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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

What the heck do I do?

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  • #1112737 Reply
    WhyDoWeExist
    Guest

    Okay, so my parish had an all-day event today to celebrate 50 years of existence. A big milestone.

    So anyway part of the event included a catered lunch in a church hall. I know the caterer and have had problems with them in the past, the first time being at an event hosted by another parish and the second time being at a funeral I worked. Both times involved him being rude to people with special dietary requirements e.g. vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free people. I have also noticed the people he is rude to are normally ethnic natives or women.

    Well when he won the bid to do the catering for the event, I sent an email to the rest of the Parish Council and had a meeting with the Senior Minister in which I voiced my concerns. Subsequent to that, the caterer was sent an email outlining that there should be a warm, filling meal that was suitable for all and was advised about how we expected guests and congregants to be spoken to. I was not entirely happy with this solution, but as the catering did not fall under the portfolios I manage in my role, I decided to leave it at that. The only reason I mentioned it at all is that an email was sent out asking for final approval regarding his bid to everyone on PC.

    So anyway, this brings us to today. My mother, who started attending the church when I was appointed there as part of my training is gluten-free and the caterer, despite being told to, did not provide for the gluten-free and when my mother asked the guy what was gluten-free, he was extremely rude to her, while she was standing next the national leader of one of the three Protestant denominations present at the event.

    When my mother brought it to my attention I was naturally angry, but decided to deal with it after the event took place and went to go sit down to calm down. However, I was seated close to the buffet table, so could still witness the cater’s interactions with other guests, and while I was sitting there, the caterer began to chastise a native man with facial tattoos for taking a dessert before eating his mains, like the guy was a child. If a grown man wants to eat dessert first, let him!

    At this point, I felt something had to be done about this before this man was rude to anyone else present. Being rude to my mother, who was a member of the congregation, was one thing, but being rude to an outsider who had been invited to celebrate the event with us was too far.

    Not wanting to bother anyone else in leadership about it and ruin the event for them as well, I went up to the caterer and pulled him to one side – out of earshot of anyone else but still in the hall. Once we were to one side, I put out my hand and re-introduced myself to him and explained that this was the parish I worked in and that I was on the Parish Council; then I politely told him that I had witnessed his behavior to some of the people in attendance and that one of the people he had been rude to be a relative of mine. I then asked him to be more polite to the guests and told him that I was keeping an eye on him. He then apologized, and we parted ways. His behavior improved, and I enjoyed the rest of the day.

    Now fast forward to when I got home. I had a message from the Senior Minister saying that we “need to talk”. I messaged back and asked what about. He responded by saying, “you berating the caterer in front of guests”.

    I then tried to call him, couldn’t get a hold of him, two minutes later he called me.

    Somewhat animatedly, I will admit, I explained what happened. He then said to me that was not what he had heard and that a congregation member had complained. He then added that he was more inclined to believe them because I was coming off as defensive. At this point, I passed the phone to my mother (she was there because she was picking my dog up to take for a walk with hers) and told her to tell him how the guy had treated her. She then calmly explained what had happened to her, and then after having the phone handed back to me, I explained about the native guy as well.

    The minister then conceded that the caterer was in the wrong, but I still should not of “had a go at him”. I then explained to him, now for the second time, that I did not so much as raise my voice to him. He then repeated the accusation that I had done this in front of parishioners, WHICH I DID NOT DO!

    It is now at this point that I lost my temper with him, and I will admit I yelled through the phone about how I had handled the situation. Not having expected me to lose it as I did, he hung up.

    I don’t often get angry, but he was, essentially at this point in the conversation, calling me a liar. Which is something I was finding very upsetting because I see him as a mentor and the idea that he would think I would be dishonest in this way was hurtful in the extreme.

    I came to faith later in life. This minister was the minister who baptized me, was there for my family when my Dad (she still wants me to call her that) transitioned to her true self, and after being called to a different parish, invited me to train in his parish when the one I was in began to discriminate against my father. He is someone I respect greatly, and I am hurt that he thinks I would embarrass the parish or him in this way. I owe a lot of who I am to his mentorship, and the parish has helped me financially, emotionally, and spiritually through my training. I would never hurt either of them. The only reason I did not involve him was that I felt it was something I could handle on my own, and I didn’t want to ruin the festivities for anyone else.

