"Love My Way, It's a New Road"

Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Close Call

I like my boss. She is my age, very smart, super fit, fair, kind and a little neurotic. She freely admits her propensity to be a tad high-strung at times. My tendency to react to neurotic energy with calm is perhaps a big reason we mesh well.

She is going away for 10 days over the holidays with a couple and a female friend of theirs. She was invited after they had planned the trip, so the plan was for her to share a room with this other woman that she doesn’t know. My boss gamely booked her flights, paid for her excursions and blocked out her calendar for this trip. It is a bucket list type vacation.

Then her feet began getting cold. Particularly when they sent her links to the accommodations. She would be sharing a bedroom and bath with a complete stranger. She wasn’t comfortable and began regretting her plans.

If you, Dear Readers, know anything about me, it is I am good with pragmatic advice. She confided her anxiety to me. I told her she was 100% justified. I helped her find a great boutique hotel for the middle part of the trip. I suggested she simply explain to her hosts that she travel points that were expiring. She felt relieved and happy.

Then she decided that a hotel for the first leg would be best, so she jumped on the internet and booked a great, mainstream hotel for the first spot. That’s where things went sideways for me.

She was on Trivago prowling around and my suggestion for Stop #2 popped up. She clicked on it and was horrified. Trivago identified my hotel as an LGBT, clothing optional hotel. Now, she didn’t give a rat’s ass about the LGBT part, but the prospect of a clothing optional hotel with rooftop terrace was not part of her dream vacation.

She called me into her office. “Shut the door. We need to talk”. I’m still riding high from yesterday’s glowing review. “What’s up?” She fills me in and I am dumbstruck.

“Hold on”, I say. “We both read reviews. Heterosexual couples reviewed this place and loved it. That doesn’t make sense. We need to call them.” She had their website up on her computer and they describe themselves as “family friendly”. I tell her that no clothing optional hotel would also call itself family friendly.

We call them. She cracks me up. I am to do the talking on the speaker phone. The front desk answers and I use my favorite line when something doesn’t jive with me. “I’m confused…” and I explain that I’m about to book but see conflicting information. The front desk explains that the hotel sold two years ago and they have completely re-branded. I clarify, “No more clothing optional areas?” No.

My boss and I were rolling on the floor in hysterics after the call. The pictures we were painting of old, wrinkled, nekkid men had us in stitches. Crisis averted, but that was a close call.

No wonder the admin is jealous…this is one story that will not be repeated in the office…

Women, Geez

Part of the reason I blog is so I can ruminate, reflect, research and generally over-think what’s going on in my life and in my head.  I have been trying to figure out my next steps with my minor office politics situation because I really don’t want a political situation.  Been there, done that and hate it.

Years ago I had listened to a woman speaker talking about how women treat other women in the workplace.  She was talking about how less senior/low-ranked women will oftentimes try to level things with a more senior woman.  That they subconsciously do not accept the authority or hierarchical status of the senior woman.

If I am not explaining this well, let me give you a personal example.  My former housekeeper.  I would come home from work and if she was still working, she would tell me what work I needed to do in my home.  She would comment on my leisure if I was sitting on the patio with my feet up while she wrapped up her work.  She was just trying to keep both us working women equal even though our relationship was hierarchical.  My daughter faces this all the time in the medical world as a surgeon.

The Atlantic had an article that hit upon what I had experienced last week:

Even levelheaded, feminist women can exhibit elements of queen-bee behavior at times, and they don’t have to be in senior positions. The biggest issue I heard about is what’s known as “competitive threat,” which is when a woman fears that a female newcomer will outshine her. She might try to undermine her rival preemptively—as happened to one woman I interviewed, whose work friend spread rumors that she was promiscuous and unqualified. Or she might slam her rival with demeaning comments, as has happened to seven in 10 respondents to a 2016 survey of women working in the tech industry. “I had two female colleagues who suggested I try to look ‘less pretty’ to be taken more seriously,” a respondent wrote. “One suggested a breast reduction.”

I have been very lucky that although my admin sees me as a competitive threat, she has not spread ugly rumors about me….that I know about.  Then the article used an interesting term “system justification”

Rudman found that some women’s disparagement of other women can be explained by what’s called “system justification,” a psychological concept in which long-oppressed groups, struggling to make sense of an unfair world, internalize negative stereotypes. Women simply don’t have the same status in American life that men do. So when people think, Who do I want to work with?, they subconsciously leap to the default, the historically revered—the man. Some women look around, see few women running things, and assume that there must be something wrong with women themselves.

