I’ve noticed a theme lately with my friends, clients and acquaintances. Hell, I’ve even experienced it.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt squished into a box or label of some kind in the workplace, but weren’t quite sure how you got there? And it wasn’t entirely clear how to make your way out of it?
I recently had a friend tell me that at her company she was told, “It’s clear you’re not meant for sales.” One of my clients told me she was given the feedback that she “isn’t assertive enough so she’s never going to get to the next step in her career.” And as a result, it became very difficult to do their jobs and “show up” in a way that made them feel assertive and a productive member of the team. They were not chosen to try out new opportunities and as a result, felt that quicksand effect of being stuck.
It’s not a good feeling. Believe me, I know. When I was going through my own experience being utterly confused by the labeling and scapegoating, I was scared and unhappy. I spent my entire birthday crying so much that I threw up.
What I’m here to bring to the table today is twofold: 1) Acknowledge that this ish happens and it ain’t pretty. So, you’re not alone if you’re grappling with something similar. And 2) There’s something you can do about it.
Yes, really. I bet there are some sighs of relief behind those ol’ monitors. So what is there to be done if you’re working through an experience where you’re being typecast, scapegoated, told you’re ‘not enough’ (whatever that means), etc?
1. Breathe and Ask Yourself, “What’s The Worst Possible Outcome Here?”: Seriously, ask yourself that question. Think of the most god-awful scenario that would make the Red Wedding seem tame. What’d ya come up with? Was it ‘leave the company’ or ‘find a new job’? Was it “stay with the company for eternity suspended in a torture like state?” Whatever it was, helping yourself see what the worst case for you would be is a good first step to taking some sort of action.
2. Address The Situation. Go straight to the source. Is your boss the one making these assumptions about you? Set up a meeting (preferably out of the office environment, for lunch perhaps) and try to approach the meeting with a sense of curiosity, rather than confrontation. “So I’m curious- what were some of the factors that led to this assessment of my work?”
3. Listen More Than You Speak. Once you broach the subject with an opening question like the one above, LISTEN. Shhh. No hablo nada. Don’t try to interrupt and if you think of something you’d like to say in response but don’t want to forget it, jot down a key word or phrase on a napkin or piece of paper. One of the biggest reasons our convos can be derailed is because the person ‘listening’ isn’t actually listening. They’re just waiting their turn to interject. This does not a conversation make.
4. It’s OK to Take Your Time Responding. Maybe in that meeting you won’t have your thoughts together from what the person is saying to respond in the way you want. That’s ok. Take yo’ time! “Can I think about what was said and get back to you a little later?” is perfectly appropriate. Hell, it’s even a testament to your even-keeledness and your deliberation.
5. Try to Make an Honest Assessment of What Was Said. Did she have a point? Was she totally out of line? Try to find a nugget of truth no matter how difficult it might seem and start with that. “So with me sometimes missing deadlines- what are some things you think I can do to improve this?” For the items that still seem out of line or untrue, it’s ok to tell her that you disagree and here’s why: <insert some examples of why her assessment might not necessarily be true>. Again, wait for her to respond.
6. Wait it Out and Make A Decision: Set a time frame for yourself to see if the opinions have changed and, where you may need to do the work, get that work done as well. Ask to regroup for a follow up in a month or two and set it in the calendar. Taking control of your professional development shows you care and puts you more in the driver’s seat.
7. It’s Ok To Find Greener Pastures. If you’ve worked through all of the above and then some and it’s still not jivin’ it is ok to leave. You’ll pretty much know when either the tide will be not likely to turn. You may also choose to pursue another opportunity. But you’ll know that you gave it a fair shot and this isn’t the right place for you. Not every workplace is for each person. I think that’s a common misperception. People think, “I’m a human, they’re humans- it’ll be fiiiiine!” Once we admit that we’re not a fit for every workplace and every workplace is not a fit for us, it makes it all a little less harsh, ya dig?
So there’s SO much more to talk about with this topic. So many scenarios I didn’t cover. If you have a question or comment leave it below. And if you want to talk about a situation that’s been sapping your energy for months, let’s chat. Sign up for a complimentary consult here.