I love my job and I am good at it. When the COVID lockdown was settling in for a then-unknown period of time and everyone in my company was working from home, my partner and I took advantage of the crisis, rented out our condo in the city, and moved to our dream location. Life was beyond perfect.
Now the CEO of my company is going hardline, insisting that everyone be back in the office at least three days a week.
It is a short flight to go to HQ, and we still have our condo. In theory, I could bunk with our renter (a relative) whenever I need to. I am in negotiation with my manager to see if I might fly in for one week a month. He is fighting for me and my request, but I am not sure if he can make it happen. Even if he does, I will have to bear the cost of travel and the disruption to my home life (there are multiple dogs involved now). On the pro side, I am getting a little lonely working from home 24/7 and would welcome seeing my colleagues again.
My problem is that our CEO said at one point that he “would never force people back to the office,” which is why we made the move. I actually have the recording of the all-hands meeting where he said it. It makes me so mad. It is affecting my motivation to even make the effort to comply. My work hasn’t suffered yet, but I can feel my resentment creeping into my attitude. Part of me feels like I would actually have a case if I wanted to sue.
Any thoughts would be helpful.
I will tell you what I hear, Resentful. It sounds to me like you might enjoy going into HQ on a limited basis. So the change might be welcome at some level, but you feel betrayed by your CEO. If you started out respecting and being a willing follower of your CEO, that respect and willingness has been destroyed. The bald fact is that he is breaking his word. Your resentment is rooted in that sense of betrayal.
I think half the battle for you right now is in naming the emotion you are feeling—so if I am wrong about what it is, what is the right word? You might consider checking out Dr. Susan David’s website where she offers fine distinctions to get clarity about our emotions. Her book Emotional Agility provides a deeper dive.
Once you can truly name and express what makes this whole situation feel so impossible, you can own it and decide what you want to do about it. Maybe it’s a letter to the CEO. Maybe it is simply a lesson learned. Either way, it should help to clear the field enough for you to make a decision about whether:
- you can release your resentment and comply with the mandate (or with whatever your manager can negotiate for you), or
- you want to hang on to your resentment but still comply, or
- you believe the loss of respect for your CEO is fatal and you need to move on to find a CEO who is more trustworthy to devote your work hours to.
To be fair, I don’t know a single CEO who was equipped to deal with what we all just went through. Every single one of them was making it up as they went and doing the best they could with no precedent to lean on. He probably had no idea what unintended consequences would result from what he said in a meeting.
So, ultimately, I don’t recommend option B, because, as has been pithily said by many, resentment is like taking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.
I can’t speak to the viability of a lawsuit. You would have to consult an attorney for that. I can, however, caution that no matter how in the right you may be, a lawsuit will drain you of any disposable income you may have and your peace of mind. You would need to have an awfully strong stomach and be prepared for it to take years.
Check in with yourself and see if you can find it in your heart to forgive your CEO. Maybe all the brilliant and good things he has done can outweigh this one error. Or maybe the scales can’t be tipped in his favor. Only you can decide that.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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