Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fighting the Good Fight

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.


Jameil said...

I'm naturally a fighter. It's better for me to let it out a little at a time. If I hold on to it, it's going to explode on someone and NO ONE likes that.

LL Cool Joe said...

Age, wisdom and having kids has changed me from a quiet, nervous mouse to a fighter.

Good for you. :)

DarcKnyt said...

You're ripening, Spark. It's going to be delicious. ;)

I don't know how to do this. You're an inspiration. A great example of a boss. Keep up the good fight!

Jenski said...

No need to be a martyr for your girls! Having a respectful and challenging work environment is probably better for everyone.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

And here I just bottled it up until I end up turning red and yelling at someone to get out of my office.... hmmm.. to each their own I guess...

Lynn said...

It sounds as if you handle and respond to everything so beautifully. It does sound stressful though.

I used to supervise a large crew of temperamental artists and I used to get whiny complaining all the time - like you say, sometimes you just have to respond matter of factly and go on. (I'm facebook friends with almost all of them now, so I must have done something right.)

G said...

Seems that you're starting to navigate those treacherous waters very well. :D

Only in the private sector can you be this assertive with your staff, 'cause in the public sector, your staff would try to rake you over the coals and then some.

DarcsFalcon said...

Good for you! You're doing it right. :)

I think something happens to women too, as we get older and approach that "big birthday." I think we feel like we've spent the 1st 20 years of our adult lives being a certain way, and now it's time to shake things up a bit.

I think you're going about things just fine, and it really seems to be paying off for you. :)

Granny Annie said...

It wouldn't hurt a bit to hold a communications workshop in order to correct concerns while still preserving each individual's dignity, integrity and self-worth. Even as the boss you too are just another peg on a bigger board.

Tracy Makara said...

Good for you Spark! You deserve to be respected and standing up for yourself is not wrong. Sounds to me like you are handling yourself very well.

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: Explosions are always messy.

LL Cool Joe: And good for you too! Previously mousy, now people-to-be-reckoned-with, unite!

DarcKnyt: When we did our first walk-through of this work space, before it was built out for us to move into it, it was a gym. There was a boxing ring. Maybe we shouldn't have gotten rid of it.;-)

Jenski: I agree. Respect has to be a two-way street. I was glad that my staffer felt that she could be frank with me about her feelings. I should be able to take a challenge as well as I can dish them out.

Ron: Ah, so you're a messy exploder. I'll stand back if I see your face turning purple.

Lynn: You definitely did something right! I'm not friends with any of my ex-bosses, that's for darn sure!

G: Therefore I hope to never work in the public sector.

DarcsFalcon: Thanks! I was very submissive during my 20's. That didn't work out very well for me.

Granny Annie: I see my role as being a facilitator for my staff to get their jobs done with the proper support. I try not to lose sight of the fact that I am here to serve them as much as they are here to serve me.

Tracy: Thanks! I know that you too are continually honing your boundary-setting skills. It's a lifelong project.