Leadership Thoughts – Bad Days

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.

Phone a friend
Phone a friend

~ Kelley

5 Comment

  1. Lorraine says: Reply

    I hope I’m that friend that people feel they can call

  2. Traci Van Geel says: Reply

    One of the best lessons i learned in a corporate leadership session was to be that friend and to simply say “and what else?” Nothing more, nothing less. Those strong friends who just want to hear your smiling, supportive voice will immediately say “nothing, I’ve got this!”. Those who need more will begin talking out their thoughts and will lead themselves to the conclusion that is right for them. It is the hardest thing in the world to do, and the most incredible gift to give to a friend.

  3. Erika from the audience says: Reply

    Thank you so much for posting this! I really appreciate you coming over to chat about my question during the break, and the fact that you turned this into a blog post. It’s great to get a little perspective and to hear that I’m not alone.

    After you stepped away from our table at the event, my friend and I were chatting about your story. We made a pact then and there to be each other’s “that friend” – and we’ve already found it’s coming in handy. It’s so good to have someone who understands what you’re going through, relates to you, and reminds you that even when a bad day is tough, it’s never something more than you can handle.

    Great advice, thanks again!

  4. Mir says: Reply

    Kelley, thank you for being a supportive voice through this blog .

  5. Leisha Babrow says: Reply

    Excellent blog here!

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