Top Ten Thursday - Better Person

Welcome back to Top Ten Thursday!

Today let's list the top ten situations we were (or wished we were) a bigger person. Standing up for ourselves or someone else, speaking up instead of chickening out, getting out of our comfort zone, stepping up to the plate, you get the picture. 

Here goes:

The full story can be read here: In elementary school a mean boy had taken my girlfriend's bracelet and thrown it down a manhole. I couldn't confront him face to face because he was taller and stronger, plus he had a knife. So I wrote a letter and left it in their mailbox. 
It didn't take long, and Mrs F (the boy's Mom) called my Mother. She apologized on behalf of her son and assured her that the boy's father would open that manhole and get the bracelet out. The boy rang my girlfriend's door bell that night, mumbled sorry and handed her the bracelet.

Being a hard working career girl in a new job I liked for an organisation I had quickly learned I disliked, plus dumped by my boyfriend, I decided to follow my dream. I did what they call "give everything up", packed up and left the country. With some money in the bank and a student visa I tried to live and work in my happy place, San Diego. Read the full story here.

Coming back to Switzerland and looking for a job post 9/11was tough. I bit the bullet and took a temp job as an HR Assistant which I was overqualified and underpaid for, especially when my boss was forced to take a medical leave and I had to do her and mine job at the same time. One of my main clients was a major egocentric bully who thought he could order me around. Now I'm more of a people pleaser than a strict rule follower, but the sh** he thought was acceptable wasn't in my book, and I let him know. For example he promised a job and generous benefits to an out of country candidate whom he had found via a headhunter (for whose fees he did not have a budget.) I had never seen that applicant for an interview, and his references hadn't been checked by the headhunter. I told the manager to follow proper procedure, and he threw a fit, went to my bosses' boss and demanded we'd drew up a contract immediately, he did not want to lose that candidate. I made a few phone calls and found out this great guy, whom we would be lucky to have, had been fired from his previous job for some shady transactions that may be best described as embezzling. So I may or may not have been a bit snotty when I asked this manager if he'd still like to hire that individual. He hung up on me (a grown man!!!) and proceeded to e-mail my boss (who was on freaking medical leave, meaning, not working, not reading e-mail) telling her "your assistant is out of control, have her apologize right away!" He promptly got an out-of-office-reply saying "thank you for your message, I am not working until further notice, your e-mail is being forwarded to my assistant who will be happy to help you." Too bad I didn't see his face when he realized he'd sent his rant to me! Of course I took the high road and didn't respond or retaliate. I was just happy we didn't have to hire that individual. 

Later I had a proper job as the Swiss main ice cream company's head of HR, and one of our sales people had what we thought was a nervous breakdown in the parking lot. He was screaming at his car, and his boss had a hard time getting him to come back into the building. I had never experienced anything like that. I went to the conference room where he was sitting, he was super rigid, very agitated, held on to his boss as if he was a floating device keeping him above water, sobbing, screaming but not really being responsive to anything we said. He was from the French part of Switzerland, which made talking to him in his condition even harder. I basically told him I didn't know how I could help him so I was going to call an ambulance. His boss wasn't comfortable making that decision, but also he didn't volunteer to drive his employee home, home being 150 miles away. We don't call 911 in Switzerland, we have different numbers for police, fire and medical emergencies, and up to that day I had never dialed any of those numbers. I was nervous because it was probably not a matter of life or death, and they might tell us to take him to the hospital ourselves, but when the dispatcher heard him scream in the background he said "I'll send an ambulance your way." One of the paramedics spoke a little French and he told our guy he was going to give him some meds to help and calm him down. It was a relief to see how he visibly relaxed. They helped him to get up and walked him out. Later I got a call, and it turned out he had a panic attack. They were going to keep him overnight for observation and asked us to notify his next to kin, so I had to call his boyfriend (in French) and tell him what had happened today. He was not all that surprised. Turned out he had been involved in an accident on the freeway a few weeks back, and since that day it was really hard for the guy to get behind the wheel. So after he more or less successfully made it to the meeting at our location (coworkers later told me he had been fussy all meeting) he just couldn't bear the thought of getting into that car again.