    The worst part about this whole thing is that the congregant who laid the complaint has chosen to do so anonymously, so I will never know who has tarnished my name in this way. I am very angry and hurt that someone would spout these lies. I find this whole thing very cowardly, which is what is pissing me off the most.

    I feel like one of two things has happened. An older person who resents me because of my age and for having a leadership position in the church has lodged a complaint against me, having perhaps witnessed me pull him aside, and is now making up stories. Or this caterer may have a friend in the congregation who has laid a complaint against me in fear I may take this matter further, as this is the third event, and have this caterer banned for all parish events and perhaps all denominational events in our region as well. I wasn’t planning to go further, but now I am inclined to, I don’t like having my character assassinated.

    After hanging up, my mentor has since messaged me, apologizing for calling my integrity into question and explaining he understands why I lost my temper. He also apologized for assuming that what one person told me was the absolute truth and for calling my professionalism into question. He did, however, still accuse me of being emotional in how I dealt with it and that I should have waited until the event was over.

    I will admit I am emotional at present, but because my character is being assassinated, not of the original event. It was over as far as I was concerned.

    The Senior Minister now wants to have a discussion on Tuesday, and I am too sure how to handle it. Some advice would be appreciated. I will also add that I am in my third year of training out of 5, so it is not like I am a complete novice who is throwing weight around. He is also constantly saying to me that if I see injustice in the church, I should call it out, so I feel like I did what he has trained me to do.

    #1112738 Reply
    Kate
    Keymaster

    “my mentor has since messaged me, apologizing for calling my integrity into question and explaining he understands why I lost my temper. He also apologized for assuming that what one person told me was the absolute truth and for calling my professionalism into question. He did, however, still accuse me of being emotional in how I dealt with it and that I should have waited until the event was over.”

    Ok, this is good. Focus on this, and on not making it worse. The thing is, you *are* actually letting emotions get the better of you, and that’s something you need to work on if you’re going to be in a leadership position.

    I think you went into this expecting to see rudeness on the part of the caterer. Jesus wouldn’t do that, he’d be looking for the good, right? And this situation wasn’t yours to handle. It was the responsibility of whoever was in charge of catering, and had worked out the conditions of the deal. I think if you saw the caterer not making good on his part of the deal, the thing to do would be to tell the person in charge of contracting for the catering, whoever it was that set those terms, and let them deal with it. It may even have been that person who reported you because they were annoyed that you jumped in. It probably would have been better from a business perspective to let the person who made the deal with the caterer handle any discussions about him not fulfilling the terms of the deal.

    Anyway, you have to absolutely stay calm and collected no matter what when you have this follow up conversation. Thank him for his apology and understanding. Acknowledge that you did get emotional, first because your mom was insulted, and then because you felt you were being accused of being untruthful. You do realize in hindsight that it would be better to have communicated you complaints to the person who contracted with the caterer. You are sorry that you got emotional and it’s something you’re working on.

    But yeah. You did go into that situation looking for trouble. You had already communicated your concerns and it was out of your hands.

    #1112739 Reply
    Part-time Lurker
    Guest

    It’s obvious that you’re still feeling very upset and defensive right now. I think it could help to reframe this event in your mind before speaking with your mentor. Right now you’re very focused on the idea that someone deliberately concocted this story in order to hurt you. I admit that in your shoes, I would probably assume that the caterer was behind it as well and I’d be incredibly angry that someone was telling lies about me BUT it might help to consider other possibilities. What if it isn’t a deliberate attempt to hurt you? What if someone just misinterpreted the situation and then spoke up in good faith? It still isn’t necessarily right or fair that they judged you without having all of the facts, but it also isn’t a deliberate attack it’s just a mistake. Entering the conversation with your mentor with that mindset might make for a calmer, more productive conversation. Pray on it and ask yourself what the most charitable interpretation of events is and how a good shepherd should respond.

    #1112741 Reply
    Fyodor
    Guest

    “Not wanting to bother anyone else in leadership about it and ruin the event for them as well, I went up to the caterer and pulled him to one side – out of earshot of anyone else but still in the hall. ”

    He responded by saying, “you berating the caterer in front of guests”.

