I had no choice


Many years ago I spent an evening chatting with a colleague.  This colleague had a tendency to avoid responsibility for their own actions.  And whilst every team success was because of them, every missed target was not.  Those few hours were very simple for me.  Each time my colleague said they had no choice – I asked what choice my colleague had made.

What choice did you make?

I think I must have asked that question about 100 times during the course of our conversation.  Because my colleague didn’t have the choice to choose.  My colleague was a victim of others’ choices.  A victim without choice.  In a warm office, in a well maintained building, in a team of like-minded people, collecting cash from those who could not or would not pay.  Hardly life-threatening.

What choice did you make?

After about an hour or so the penny began to drop . The look of understanding began to show.  The routine of “I had no choice” challenged so many times the stock response was now weary.  I remember that conversation for one reason only.  My colleague was the first person I had met in a working environment who had been promoted, who managed a team, who was an enthusiastic contributor to the department and company – one who assessed others’ performance – who critiqued others skills – who trained others – and who avoided any responsibility for their own “performance gap”.

What choice did you make?

Eventually the answers changed.  Eventually the conversation included choice.  Good choices . Poor choices.  Choices that enhanced this colleague’s image.  Choices that demeaned team members’ image.  Choices that boosted personal popularity.  Choices that left undone the basics of professional expectations.  Choices that were crafted and carefully chosen.  Choices that were never acknowledged.

What choice did you make?

There are victims.  Real victims.  Real human beings treated as less than others.  Abused.  Dehumanised.  Suffering violence.  Poverty.  Abuse.  Victims have little choice.  Victims suffer.  Victims are victims.  But I don’t think that title applies to those who manipulate self-image, who craft a perception that is tweaked in a safe environment.  I don’t think “I had no choice” is true of a lot of normal living folks who consider themselves victims.  I think a more accurate version is this: “The choices I made were not my choice.”

What choice did you make?

Whether that conversation was relevant or not I have no idea.  But in the months that followed, this colleague offered their resignation – and was surprised when it was accepted. And in the months that followed that this ex-colleague pursued a claim for Constructive Dismissal – and the whole company was put on trial.  All because “the choices I made were not my choice.”

What choice did you make?

We all make choices every minute of every day.  And we will all make good choices and poor choices, right choices and wrong choices, instant choices and delayed choices, lazy choices and tough choices, choices of absence and choices of presence.

What choice did you make?

I choose love.  A love for each.  A love of each.  What you do with that is your choice.

🙂

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