All talking ceased when I opened the door to the conference room, and I thought I sensed a foreboding undercurrent of doom. As I entered the room, everyone tried to act either as if they were making small talk or looking at their notebooks. These were members of my staff, and I could tell they were planning some clandestine, probably ominous scheme. Our meeting was uneventful, with discussions only of such things as schedules and policy updates. I wondered what was going on behind the scenes. I was dreading the day I would learn their secret. Later that same day, I stopped Jennifer in the hall. She was the only person with whom I felt comfortable enough to ask, “Is there anything going on in the group that I should know about?” She was non-committal, “No, not that I’m aware of.” Her body language conflicted with her words.
By now I was sure they had some plan that didn’t include me. Were they trying to replace me? What had I done to offend them? I thought I’d done a good job and directed them with positivity, but maybe they saw things differently. This ate at me day and night. I even dreamed that they put me in a trash can and took me to the dumpster out back. I didn’t know where to turn. A couple of days later, Jennifer evidently noticed the anxiety that I was trying hard to conceal. This time she confronted me. “What is wrong with you? Are you ill? Do you need to go home and rest a while?”
I couldn’t hold back the emotional flood that was building inside of me. “No, I’m not sick. I’m concerned that the group is planning something against me. Knowing this makes me feel as though I have to walk on eggshells. I’m afraid that the members of my staff, including you, want to get rid of me. I can’t afford to lose this job.” Jennifer didn’t say anything; she just listened to my torrential babble. Was this all in my mind or was there really some conspiracy underneath? I was afraid of the unseen phantom I’d created in my mind. It was growing larger every hour of every day. Even though I knew my fear should only be in God, I wavered.
A week went by, and it was time for another meeting with my staff. Before entering the room, I stopped and put my ear close to the door. I heard someone say, “Shhh, she’s coming!” and another, “Quiet.” By this time, I was exhausted from worry and I almost didn’t open the door. What plot was unfolding inside this room? Perhaps today would be the day that they would reveal their mysterious plan. But I had to enter the room because I’m the boss; I was the one who’d scheduled the meeting.
With trepidation, I took a deep breath, lifted my chest, sucked in my middle, and grasped the doorknob. I entered the room with a smile on my face, yet inwardly I was prepared for conflict. My face fell and my smile was no more as I saw my entire staff not sitting quietly talking or reading but standing up behind the large conference table. This was a strange sight. I knew they were about to lay it on me.
Alan, my right-hand man, held a glass and a spoon. He tapped the glass with the spoon and announced, “This is an important day for all of us in this room. Though we tried to be secretive, we think she was guessing our plan. At any rate, we will miss her.”
“Miss her?” I held back tears. With that, the president of the company entered the room. Now my knees were shaking. Do you know what he said? Can you even guess it?
“Yes, today is hugely significant,” he said with a smile. As he spoke, Jennifer brought in a large sheet cake. The writing atop the icing formed these words: “Congratulations, Miss Stanley.” The President then spoke authoritatively, “Thank you, Miss Stanley, for your outstanding service in this department. It is my great pleasure to promote you to the position of Senior Vice President of the company. Congratulations!” Now, how stupid I felt! How marvelously stupid! My worry and anxiety were replaced with pure joy. All I could say was, “Thank you so much.”
A joyous celebration with hugs and cake followed the formalities. We laughed over our bloopers and rejoiced at our successes. Jennifer, who had avoided my probing, contributed, “I think she thought the worst; she thought we were conspiring to form a coup d’état.”
Immediately I saw that my thinking had been way off base, and it needed some revision. I’m sharing some of the things I learned from this occurrence with you so you’ll be forewarned and able to avoid such a harrowing experience. Seriously apply these principles:
- Don’t be anxious and worried about things you don’t understand.
- Leave all your concerns with God. Fear nothing or no one but Him.
- Things are not always what they seem to be.
- Don’t expect the worst, but make a habit of being positive.
- Don’t make scenarios in your mind and be anxious or upset because of them.
So much energy and productivity had suffered because of my habitual thinking patterns. Fortunately, those can be changed to help us and not cause us the kind of anxiety and fear I experienced. Take heart; you can accomplish great things if you apply these tweaks to your thinking.
Donna Martelli, formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, served on the dance faculty at Butler University, Indianapolis, and is now also a Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Pilates Instructor in Indianapolis, IN. She conducts classes, seminars, and workshops in the US and Europe. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.