    You’ve called the reporting person a liar, said you were defamed, but I don’t see what’s inaccurate. You *were* in front of the guests in the hall. Regardless of whether you felt you were in earshot, it might have been pretty evident to the people around you from the fact that you pulled him aside to chastise him. You told him that you were “keeping an eye on him.” Maybe you have some kind of zenlike body language that conveys severe criticism and that “you’re keeping an eye on him” without revealing anything to people watching or alternatively other people could tell what you were doing. Maybe someone asked the caterer what you talked about and he told them. In any event, I don’t see what’s inaccurate or at worst it seems within normal boundaries of something reported third hand.

    I have never told an adult that I’m keeping an eye on them. If the caterer had said complained, he’d be entirely justified in considering that to be extremely demeaning treatment of someone providing a professional service. He’s not your servant.

    This is the second post that have provided centered around (a) your not showing reasonable boundaries about situations where your intervention is appropriate and (b) your desire to to excise people who you “know” to be bad, substituting your own judgment over that of others. When your boss provided what seems from your recounting to be an accurate characterization of your behavior you flipped out screaming at him. I think that you need to engage with the possibility that your sense of when it is appropriate to intervene and how you should intervene is way way off and not the result of people in your church conspiring against you because you are so talented for your age.

    #1112742 Reply
    WhyDoWeExist
    Guest

    With all due respect. I feel like the guy did need to be spoken to, perhaps not by me, I will admit. Kate is probably right that I should have pulled the person who contracted him aside and explained what was going on and let them handle it.

    However, he did need to be dealt with at the moment as he was not providing a professional service. He had already publically berated at least two people that I knew of. There were hundreds of people at the event, many of whom made decisions that could impact the parish negatively. The man needed to be told someone, again, yes, probably not me, to stop with the attitude before the situation escalated further. The Minister has also since spoken with the native gentleman as well and he confirmed that he was berated by the caterer.

    I hear what you say about boundaries and in regards to the previous post you are right. However, in this case, I know for a fact that if at least one of the people on PC had witnessed the same behavior they would have also acted. I received an unsolicited message to that effect this morning.

    When I talk to the Minister about this in detail I will apologize for losing it as I was in the wrong for yelling at him. I will also apologize to the person you organized the caterer, as Kate is right, it was their responsibility to handle the situation, I should have brought it to their attention and let them deescalate the situation.

    #1112743 Reply
    ron
    Guest

    LW — You were in the wrong. It wasn’t your place to berate the caterer. You have allowed your 3 years of training to go to your head. Just introducing yourself as a member of the Parish Council as a credential to pull the caterer only partly aside and berate him in an area of church function which was not your responsibility shows how officious you have become. If you can question the catere r in front of the whole congregation, why can’t a member of the congregation question your behavior to the Minister. One thing I learned right away when I was an elected School Director: each of the 9 Directors has zero power as an individual. The authority is only as provided by state law and only when meeting in an official School Board meeting, and only if you have at least 4 Directors who agree with you. It’s the same thing for a member of Parish Council. You were not given a badge as an individual enforcer of what you think is right.

    The advice above that you should have brought your concern to the member of PC who negotiated the contract (or to the Minister) was good advice. Keep doing what you’re doing and your days on Parish Council are numbered, and the number is not large.

    #1112746 Reply
    Kate
    Keymaster

    To be clear, I’m not sure that anyone needed to be pulled aside during the event. I think you did your due diligence before the event by letting people know that this caterer is rude to folks. They knew that and hired him anyway, I assume because of some combination of price and quality. I think after the event may have been the right time to mention that the guy didn’t hold up his end of the deal, and then they’d have that information when deciding whether to use him again.

    It’s true what Ron said that there’s a pattern here of you getting personally involved in situations you don’t need to be, and becoming very emotional. You can absolutely work on that and fix it.

    #1112747 Reply
    LisforLeslie
    Guest

    I think you could have done a few things differently and had a much better outcome.

    First and foremost, if you’re NOT the most senior person in the room – then as a member of the council and a young member at that, I highly recommend that you escalate the issue to the more senior person. While as a council member it is your job to ensure your congregation is supported, it is not solely your responsibility.

    You could have had your mother approach your minister, same with the other fellow who was berated. You could have asked them to join you and watch how the caterer was rude to people. If he’s that blatant, I’m sure he’d do it again.

    Ultimately, you made this about you and it sounds like you had an emotional reaction when one wasn’t warranted. Saying “I’m watching you” is a threat. Saying “I need you to ensure the congregation has a peaceful and pleasant time, can I count on you to do that?” is entirely different.

