It was June 24, 2009 as I quietly sobbed in my office keying my resignation letter. I had given up on the job that I loved. I was done dealing with the crazy people in my office and all their unrealistic expectations. I felt that I was failing as a manager, a teammate, and as a person overall.
The previous year, I was promoted to a manager position. I quickly learned that just because you can do your job well, doesn’t mean you’d actually make a good manager. The people I worked with seemed to turn against me and I saw them as demanding, mean, and irrational.
My boss and I met after she received the letter. Her first words were “You can’t quit.” I began to cry in frustration and fear. I explained what was going on. She smiled knowingly, and told me that everything was fixable. She had gone through a lot of the same as a young manager, and it was perfectly normal. I cried again, this time in relief. Truthfully, I loved my job and the people I worked with. I just couldn’t figure out how to work with them.
With the help of a professional trainer for managers, I learned that I was getting in the way of doing my job, not my co-workers and teammates. Here are a few things that I learned:
1. You’re Good, and They Know It
Be confident in your abilities. Ego aside, I knew I could do my job better than anyone else. I thought I had to constantly prove myself to everyone. The problem was I didn’t see that everyone else knew that I could do the job well, and they appreciated me for that. I learned to accept compliments and look for non-verbal cues of support – such as smiles and approving nods.
2. You Don’t Have to Solve Every Problem Immediately
I’m a problem-solver. When a problem arises, I urgently feel the need to fix it. In my haste, I would unknowingly cut people off. They didn’t feel like they were being heard, and saw me as rude. I gave myself permission to slow down and solve the problem in a realistic timeframe. Slowing down gave me time to listen more, which I found out, was what they really wanted from me – to hear their problem and how it affected them.
3. Manipulate the Message
Writing e-mails and text messages was, to me, a great way to get a lot done in a short period of time. I loathed going to meetings, because talking face-to-face took longer. However, everyone communicates and understands information differently. Some people wanted all the details, while others just wanted the highlights. Some people liked e-mail, while others really wanted to see me in person. By listening more and experimenting, I learned what methods worked best with each person. The communication flow became easier, and we all got more done more quickly. I even found tensions between my co-workers and myself lessen dramatically once I learned this!
4. Is it Reality or Fiction?
Sometimes I wasn’t seeing the situation for what it really was. I allowed stress, emotions, and ego to cloud my vision. In reality, people weren’t out to get me, set me up to fail, or trying to sabotage me. To help keep me balanced, I set up my tribe of advisers – trusted co-workers (like my boss and another executive), my father (who is a business whiz and delivers a good dose of reality), and my fiancé (who can view things from many different angles). From my tribal advisers, I was able to better understand what was really happening.
More often than not, I was getting in the way of my own success and happiness. I learned how to balance my perspective and my need for validation with reality. I learned to balance my work life with the rest of my life, making sure I took time to exercise, rest, and have fun. Within a month of my training, tensions lessened between me and my co-workers. Within six months, I was receiving smiles, compliments, and hugs, on occasion. Within a year, I was given an award for being a great manager.