I sponsored a conference this week for women in technology and what a fantastic day. There were 200 women in the audience who work in a corporate environment and have experience ranging from a few weeks to 20+ years. The one thing they all had in common besides working in technology was that they made a personal commitment to spend the day with other women like themselves, and to learn something.
The speakers were thoughtful, and honest, and inspiring. But one of the highlights for me was a question that was asked by a young woman in the audience named Erika.
Her question was what to do when you are having a bad day, and she further clarified she was focused on when that bad day was due to a person she felt was treating her wrong.
She described her gut reaction at times was to let it get to her, and want to gossip about the person and the situation.
I spoke to her personally at the break and told her this question touched me as I had recently had one of those ‘bad days’ and found myself handling it in a way that I wanted to share.
In my situation, I was headed into a meeting that I knew would be tough. The person I was meeting was extremely upset due to the technology service being disrupted a few days in a row and I knew the conversation would include facts about the outage in addition to emotions about feeling let down by the technology team. I needed all my professionalism to listen to the emotions without letting it distract me from the facts – the outage was bad and we needed to fix it. I didn’t want to become defensive or try to explain how it happened. I needed to make sure he knew I was listening to him, and also to focus on resolving the issue and preventing it from happening again.
This is easier said than done some days.
To prepare myself, I called a work friend. She answered and asked what I needed. I said simply that I just wanted to talk to a friend. She said “oooo-kay”, and again asked what I needed. I told her I was going into a tough meeting and just wanted to hear a friendly voice to remind me this job is not all bad. Then I said I had to jump in an elevator and I’d catch up later. She laughed and said goodbye.
My message to Erica was to make sure she had these types of work friends. People who will take the call, and understand you’re not losing your mind. A friend who has your back, a friend who knows the tough meetings, the tough people, the tough days can get to anyone…but that we always get through them better when we know someone is on our side. And a friend who doesn’t try to get the story (gossip) from you when you reach out for support.
Ask for support for the action you must take. This is very different than asking for support against a person, or a perceived wrong done to you.
Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you. —Spanish proverb
I saw the friend I had called the following day. She asked if everything was okay and I said yes. We never talked about who the person was, or the issue. Because frankly that didn’t matter anymore.
For everyone who has these days, I hope you find your way to take the issue, deal with it through support from a friend or another way that works for you, and put it behind you. Dwelling on the tough conversations, people, or aspects of a job gives them more power than they deserve. And who wants that?
And I also encourage you, girlgeek, to be this type of friend to others.