    #1112749 Reply
    Anonymousse
    Guest

    I think everyone has been pretty clear how you went into the event on edge looking for mistakes. You’d already told them your concerns, so it might be those people on the council or whatever were keeping any eye on you, too. Or that someone there just happened to glance and saw the tension and facial expressions and assumed. You need to learn to focus on what you can control- the controllable, mainly your own behavior, expectations and reactions.

    Yes, pulling him aside and telling him you will be keeping an eye on him was incredibly unprofessional and immature. Especially at a large event. That’s essentially a threat in a way, to a hired company I assume your church gets a great $ deal with and wants to keep doing business with. You said someone had to say something, but it never should have been you. If truly hundreds of people were there and you were the only person affected by his rude behavior in such a way, that says a lot.

    Furthermore, yelling at your mentor when he called you was a further sign that you need help to manage your emotions and reactions. In my life, I yelled at an assistant once when I was 27 and she really screwed up. Immediately, I knew that was totally inappropriate for work, church, life. No one deserves to be yelled at to make a point. If you need to yell, you’ve already lost the argument.

    I would heavily suggest you find someone to talk to about these feelings. The paranoia you speak of numerous times and you even say “the worst thing is” someone is anonymously tarnishing your character! Someone spoke to your mentor, maybe. Maybe your mentor saw you berating him, you have no idea. You need to let these things go, they will drive you mad. You will never know what happened or who said what about you. Accept that.

    You are very defensive, reactionary, emotional. Is there something more going in in your life where you feel a lack of control that makes you angry and lash out? Sorry if I’m overstepping. I wish you well.

    #1112753 Reply
    Fyodor
    Guest

    “With all due respect. I feel like the guy did need to be spoken to, perhaps not by me..”

    But what if your “feeling” like something needs to happen is not the beginning and end of the process?

    “However, he did need to be dealt with at the moment as he was not providing a professional service. ”

    Really, I’ve had bad and rude service before both in personal and professional context and actually not resolved it by chastising and threatening the wait staff in the moment (“I’m watching you” is a threat or at the very least bullying)

    One of the things that was very off putting in your last thread was this bit.

    “As for my being over protective of her because she is a woman, I can understand how you can get that impression from what I wrote. But I don’t feel like it is accurate. I am just very protective of the people I care about. If I thought a male friend of mine was making a mistake like this I would not hesitate to pull him aside and tell him what I thought.

    Although I try not be be blunt when dealing with lay people and parishioners, I am known for being blunt with those close to me; people have come to expect it. That said the woman in my life do tend to react more negativity towards it”

    People in your life react poorly to your behavior but your view is that because “you are very protective” and “you are known for being blunt” other people must nonetheless have to be subjected to your inappropriate interventions in their private lives. But what if they shouldn’t? What if your subjective feelings about how you want to behave in the moment are not the sole consideration? What if you are obligated to consider other people’s wants and needs and social and professional norms about when and how you act and behave?

    The conduct you’ve described (intervening in something outside your professional role, bullying the waitstaff, flipping out screaming when questioned about your behavior) would be in many places I’ve worked, if not a fireable offense, maybe not far from it. The reaction of your boss to your “intervention” makes me think that this is not his first experience with you acting this way. I would consider since you value this person’s mentorship asking him if he thinks that you have a larger problem intervening in situations where it’s not your place and doing so in a way that’s not appropriate.

    #1112754 Reply
    Fyodor
    Guest

    “I would heavily suggest you find someone to talk to about these feelings. The paranoia you speak of numerous times and you even say “the worst thing is” someone is anonymously tarnishing your character! Someone spoke to your mentor, maybe. Maybe your mentor saw you berating him, you have no idea. You need to let these things go, they will drive you mad. You will never know what happened or who said what about you. Accept that.”


    @anonymousse
    I am still not understanding what was reported to him that was really false or inaccurate. His allegation that she berated the caterer in front of parishioners happened seems to be entirely consistent with the OP’s. She might not love the characterization but I don’t see any reason to think that anyone said anything false about her.

    #1112755 Reply
    Anonymousse
    Guest

    I think I was trying to speak about the character assassination that is only imagined. No one is going around public complaining about WDWE, someone saw what transpired and told the right person, who did the appropriate thing by bringing it up to WDWE. That’s totally inappropriate behavior for a pubic function unless someone was being deeply insulted or assaulted.

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