This past week at work was emotionally draining for me. There were various little situations that added up to the point where I felt I was being mistreated because I was a female and because I was on the lowest rung of the ladder on the team. It wasn’t until my manager popped by my cube to check up on me that I broke down in tears and told him how I was feeling.
I learned a lot during the next 48 hours after my breakdown.
Do not let negative emotions bottle up because it does not do any good for either you or your team.
The main reason I did not immediately talk to the people who made me so angry was because I was really, really angry. However, letting those feelings fester for a weekend actually made things worse because the next time something small they did annoyed me, it just added fuel to my fire.
Both the director and my colleague said that I could and should always go to them (or anybody else) with any issues, especially if it bothered me to that extent. I agree and it’s something I will continue to work on – always stand up for yourself!
If someone is upset, the most important thing you can do is listen and not invalidate their feelings.
All three people (my manager, the director, and my colleague) dealt with me and my sudden excess of emotions better than I imagined. For some reason, I thought it would turn into a nasty atmosphere where I would feel the need to avoid the team for the rest of my rotation. Instead, they listened to me, empathized and told stories of when they were in situations that caused them to feel similar feelings before, and then explained themselves so I could understand their perspectives. Not once did they ever tell me that I was wrong or make me feel young and dumb, which would have made me even angrier.
Do not be stubborn and stick with your assumptions because when you assume, it just makes an ass out of you and me.
After all the events occurred, my assumption was that they were sexist assholes, despite the fact that I have good personal relationships with all of them. There has never been a bad interaction with any of them, so I don’t know how or why I refused to think otherwise from the “sexist assholes” argument.
What surprised me the most was when my colleague approached me and asked if I would speak with him. I was nervous.
“Juliet, what could I have done to avoided this situation? What were you feeling?”
Wait, what? I was surprised at how sincere he was at wanting to know what happened, and how he could improve. It ended up being a great conversation. He told me that I once mentioned a restaurant I liked in passing, and he took his family there and now it is one of their favorite places to eat.
So yeah, I felt like a total ass.
Most of the time when people say “thank you”, they mean it, so take it at face value.
When I was doing work that I believed was too easy or pointless, I dismissed every “thank you” and “you’re doing a great job” I received. Instead of taking those comments at face value, I twisted them by telling myself “they’re just thankful that they don’t have to do this work”.
I wasn’t even aware that I was doing that until my colleague mentioned that he’s told me before that I’m doing great work and has seen other directors email me their thank yous, and I was like, “What thank yous?” He said, “Yeah, they emailed you and CC’d me. They truly appreciate you for the work that you’ve done.”
Most likely I did read their emails, and did not care because I was so focused on feeling annoyed that I didn’t register their good thoughts and intentions. I am appalled at my own attitude.
Handle your emotions however you think best.
I cried angry tears twice: first when talking to my manager, and then another when I was talking to my director.
My director’s advice: “Don’t cry in front of others and show them that they could affect you.”
My colleague’s thoughts: “There are a huge range of emotions that there’s no way any one person has experienced them all and knows how to deal with it. If you cry, you cry. No big deal, just compose yourself afterwards.”
Interesting to see two different viewpoints. I’m still figuring out what I believe.
What are some lessons you guys have learned in your careers? Let me know in the comments below!