I like to think I’m made of some pretty stern stuff.
I have a number of incredibly strong women in my family, something I’ve always been thankful for. My Nan is a toughened northerner, my Mum has raised me and my sister whilst holding down a high powered city job and my Aunt is one of the bravest people I’ve ever met.
This is possibly why I felt so pathetic today when my boss made me cry less than four minutes after I’d picked up the phone.
I’d made a mistake at work. Which is usually fine. People make mistakes – and I’m the first one to hold my hands up and admit when they’ve done wrong. I think my exact words were “I’ve made a mistake and I apologise.”
But the accusation levelled deeper than the mistake (which was not writing a handover before going on holiday. An error on my part, definitely.) She was making a judgement on my work ethic, my work standards and me as a person – because she made it sound like I’d done it deliberately.
The reality of it was I was so desperate to get everything wrapped up before I left that I pulled a 14 hour day and didn’t clock off until 11pm, less than 4 hours before waking up for my flight.
But she didn’t know that.
She didn’t know how sick I felt at the thought of coming back to 1,562 emails demanding my attention in my inbox.
She didn’t know I’d spent last night not able to sleep because of how anxious I was to have to go back to a job that wanted me out anyway.
She berated me without any of this context.
And why shouldn’t she? How could she have known?
Once I womaned up and regained my stiff upper lip, I realised that the context is irrelevant. Because we’ll never truly understand what people are dealing with. We very rarely speak to people, especially colleagues, with a complete picture of what’s going on around them. Which is why it’s so important to begin our interactions from a position of kindness.
Yes I made a mistake. Yes it made her look bad. Yes I should be reprimanded for this.
But there are a million and one other ways that conversation could have been handled. And in that moment of feeling pathetic and having my confidence (and probably my pride) wounded – I resolved that I would never handle a situation like that.
So this is how to handle bosses that make you cry: resolve to never stoop to that level.
Because I don’t want to be that kind of boss.