I have this problem where I perpetually think I’m younger than I am. Being the youngest of 4, I suppose it’s ingrained in me. All through my first two years of college I felt like a kid still in high school. When my niece turned one, I had just come to accept that my sister was a mother. I’ve been in the working world for almost a year and a half and I still feel like a college intern some of the time. Until yesterday. Yesterday a colleague of mine mimicked what I sound like back to me in a meeting. It was over-exaggerated and not meant to be malicious in any way, but it knocked me for a loop. I sounded like a meek, whiny, pushover–wringing my hands at the smallest request! I’ve always been described as a friendly, if not a bit direct, leader. To see someone portray me in such a different way was shocking. Here’s what I realized I was doing wrong:
“Never Say No” doesn’t mean what you think it does. I’d been told that when you start off in a new job, you should present yourself as open and eager to offer your time to assist in any project that presents itself. “Never say No”. I’d done just that, but what I didn’t realize was that I was sacrificing my assertive nature while doing it. I’m not saying that the advice I got wasn’t good, I just did it wrong. My biggest mistake was thinking “Never say no” meant “Always say Yes”. Now, this may be correct for the first few months when you’re figuring out what your responsibilities are and where your manager thinks your skills would best fit but this is also the time when you need to be watching to see what everyone else is accountable for, too. So when someone else makes a mistake and then says they don’t have time to fix it, you should know that they are responsible for their work and that they need to take ownership of it. You DON’T offer to fix their work for them.
You’re not in college anymore. While the dreaded popularity contest is still prevalent in the office space, it’s not as important as your work. Whether you realize it or not, your work helps your company make money. So, if your work is outstanding and you’re continually looking for new opportunities to shine, you’ll stand out. Your colleagues are not trying to be your best friend and you don’t have to try either. Common fact in the workplace: everyone’s here to work and they won’t put your friendship above their mid-year review. So the next time you feel like you’re being given the runaround, take a pause, even in mid conversation, and assess how you’re speaking to the other person. Are you giving them a lot of power in the conversation to say Yes or No? Or is the other person genuinely busy? The simple way to find out is by stating (not asking) that you would be happy to set up a meeting to talk about the project. If they resist, that’s your answer. In order to make sh*t happen, make sure to draft an agenda for meetings and communicate any reading they need to do ahead of time.
There is no student-master dynamic and your co-workers are not “your elders” that need to be respected like your parents. You’re co-workers. You’re part of a team. It felt so odd to me when a friend of mine told me I was another co-worker’s equal. I thought to myself, surely not! They’ve got years of experience on me. I need to suck up as much information as I can from them. They’re the smart ones. But while it may be true that they have experience on you, they find it just as strange when someone treats them as their superior. DON’T DO IT! It just fills their head with has and you become the weirdo wringing her hands in the corner when you need work done by your team. If they have the same title as you, they’re your equal. Feel free to learn what they know, but don’t feel like you’re bring given the privilege of their company.
CC’ing your boss in tough conversations isn’t “snitching”. If you’re finding someone too difficult to manage on your own, ask your boss their advice. How would they deal with a situation like the one you’re facing? And there’s no need to avoid naming names when you’re talking to the boss. You’re not going to be considered a tattle tail by your boss or your colleague as long as you’re asking for some constructive advice on how to handle a difficult situation on your own. The worst that can happen is that your colleague takes offense and doesn’t do the work. The big plus in this “worst-case scenario” is that your boss knows you’re side of the story and can back you up if you face repercussions for it.
I’m going to give these a go at the office to see if people start taking me more seriously. If I start seeing more results, faster, I’ll know it’s working. What do you think? Have you struggled with any of these mindsets? If so, what did you do to get out of these mindsets? Let me know in the comments below!