Toxic Love?

Dennis stared into empty space, as each word hurt like a dagger in his heart. His words had been taken out of context, and his intentions misunderstood – he wished the ground would just swallow him up. He was standing in the MD’s office, facing a disciplinary committee, staring into disapproving faces of his manager and HRM – on a matter that was none of his business, or was it?

Dennis has worked in the corporate strategy department of the company for 4 years and was the ‘rising star’ of the department. He enjoyed immense favour from his manager and other top executives. Dennis thrived in the office and made it a point of duty to be polite, do his job and go home. He hardly socialized at work, his strategy seemed to serve him well. Everyone saw him as an enigma.

Things started to change when Jason, a former school mate was employed in the Corporate Communications department. Jason was lively, loud and loved to party – the opposite of Dennis. Jason and Dennis soon became close – lunch buddies, often working late together and sometimes ‘car-pooling’ to and from work because they lived in the same area.

About a month ago, Dennis was asked to work on a troubling document. The company had decided to restructure and Jason was one of the people who would become redundant. Dennis could not sleep for several days while trying to keep up appearances with Jason. He struggled with whether to give Jason a heads-up. Friendship over confidentiality? Not an easy question to answer.

Over the last few weeks, he tried to find out if Jason was job-hunting. The answer was a big fat NO! Jason loved his job, the career prospects and most especially the people; he had no plans to consider another job. Dennis felt even worse after the conversation. Should he tell Jason and burst his bubble or should he be quiet and put his friendship at risk? His recent brooding, random questioning and frequent absent mindedness was not lost on Jason. He was determined to get Dennis to tell him what was wrong, by any means possible.

Over the weekend, Jason hosted one of his legendary ‘celebration of life parties’ – it was an excuse to party for no reason and Dennis was invited. As usual he turned down the invite, but Jason would not take no for an answer. As Dennis stepped into the house, Jason rushed to his side to loudly announce his arrival ‘everyone, meet Dennis the hermit!’ Like a deer caught in headlights, Dennis became the center of attention. While the hype was going on, Jason poured him a glass of coke mixed with vodka, knowing that Dennis could not handle liquor. Dennis trusted Jason and downed it without questions.

Thereafter, Dennis started feeling lightheaded and asked to lay down. Jason took him to his room. While he was trying to settle in, Jason started asking him about work and why he was moody. Dennis was not sure how much he shared, before he passed out. Dennis managed to get home on Sunday morning, but could not shake the feeling that he had done something wrong. It all felt surreal and he did not want to risk asking Jason, in case he had not told him anything ‘too important’.

Monday morning came too quickly. Dennis was running late because Jason didn’t stop by to pick him up. As he stepped into the office, he sensed there was something wrong. His colleagues were staring at him with accusations in their eyes. His fear was confirmed when HR sent him an email summoning him to the MD’s office to face a disciplinary committee. His heart sank as he searched furtively for Jason, but to no avail.

Holding the handle of the door to the MD’s office, Dennis heard Jason’s loud angry voice, as he recounted everything Dennis told him; and how he felt he had a right to tell the other staff who would also be rendered redundant. He listened with disbelief as he heard Jason recount the entire content of the redundancy document. Dennis almost threw up, he felt used and was angry at himself for being so gullible.

He walked into the room certain he was going to get fired; after a series of tongue lashing; he was sent on 1-month suspension without pay; while the management team tried to handle the uproar caused during the aftermath.

It is a great thing to be compassionate and love your neighbors as yourself; however, love at the expense of principle and ethics, will lead to hurt. Set boundaries, love within reason – don’t lose yourself in an attempt to satisfy someone else.

Rethink the way you love.

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