But it was another article on the Workology website that really spelled out what I was looking for:

Women are wired for close friendship in which two people are equals and share intimate secrets. Businesses tend to be hierarchical, and workplace relationships are what Pat Heim calls “friendly.” Managers demonstrate “executive distance” in their relationships with subordinates. This kind of relationship between a “lower level” and “higher level” woman can disappoint (perhaps unconscious) expectations for close relationships. A woman may feel rejected by the senior woman. She may take it personally and dislike the senior woman.

What is interesting with the quote above is that I strive to remember this with my boss.  We are chatty in a social way, but I never forget that she is my boss.  I understand that our relationship is completely work-based and will never have a social component.  My boss, probably through the School of Hard Knocks, does not socialize with coworkers. She is my boss and I keep to our hierarchical relationship.

Fortunately the article didn’t leave me hanging and went on to provide a viable solution with my admin situation:

Transparency can also help resolve some of these issues. If you recognize passive-aggressive behavior (or perceive it), confronting the specific behavior before it gets worse can be helpful. One way I’ve found to successfully handle this without conflict is to rely on your sense of humor and understand your own work style. For example, you can say to your boss or coworker, “I’m not sensitive to criticism…in fact, I welcome and appreciate it. If I don’t hear from you, I assume I’m doing a fantastic job!”

For the drama queen in the office, ignoring the behavior can often exacerbate it. I’ve seen successful women leaders nip this in the bud by getting all parties in one room and putting all cards on the table. Backstabbing can’t survive in an open arena, so talking negatively about each other behind the other’s back is nearly impossible (at least as a tactic) in an open, collaborative work environment.

I may end up sharing the Workology article with my boss.  I haven’t decided yet.  But this thing has now been identified and I better understand what is going on.  Now let’s see if the admin has enough self-realization to look in the mirror.  In the meantime, just look for me on the high road…

disruptivo-zx1OaguZmA4-unsplash

Photo by DISRUPTIVO on Unsplash

Gobsmacked

Have you ever had the phenomenon of female co-workers undermining you with passive aggressive BS? I was just gobsmacked last week and have spent a couple of days digesting and analyzing the information provided to me by my boss (also a woman – this will be relevant).

First, let me say that I am not in trouble and my boss was giving me a heads up. I appreciate the heads up and we spoke very candidly.

What happened? The first thing was I attended a company event that apparently was only for one particular department and their clients. They had over 200 people for a breakfast thing. I had asked my department admin if I could go and if I could invite a few folks. She said sure. She has been organizing the logistics of this particular event for many years, so I thought I was good to go. I attended with the prior knowledge of my boss (not her department) and apparently created a slight stir afterwards.

I was so embarrassed. I immediately apologized and asked my boss if this put her in a tight spot. It didn’t. I told her it wouldn’t happen again.  Now I am thinking that my admin simply was giving me lots of rope so I would hang myself.  Gee, thanks.

This led to my boss’ next comment, “people are noticing when you are out of the office”. Hmm, that’s interesting. I asked for a bit more information and explained that I was never out of the office without her PRIOR knowledge and that my public calendar was very clear about what I was doing when I wasn’t in the office. We talked about that and the fact that people simply do not understand what I do and how there are times that my work takes me out of the office. She was fine with it all. She had no complaints or requests that I stop what I am doing. She simply wanted to let me know that I am being watched.

Then the really interesting conversation started. The same admin that had given me enough rope and no warning so I hung myself at the breakfast seminar apparently spent most of her review time complaining about me. My boss asked her if she had spoken to me and the answer was “no”. She asked if I was disrespectful or difficult to work with, “no”. Actually, the admin admitted, she really likes me and thinks I am a really nice person to work with. WTF?

Her specific complaints include that I listen to her calls. Uh, no, I try to be very courteous and that’s what she does. Mr, Freud, can we say, “projection”. She also was concerned that I am trying to interfere with her work by getting involved. OK, occasionally because I am new and I do have suggestions on new approaches, but just tell me “no”. I am still trying to find my lane on this new work road. Basically, she didn’t have anything concrete or concrete enough for my boss to step in. On reflection, it really just seems like the admin is jealous and feels threatened.

My boss was in a very good mood and seemed to be telling me out of a place of concern for me rather than trying to correct any of my behaviors. She actually told the admin that I am much like the boss and that the best way to course-correct me is to tell me directly. We laughed about it because I said this is one of my biggest problems “I don’t do subtle”. However, based on this situation I am going to have to do a better job because I am sitting among some passive-aggressive ladies.

