I was at a conference last week. There was a panel about women in technology. Of course, I went.
I heard several concerning stories. One woman said something like this:
“My previous husband was concerned when I went out for dinner with professional colleagues. He was concerned I was “seeing” other men.“
Note that she said her previous husband. She got rid of him and has a different husband now.
Another woman said something like this:
“My company expects I will work 24/7, that I am available for email and phone calls all day and night. I am not willing to live like that.”
Both women recognized something in their situation did not make sense and decided to do something about it.
What about the rest of us? I learned the hard way about 25 years ago. I was lying in bed, waiting for Mark to finish brushing his teeth. I checked my voicemail on my work phone. (I dialed in and listened.)
Mark opened the door to the bedroom and asked, “What are you doing?”
I replied, “I’m checking voice mail. Why?”
He said, “What are you doing?”
“You heard me, right?” I was surprised he asked me again.
“It’s 11:30 at night, and you’re checking voicemail? What are you thinking? You’re tired. Will you make good decisions now?” He persisted.
Well, when he put it like that, it was clear the answer was NO. No way I could make good decisions. I decided then and there to stop playing the “who-left-voicemail-last” game.
By trying to “do it all,” I was holding myself back.
I’d thought I was a good manager, a good corporate citizen by making sure I got through my voicemail all the time. It was as hopeless then as getting through all your email is now.
I learned—from Mark calling my attention to it—that no company needs me 24/7. Oh, they might think they do, but what they pay for is a thinking human. If all I do is react, I’m not thinking. And, if I react all the time, I’m not so human. Well, not enough. I tend to be irritable when I haven’t slept enough. Yes, I become even more snarky than I already am.
We might decide to “blame” our companies for their requests. I certainly have explained to managers that even as a manager, I need sustainable pace. Some of my managers didn’t want to hear that. One of them accused me of not being a team player.
I responded this way, “If by team player you mean I only take your directly stated needs into account, I can be a yes-woman. I will say yes to anything you say and do what I like. But, if by team player you mean I am fully present to be a leader and decide or help other people decide what they need, then I can do that without saying yes to you. I will provide you reasonable responses in reasonable timeframes.”
When we swallow and accede to unreasonable requests, we placate other people. We don’t stand up for ourselves or our beliefs. That makes work untenable. We hold ourselves back from our potential.
We might think the company holds us back, and maybe that’s correct. And, when we allow our circumstances to take advantage of us, we also hold ourselves back.
You might decide that for now, you will accommodate your organization while you look for another job. You might decide to change things, for yourself or the organization. Those are just three choices. You might see more.
I need to think about what’s holding me back. Sometimes, I have created barriers where there might be none. I follow rules I didn’t create. I don’t see other choices. I have to take my marriage and family into account for my choices. My choices might not be clear and my context matters.
That is the question of the week: What holds us back?
- What Are You Waiting For?
- Who’s Working?