During my time with Starbucks there was this District Manager, P, who also was a personal friend, she was American, learning German, but we still communicated in English. One morning she stormed into our company-wide weekly update / coffee tasting meeting and told me I needed to get out and help her, there had been an accident. She was fully dressed in a rain coat and a hat, so I thought something had happened down the street or at the bus station. Instead she pulled out her cell phone. "You need to listen to this voice mail message. It's about D's wife. I may have misunderstood because he was speaking Swiss German, but I think something happened to her." D's message said she killed, more specifically hung herself, and he didn't know what to do. D was one of her key store managers within her district, and they were pretty close friends. Again I had never experienced anything like that. HR school does not teach you those things. What further happened that day, weeks and months would make for an entire book. Let's just say driving to D's home, talking to him, his parents and his 3 and 4 year old daughters, later driving to his store, talking to his employees, calling our insurance company, asking for an emergency psychologist of some sort, updating my international HR chief,... it was a very emotionally draining day, and I was grateful for my network within and outside the company. Here's one "anecdote" while P and I were driving to D's home: She went "I need to pee." So did I, and my first thought was we needed to stop somewhere on the road, because there was no way I was using the bathroom at D's place while his dead wife was dangling in the shower. Of course police would probably not let us near that bathroom anyway, plus she didn't do it in the shower, she went down to the basement. Suicide is such a mystery to me. How do those people chose to do it at all, how to do it, and when to do it, and why can't they leave a note to try and explain? Those poor little girls did not understand why Mommy left to be with God without saying goodbye and was never coming back. Not to play with them, not to make lunch for them, not to tuck them in at night. Her family and friends felt guilty for not noticing, for not helping out enough or for not being able to prevent it from happening.

Back when I was working for the airline after my maternity leave I got a new boss. We were very different personalities, and we didn't get along well. I cared about people, he cared about processes and strategies. I needed my freedom, and he micro-managed me. Anyway. As I worked part-time and wasn't there every day, he sometimes he had to actually talk to people who worked for the warehouse and other blue collar jobs, which clearly caused discomfort to him. Without facts checking or listening to the proverbial other side, he signed a pink slip for someone and left for an off-site coaching seminar with his phone switched off. When the guy in question heard about being fired for no comprehensable reason, he called me, desperate. As it turned out he was bagged by a supervisor who never even worked the same shifts, so how was he supposed to assess the guy's performance? I started investigating and talking to a lot of people, and to cut the long story short I convinced everybody, my boss included, to keep the guy on board on probation, if he really was that terrible, they could fire him in a month's time, otherwise he'd get a fixed contract. That was six years ago, the guy still works there - unlike my boss, I recently read he got a new position and is now annoying people elsewhere!

When my husband was in his mid-20s, he and a coworker decided they could do much better if they went on their own, so they quit their jobs and built up their own IT business,  working out of his friend's garage. After acquiring some clients, they rented an office space, hired employees, expanded their business into being a distributor and consultant of an enterprise software. They had good years, they had bad years, and in the worst year his business partner died of a pulmonary embolism following heart surgery. As if losing a friend wasn't hard enough, hubby had to take over the company from one day to the next. He is the super competent, diligent, introvert technician, not the sales person, not the people person - that's where I came in. I quit my airline job, the multicultural environment, my familiar HR / recruiting daily business, the wonderful free flight benefits, and joined hubby's small business I knew nothing about. I am not going to lie, there are wonderful benefits for me like I could walk out of the airline boss, see above, my new office was five minutes from home, my working time was more flexible, which has been a must these days. It's not always easy to work for and with the guy you're married to, but all things considered I think we're doing well.

Upon repeated requests to help save our local women's charity I agreed to serve on their board. This alone does not make me a better person - what does is the fact that I stayed on for another three years as this assignment turned out to be the job from h***.  Why? A lady whom I considered to be a friend, took over the president's position. Her leadership and communication style were extremely difficult to deal with, to say the least. I tried to balance it out, motivate my fellow board members, but as my term came to an end, I announced my quitting, mostly shut up and did my remaining work without ranting. I couldn't help myself the day she told me to chill the chips, though.

Our son has been very smart from an early age, like he started reading and doing math before he was four years old. Mandatory two years of Kindergarten start at age five. He liked interacting with his friends, he had been doing so at daycare since he could remember. I knew I had to to try to get him into elementary school as soon as possible. I knew a lot of meetings, tests and formal requests were going to be involved, and I hate dealing with authorities and administrations, but I had to do this for him. Children psychologist, both Kindergarten teachers and Principal were finally on board, and after one year of Kindergarten he was allowed to start first grade. He's the youngest and shortest wherever he goes, but he has been doing great academically and socially. We'll see what it'll be like once his friends are growing moustaches and running after girls - but hey, Colin will be at the hockey arena anyway.

Speaking of Colin - I allowed him to attend boyscouts camp. How does that make me a better person? Knowing that my baby is (supposed to be) sleeping in a tent while a thunderstorm is raging, is definitely out of my comfort zone. The fact that I was warm and dry in my house made me feel all the more helpless and guilty. Of course he was fine, but he admitted he was a little scared, and he's pretty happy to be back home.

Bonus item: writing this post was out of my comfort zone as well. Too much personal emotions to disclose, but hey, I took one for the team, and I hope you'll share something as well, either in the comments down below or by linking up your own post using the linky-tool.

Next Thursday, August 10 we'll come up with ten things that make going back to school easier - remember when you were a kid yourself or look at it from a Mom's perspective. Sign up here.

August 17 let's list our top ten movie quotes and either go ahead and explain who said them and why we like them or just leave it to our readers to find out! Sign up here.