As my boss and I parsed this out, I jokingly said that it sounded like a kid jealous that her sibling was getting more attention from mom. “EXACTLY!” my boss exclaimed. She said that the admin ended their time by complaining that the boss spends too much time with me and not enough with her.

Like I said earlier, I was gobsmacked. I thought I had made positive inroads with this admin. I thought we were on the same team and all was well. I thought perhaps I had found an ally in this workplace. Nope, I was wrong. Naive Maggie.

I don’t think the admin is doing this from a place of hatred towards me, but one of jealousy. I recognize that the admin had wanted my job even though she doesn’t have the expertise I have. I am an expert in a very specific field and I am the only one in the company with my expertise. Which is another reason why so many people look at me with a raised eyebrow. What do I do? How do I do this? My boss knows and she really likes my work. She reports to the CEO and he is happy with my results and that is all that matters for now.

One thing this has taught me. Stay in my lane. Although I want to contribute in other ways to the company’s success, this cannot be. I need to stay in my lane and focus on the tasks they hired me to do.

I asked my boss several times if there was anything I should or should not be doing. She said no. She was fine with me. She enjoys my company and thinks I am doing great work. One thing for sure is that I have always seen my boss as that –my boss. I keep our relationship hierarchical. We will find out more this week when my formal review occurs, but for now, I simply have to take her words at face value.

I did some thinking and research on my situation, so be sure to read my next post about my ruminations on this situation.

bernard-hermant-bSpqe48INMg-unsplash

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Job Stability

Job stability is always an issue.  I don’t care who, what, when or where you work — job stability should always be lurking in the back of your mind.  It’s on my mind right now for several reasons.

  1.  My first review and goal-setting is coming up.  When I look into 2020, I have things that will keep me barely occupied.  Not enough in my estimation.  2021 has some good projects but not too earth-shattering for my position.
  2. My company is about to lay off some folks.  It’s a group that hasn’t been producing income.  Gulp.
  3. I finally got the overdue money from Maggie & Co.  This will help my IRS bill fortunately.  I have to chat with my accountant before I go crazy and send the IRS a big payment, but I’m looking forward to it.

I have mentioned to my boss twice that I “still have some capacity” for additional work.  She hasn’t come up with anything extra for me. I would like to stretch and be busier than I am, but after two mentions it is time for me to shut up.  Sometimes I am just sitting  reading the NY Times or some online BS.  I hate that.  I am just not a person who enjoys being paid to do nothing.  It worries me.

Granted, this is a brand new role and they haven’t had someone in it.  I have worked on several things and have some other long-term projects that I can pick at, but there really isn’t a tremendous work flow.  At least not a work volume that I am accustomed to.  I am not too worried.  My boss seems to like me tremendously and I have won over my admin (remember, she was the one who ignored me for the first 30-45 days).

Perhaps this goal-setting review process will help, but I have never seen those exercises produce any meaningful insights.  For now, I will revel in a steady paycheck, a 10 minute commute and great health insurance.  Hopefully I will get my financial house in order quickly and be ready for whatever comes next.  I am very, very grateful for what I have. When I added up my Maggie & Co income, it would not have sustained me this year.  Yes, I am very fortunate for this second chance.  Thank you!

carl-heyerdahl-KE0nC8-58MQ-unsplash

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Live the Bigger Life

This morning I was listening to Episode #237 of the podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” on my work commute. She and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, touched upon a mantra, “Live the bigger life”.

That mantra resonated with me. They talked about when making choices, choose the one that expands your life. Gretchen used the example of her decision to get a dog. In her infinitely rational mind, the pros and cons of a dog were balanced, so this manta “live the bigger life” cast the deciding vote of getting Barnaby because she thought (correctly) that he would provide a richer experience for her family.

I am looking to live a bigger life. This is my life’s journey now. My break with the Hunter is my effort to live the bigger life. I want my life filled with the richer experiences I enjoy. Things like farmers markets, live music, solitary morning walks, cooking new foods, community events and more. It sounds mundane, but I think it will make my life bigger.

I also believe that by minimizing certain aspects of my life: my living quarters, my relationship with the Hunter and reducing anxiety by gaining income security and leaving Miami chaos– I will be able to live a Bigger Life. That’s what I am striving for. Until I heard that mantra, I didn’t have the concept fully defined.

