// Every month, I send a text born out of my experience and my reflections - like this one. Sometimes with learning and sometimes with unresolved dilemma, I share how it feels to be a corporate activist. If you'd like to receive the next ones directly in your mailbox, here is where to subscribe - it comes with a no-spam promise 😇 //
Hi dear friend,
How are you doing?
My official answer to this is "Great!" - of course. What else could you possibly say at the office without being seen as a complainer or worse, seen as weak...?
In reality I have to admit that I am on a steep learning curve at the moment.
I have started a new job 4 months ago and of course, it comes with its load of questions on what is going on here, who is doing what, what exactly is expected out of me, how does my boss works, etc etc.
A few weeks ago I was struggling with my motivation - there was no particular breakdown or reproach coming my way and yet, I had an overwhelming feeling of frustration, of powerlessness and of being under attack from all sides.
I could see how I was slowly but surely losing control of my posture at work and how it was starting to show.
Lucky for me I have good friends at work - a handful of people with whom a quick coffee turns into a session of laughter or therapy (or both!).
I dumped my recent emotional roller-coaster at my friend - how I felt I was in the middle of a tornado of BS, how I thought my teams and I were being constantly disrespected, why I didn't even like my field of work anymore - the full blown Calimero / I-am-the-victim-here train of thoughts.
I shared with her a particular example of a project where I found the way of working of my cross-functional colleague absolutely unacceptable. I explained that she kept me in the dark for weeks while the project was clearly being shaped, until one week before end date, she asked me for a quick-and-dirty, revolver-on-the-head type of input.
"What are my choices?" do I say angrily to my friend. "She puts me with my back against the wall - either I work with her, maintain a positive relationship by providing an input which blows back in my face in 6 months because it will be a crappy input...
... or I tell her now that I am not able to answer her request, because her request is unreasonable. She does not show respect for the amount of work that needs to go into preparing the input. This approach is the best way to serve the project, even though it puts the relationship under pressure."
My friend answers within a split second that if it comes down to these 2 options then of course I should choose to have the problem in 6 months.
BAM! In my face. Just the comment I needed to hear.
Without realising it, my friend had provided me with the insight I had lost track of.
Everybody in this situation would choose to be seen as the nice guy, postpone the problem with the hope that it will disappear by itself, or if not gone by then, find an excuse in a few months about why the input is actually not valid.
But then I do not assume that, because it's what everybody does, it's the right thing to do. In this example, I prefer to explain now to the lady how we can best work together, so that she does not repeat the same pattern at the next project.
I do not choose my path of action according to what everybody does but rather according to what I think is best. It means that I do not work along the average corporate rules, because I don't value these rules.
I don't think they are the best for the company or for the people, they only serve ambitious people surfing from job to job every 2 years by securing a few big wins - and leaving piles of crap behind them for the next one in their position to deal with.
So I follow my own rules - I am open, honest, I say what I do and do what I say; I say what I think and I think what I say. I change the status quo if it does not serve us and I take position on strategic decisions in favor of people and the planet every time I get the opportunity.
Of course I need to play along some of the rules to be accepted in the circles where stuff happens - because the higher you get and the more influence you get - but to a large extent I do it on my terms.
And that's where my struggle was coming from. If I were just playing along, I would only have to worry about understanding what people in my position normally do. I would copy my peers and agree with my boss, creating as few waves as possible.
But since I am not, I have to clear my path through the jungle and pave the way as I walk on it.
And it's both exhausting and uncomfortable. But it's exactly what I need to do to live everyday in line with my mission. I wouldn't be able to go to work everyday without it...
This is how my friend turned my mood in a split second from "everything is crap and I hate it" to "I am where I need to be".
Because the struggle is precisely the sign that I am on my path, doing what I set myself to do.
So now every time I feel crap again because of the BS around me, I go to my new mantra:
"EMBRACE THE STRUGGLE".
A month later I can report that it works brilliantly. I am back to being my powerful, passionately detached self...
🚀🚀So here is the summary of the learning: 🚀🚀
1) if you are spinning on negative self-talks, find a trusted person to talk to. If you don't have someone close than at least write it down - one way or the other put words on what is going on and get it out
2) connect back to your mission - what's making you get out of bed in the morning? Why does what you do matter? It will make you ground in something that's bigger than whatever is going on around you, and will help you find patience.
3) find a mental trick to go to for in-the-moment rescue, when you see the emotions rising in you when something happens or someone says something. Keep your cool in a positive way ("it's ok if it's hard, embrace the struggle") rather than frustrating yourself by repeating "keep your mouth shut, whatever happens keep your mouth shut..."
I hope you may find some comfort in reading this - either because you feel the struggle too sometimes, or just for the thought that someone is crazier than you are out there 😂.
In all cases, let me know how it made you feel simply by answering this mail. I will read and probably even answer you!
Be well and talk soon,