going green, “ “conservation,” and “sustainability” are important to define and take action upon both at home and at work – and you and Miss Greener Than Thou seem to share this view – with regard to Miss GTT’s communication style, you seem to be seeing red rather than green. Your frustration with her tactics makes sense. Regardless of her purported intentions, she seems more interested in controlling your behavior than in inspiring you to join her cause.
Getting a Grip: When people believe the actions of others have dire consequences – destruction of a soul, destruction of a planet, destruction of human rights – they can get minds as zealous and dogmatic as those they want to change. As you point out, aggression, passive or otherwise, results in resistance. Confrontation, especially in public, results in shaming, humiliation, and resentment. Adopting a position of moral or behavioral superiority pushes people away. By using force, those with the most humane messages can create deaf ears.
You have several choices. You could leave a non-green printout of this column on her desk, but that’s passive-aggressive. (Still, I bet it shows up on the desks of a lot of eco-evangelists out there.) You could share your frustrations with her and ask her directly to desist with monitoring your behavior, but zealots tend to want to harangue rather than listen. Or you could take the high road, devise your own “green” initiative beyond Miss GTT’s paper-counting, and invite others to join you. If they do, fine, if they don’t, fine. Whether it’s a goal of yours or not, you’ll probably have more influence on others than does Miss GTT’s micromanagement. Instead or reacting to someone else’s intrusions, you’ll be taking action on what you value – responsible, individual choice.
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Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland Getting a Grip regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.***