Lately I've been feeling angry more often. Not ragey, irrational anger; healthy anger, the kind that comes as a response to people overstepping my personal boundaries. I have always been prone to sacrifice if I sense that someone else's needs conflict with my own. I'm not doing that as reflexively as I used to.
It's serving me well at work. My assistant manager, who usually deflects a great many questions and complaints away from my office, has had to take a lot of days off lately due to a personal situation, and it looks like her schedule will be sketchy for the foreseeable future. She usually takes an early shift and I take a later one. On days when she's not in, sometimes I don't even get my coat off before people starting throwing problems at me. It's very irritating. Unless the building is on fire, there's nothing that can't wait five minutes. Let me put my lunch into the fridge, boot up my PC, and catch my breath so that I can think clearly, please!
I'm not censoring myself as carefully as I used to. If people are going to be inconsiderate, I don't feel the need to enable them. One of the more senior professionals I serve approached me waving her laser pointer angrily, demanding to know why the batteries ran out so quickly. I didn't tut-tut and commiserate with her frustration. I said "I have no idea. I didn't design it." Batteries run out. That's how life works. Deal with it!
I had an argument with someone on my staff. Previously, I wouldn't have done this. I would have felt honour-bound to retain the moral high ground by playing it cool. I'm the boss, I used to think, so I should graciously accept that my employees are sometimes going to cop an attitude. I shouldn't let it get to me. I should rise above. This time, when one of my girls* got resentful of how I'd delegated work, I met her resentment with my own. I expressed how hard it is for me to keep balance and harmony in a large department, and how annoying it is when my staff forget that I have to consider the big picture, not just what they want individually. I thank them and praise them all the time for their work, but I'm more likely to get complaints than appreciation. It ticks me off.
Expressing my feelings was scary and empowering. I didn't feel drained after the encounter, the way I do when I spend a lot of energy keeping a calm facade. In fact, we both felt better for having shared our frustrations. By the end of the discussion the woman I was speaking with didn't like my decision any more than she did before, but she understood my point of view and respected it.
Having a proper argument with someone, an honest, constructive one, is a funny kind of blessing. It's like medicine that tastes bitter going down but leaves you feeling better. Do you know how to fight a good fight?
*My female staff range in age from 23 to 50-something, and they all cheerfully refer to themselves and each other as "girls". I tried to avoid that for the first few years in order to be politically correct, but finally I gave in. If they want to be girls, then they can be my girls, and I'll be happy with that.