I had a beautiful conversation with a coworker of mine the other day. I’ve felt a lot of disconnection from the team lately. The work is still getting done and I am fine with the groups I’m overseeing, but the actual team I’m working with feels distant to me. There are group sessions and discussions where decisions are being made for other team members and I haven’t been included in decisions for my own teams. So when I had this conversation the other day, a light hit loud and clear: this feeling of isolation is not unique to me and the pattern of what is happening at work is the same for both of us. The instant we realized what’s happening, that we aren’t alone, it felt different. There is a distinct pattern for those of us who have a different mindset than those who are working 24/7. To be fair, we are all at different stages in our lives with kids with different needs etc., but we still should not feel that judgement from our team members.
The day after we had this conversation, I felt lighter. I felt heard and seen and my coworker said the exact same thing: we didn’t feel so alone. It’s an empowering thing and a relief to know that you’re not alone and you’re not crazy. It’s also a sad thing to be on the outside of a group that is supposed to be inclusive. Especially when there is an impact to your work and reputation. Just because we go about our assignments differently, it doesn’t mean we are wrong. My job isn’t to be a perfect clone of you or to read your mind: I was hired to lead a specific group and then I have done the best I can with things I literally knew nothing about. My coworker alluded to the same thing.
So on the day after our talk, there was a ruckus in the office—yelling and door slamming, the whole nine yards. The conversation wasn’t heard, but it involved the coworker I had this conversation with. When I was able to touch base with her later, I found out that one of the other people we’ve been having issues with made a really inappropriate comment about the work ethic of my coworker. Instead of taking it in like we have been, my coworker went off on her. And I felt so aligned with her and proud. When you sit on shit for too long all you do is smell and resent it. You can’t let that stuff fester or build and you certainly can’t carry it with you. We all reach our breaking point and it’s unfortunate that we don’t respect each other’s boundaries enough to see what’s really happening or to take in their perspective. We let our assumptions win. This was the line for my coworker.
Previously I would have felt guilty because this is something we normally would have kept quiet. The talk we had was admittedly provocative for both of us in the regard we finally felt supported enough to voice what was happening. I mean, I didn’t personally encourage the blow up, but we definitely encouraged honest expression. And after we reconnected on the blow up, I realized there wasn’t a thing to feel guilty about. Just because we see it differently doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to express it. It isn’t our job to make the others feel comfortable: it’s our job to bring to light what’s actually happening. We have just as much of a right to express ourselves as they do. I’m happy to identify something that isn’t right and to air it so we can fix what needs to be fixed. Talking about it is the only way to do that. Keeping it inside only fosters resentment, and that isn’t something I choose to carry any longer. So, when the opportunity comes, I highly recommend stirring the pot. If you let it settle, someone is at the bottom and carries that load. That isn’t healthy for anyone. Pot stirrer and proud because that is how you find your path: follow what feels right no matter how uncomfortable it makes others. You are responsible for your life, not theirs.