11 Apr

Misunderstandings can occur at any time or in any way that humans connect. We project emotional responses into looks, expressions and words that are written or spoken. The usual statement is that the other person didn’t hear correctly or at all. The other person may also state that you didn’t hear him or her. The misunderstanding escalates with both parties investing energy into stating their own positions while never addressing the issues.

My retirement has created a misunderstanding with an administrator.  As the year has progressed there have been numerous “He said she said” statements that can never be proven because they were never witnessed. I thought I had communicated my short term and long term plans clearly but that message was never received as intended. I have stated that I was retiring from full time teaching and moving but that I was prepared to teach 1 or 2 online classes if needed. That was received as “I will teach 2 online classes each term and we don’t need a full time replacement.” When I later stated that was not what I had said, the message was received that I would never teach an online class and that I was continually changing my mind.

The misunderstanding came to a head when my request to attend a conference was placed on hold. The administrator asked in writing why the college should invest money into my training when I was never going to teach online. I answered in writing that I would be sharing the information with coworkers but the request was still placed on hold.

We have now had a face to face meeting with a third person present to act as a witness. The administrator repeated the question of why invest. I repeated my answer and the administrator responded that I had not answered the question. That was a shock because my written answer had been very carefully drafted, read by coworkers and I thought addressed all points. I was repeating those same points face to face. After a couple more rounds I realized that the stated question was not what was being asked. All the administrator really wanted to know was “Are you going to teach online or not?” I countered with “What if I told you that I did not intend to retire? Would that change your response to this request?” The answer was yes.

I could do that because I have not yet given a written resignation letter but that is not my intention. My answer was to explain that I was not going to sign a new contract but that I was not going to cut my ties to the college either. If they needed me to teach an online class or two next year, I would but that I would continue to assist other instructors with recorded training as well. My request was signed.

The meeting didn’t end there. The administrator then complimented me on the job I had done and what I had brought to the college when it was needed most. I am not sure we won’t have another misunderstanding but he heard what I meant when I said “I will be only an email away.” I didn’t bother to state what that email address may be. Now,however, I’ll need to draft that resignation letter.


One Response to “Misunderstandings”

  1. gramajan April 11, 2012 at 2:14 PM #

    Misunderstandings can be difficult. Even if you put everything in writing, there will be those who interpret it differently. Bringing in a third party was a good idea. I’m glad this seems to be resolved (for the moment, at least) and that it didn’t have to come to blows or shouting matches:)

    People tend to filter what they hear through their own misperceptions. I remember when I was about 20 and temporarily living at home again. I often had breakfast with my parents, and was occasionally amused to find they were having a heated discussion over some trivial matter even though they were both saying the same thing–just expressing it differently. They didn’t argue often–Dad was too laid back for that– but Mom tended to get a bit “wound up” when she thought she was losing ground. I had the fun of translating on these occasions. It was interesting to watch Mom unruffle her feathers when she finally understood no one was arguing with her.

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