I’m nervous about my big changes. Don’t think for a minute that I am not. As I get closer and closer to my big move, I get a bit more nervous. Nervous about my new budget, nervous that my stuff will fit without overwhelming my new place, nervous about throwing all my eggs into my new job basket. It’s a very big change coming up, but I hope it will lead to my Bigger Life.

Now I have to run – I need to get a mover.

Adulting

This week was one of “getting shit done”.  I tackled packing up my son which involved a lot of sorting through stuff that has been in storage for the past year, creating an inventory of things he may need (lost in the break-up of his girlfriend) and then packing his car to capacity.

We actually had fun with all of the drudgery.  I coaxed him into saying good-bye to five garbage bags of old clothes.  We literally did the Marie Kondo method of “does this spark joy?” .  We were entertained.  He patiently tried on tons of clothes during the process.  We also had some shopping and a few miscellaneous errands, so the time went quickly.

He has already arrived in his new city and has hit the ground running.  He has a lot of “adulting” tasks to complete the next week, but his spirits and attitude are great, so he should be fine.

All of this sorting and packing for him has inspired me to get started on my own stuff.  Fortunately I have weeded out most of the superfluous except for the damn china and silverware.  Despite a huge purge for my last move, I still find things I won’t need or want, so a dreaded garage sale is in my near future.  I did tackle some administrative stuff like getting a new auto insurance quote, finding a cheaper cell phone plan, changing my renters insurance and adding a jewelry rider to it.  I have been quite productive.

I am still working on the Hunter’s big consulting project.  The client has been dragging their feet a bit about launching everything.  That’s actually good news for me because there is a ton of behind-the-scenes administrative work to do and I am about 75% complete.  I should be able to wrap it up soon.  He has another new potential consulting client that we are meeting next week.  My fingers are crossed on this one.

Work was a short week since I took two days off to hang out with my son.  That threw me off a bit, so the week ended before I knew it.  I learned some new technology out of sheer desperation.   I’m not familiar with Zoom meetings, so I coaxed one of the IT guys into giving me a tutorial.  He was laughing when I said that I needed more skills so I didn’t break out in a cold sweat whenever I had to lead one of these meetings.  He was a great teacher because later that day I successfully lead a meeting, shared my screen and multiple files with about 6 people.  That was a big win!

Nothing exciting to report.  I was a bit glum driving home on Friday because I have nothing fun planned.  Life isn’t full of adventure right now.  It’s just a huge re-positioning slog right now.  That’s OK, I am super-excited about my move and I know that by the end of the year I will be on a much better financial footing and I will have room in my life for more activities.  I miss being outside every day, so I can’t wait to get settled and be able to take a long walk every morning.  Commuting two hours every day has eliminated my walk time right now and I really miss it.  Now, let me step away from the computer…

glenn-carstens-peters-RLw-UC03Gwc-unsplash

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Self Awareness

I was listening to This American Life about David Dunning  and his work on cognitive bias.  Don’t fade on me yet, it is really interesting.  If you prefer to read about it, here’s a link to his Wikipedia entry on the topic.

Basically, his theory is that people think they are smarter than they really are.  People aren’t aware of their lack of ability.  They simply don’t have the self awareness necessary.  Fascinating.  The conversation on This American Life was really interesting because it tied into something I have been pondering for the past couple of weeks.

I sucked at my former profession.

Yes, my whole idea that I was great in my profession was wrong.  I wasn’t.  I’m not.  I’m average at best.  If I had not found this job, I would have gone down in flames.  Maggie & Co. has crumpled into dust.  I got out just in the nick of time.  If I hadn’t gotten this job, I would probably be lining up to sell my plasma or something like that.  Seriously.

I listen to my new vendor who has my previous role and he’s good.  Quite good.  Better than me in some ways and he’s friggin’ the age of my kids.  Good grief.

I thank my lucky stars that I have this job.  I focus on being a diligent, good employee and pray every day that my good fortunate with this company continues.  My boss was telling me how relieved she is to have me in this role.  It has freed her up so much.

However, I also have realized that my new boss is a political creature.  She will never be my friend.  I must always keep my private life just that — private.  She overshares but does it from a need for attention and validation.  I like her.  I think I understand her, but I will never fully trust her.  She doesn’t like to confront and wants everyone to like her.  Those types of bosses can be dangerous.  I just have to remember her likes and dislikes and act accordingly.  I too can be a political creature…

Anyway, I digress.  I have to keep in mind this cognitive bias concept.  Listen to the podcast.  It is fascinating.

pedro-dutra-_T--elPx_AE-unsplash

Photo by Pedro Dutra on Unsplash

Tag Cloud