Sometimes I find myself–let’s be frank–butting into someone else’s business.  Not always such a good idea.

Sometimes I decide that something is my problem just because I might be able to solve it.  Also not always such a good idea.

But sometimes I’m not butting in, or borrowing trouble, but practicing work altruism.  I like this concept.  We do spend a fair amount of time at work helping one another out, and I love that it’s an environment in which you can ask for help and people are motivated to give it.

Today I butted in a little bit–a new Spanish teacher had been lamenting that he was having a lot of trouble with a rambunctious junior basketball player.  I said, “Oh, you should talk with Orsino, because he’s had some success with that student.”  And Romola–who played basketball in college–said, “I respectfully disagree!  You should talk with his coach.  Coach will make sure he behaves.”

But Spanish Teacher is new and to him Coach is just one in a sea of unfamiliar faces.  He also comes from a school with a different culture, one that I suspect might be more adversarial between coaches and teachers.  (Not that we don’t have our conflicts.  But there’s also a lot of respect.)  So it didn’t seem like he was going to pick up the phone right away.

And toward the end of the day, I happened to be leaving the building right around the end of basketball practice, and on an impulse I reversed direction and went by the sports office. Had a quick chat with Coach, who was very responsive.  He wanted to talk with the student right away; I asked him to talk with the teacher so that the two of them could have that personal contact.  I said it was OK if he told the teacher that I mentioned suggesting they talk…and I also followed up by emailing the teacher to say I hope he didn’t mind my speaking with Coach.

I don’t absolutely love the dynamic of Coach-as-enforcer, but I don’t mind that this male role model communicates to the boys what behavior he expects of them.  I hope the Spanish Teacher-Coach encounter is a positive one.


One response to this post.

  1. Ooh, I love the phrase/concept “work altruism”! And, like you, I love working at a place where such altruism is the culture.

    But also, like you, I can be a buttinsky, and I’m trying to work on this. It came to a head for me a couple of weeks ago; two colleagues in a different department have been having real conflict for the last couple of years, and it’s having significant consequences because one of the colleagues is the other one’s department chair. Bad news all around. And they’re both fundamentally good people, and it’s so clear to me that they’re just grabbing the wrong end of the stick with each other. Two weeks ago, I got really wound up about this and was determined to fix the problem … and then I brought myself up shortly and said, “WN, this isn’t your business, and you haven’t been asked by either party to facilitate the relationship between these folks. Don’t intrude and interfere where you’re not welcome.” And I’m trying to stick with that.

    But that’s about going beyond the bounds of work altruism. I think your actions this week sound both helpful and reasonable!


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