Leave the Tears in the Toilet

Leave the Tears in the Toilet

Trigger Warning… Unpopular Opinions.

The office is not the place to bring your emotions.

Are you saving babies? No? Did you just get fired? No? Think about the magnitude of the situation. You have my approval to cry when you get engaged, have a baby, buy a house, attend a funeral (you get it… all personal events and activities). You do NOT have permission to cry over fiscal reports, heavy workloads, and stressful clients. At least not in public.

When you cry you give away any power you may have had. Gone. Finito.

Feel the heat in your cheeks? Excuse Yourself. Put cold water on your face, drink some water, and give yourself a minute to breathe. Flush the tears down the toilet. Pull yourself together and make it look like you just had to pee.

If you are in a situation where you can’t walk away or leave the room, do your best to muster up all your strength and hold down the tears. Take a deep breath. If you don’t have to talk, don’t. Talking usually triggers all the emotions to flood out.

Think about the last time you cried at work. What happened? What was the series of events that got you there? How could you have prevented the escalation? Did you need to speak up sooner or maybe shut up sooner? Were you too tired? Was something going on at home?

 Do you cry at work a lot? Maybe your office isn’t the right place for you – not because you can’t do the job but sometimes team structures just don’t work out and people don’t work well together. If you are being treated in a way that makes you cry frequently then you may want to evaluate your situation overall. By frequently, I mean more than twice a year. An unhealthy work environment is just that – unhealthy. If you are having problems at home and are struggling with your emotions (and have a feeling they might just tag along to work) make sure to let you close colleagues and boss know. It can be uncomfortable but it’s more uncomfortable to cry at work and have everyone think it’s because of something going on in the office.

When I started my career, it was a lot more demanding than I anticipated. I worked for an ad agency and all the work was time-sensitive and subjective. Details changed hourly and it was my job to hold down the fort. I remember multiple times working on a presentation until the wee hours of the night and skipping events and activities with friends and families so I could get my work done just to send it over to the client and have them respond with a comment like “I just don’t like it. Can you show me something else?” I just poured my heart and soul into this project and missed my niece’s first birthday where she smashed cake all over her face and looked adorable. But yes, we can show you something else.

I’m not big on tears. I never have been. It takes a lot to get me so worked up that I cry in front of people. There have been quite a few associates that I have had that were not as well equipped to keep back the tears. My best advice is not to commiserate with them but walk them to the bathroom, give them a tissue and a cold paper towel, and walk away. Then act like you never saw them cry. Don’t tell a soul.

Be Authentic

Be Authentic

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. (E.E. Cummings)

The dictionary defines authentic as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” – why is this important?

This might be one of the hardest skills to master. It’s a lifelong process that you will always have to continue to cultivate.

What are you afraid of?

  • People might not like you… guess what… no matter what you do there will be people who don’t like you!
  • People might disagree with you…guess what… they will anyways!

Think about this.

If you put 10 people in a room and every person is just trying to do what they think is going to please everyone in the group – where would you end up? You end up in a pretty gosh darn boring place. Now… put the same 10 people in a room when every one of them speaks their mind, trusts their instinct, and listens to everyone’s opinion but stays true to what they believe is right? I bet the outcome is a lot more exciting and empowering.

Everyone is passionate about something and it’s so important to maintain passion in the workplace. Employers are looking for authentic people to drive their companies to new places.

 I implore you to take a few minutes after every meeting along with a few minutes at the end of the day to think about times when you let other people’s opinions guide you. Where would you have ended up if you had trusted your gut? Do you think the overall discussion or direction would have been different? Would the outcome have been totally different? Your thoughts and opinions matter and you should voice them. Not in the middle of a meeting with all of the main stakeholders at the company but in the right setting in an honest and respectful manner.

Stop seeking approval on every thought that runs through your head. Your brain is wired differently than everyone else’s for a reason. It’s okay to not agree with others and have your own opinions. They might be wrong, heck they might even be right – what matters is that they are yours. You won’t please everyone and that’s okay.

Get comfortable with making mistakes. It happens. Life is about trial and error.

You know that feeling when you know something feels wrong or maybe it’s the opposite, you know when something feels so right. Trust it. Trust your gut. Trust that feeling with your whole heart. Speak it like a truth. Your mind doesn’t usually play tricks on you. Even if you can’t articulate exactly why you don’t agree, or something is out of line with what you expected – at least give it a shot. Sometimes this can open a discussion that can lead to something much deeper and uncover other issues or the root of the issue that can be addressed. There have been so many times where I have said “I don’t know why but something about this just doesn’t feel right to me and here’s why”. Once we addressed my concerns the entire project changed course and then I knew in my heart of hearts that we were onto something big.

There will be times however that your personal opinions might derail the train. In these instances, it’s best to respectfully take a step back. If you feel like you still need to address the situation do it in a personal and private manner with a manager or your boss. There will be times that you will be right but you won’t be the right person to speak up about it.

In my career, I have also seen the flip side where people live their lives through the opinions and thoughts of others and get very wound up because they feel like they aren’t being heard. In these situations, it’s good to continue to include them in meetings and give them time to address their concerns – you never know if they were raised with parents that didn’t want to hear what they had to say or were just shy.

Someone told me that the most important issues that people bring up to their doctor are usually the questions they ask in the last 2-3 minutes at their appointment. Think about that. These people are going in to get medical advice and discuss everything else under the sun just to sneak in a quick question like “it might not be a big deal, but the entire left side of my body is numb and my heart hurts”. It’s a big deal. You probably should have brought it up at the beginning of the visit. This is the way humans operate. We hold back and aren’t open about the big things that bother us. We can spend hours discussing bullshit but when it comes to our gut feelings and instincts we hold back.

For this reason, I believe it’s always good to go around the room (assuming it’s a smaller room) at the end of the meeting and ask each person if they have anything to add any thoughts or opinions and to ensure everyone is aligned. It can be awkward to put everyone on the spot individually, but I have seen this push a lot of hot topics to the forefront.

Don’t Be Late

Don’t Be Late

Arriving late is a way of saying that your time is more valuable than the people who waited for you. (Karen Joy Fowler)

Life is unpredictable and most people can understand that, BUT when you make a habit of being late it makes it hard to trust you, and people might stop depending on you or delegating tasks out to you.

Regardless of your position, when you are late and hold up a meeting it can lead others to believe that you feel like your time is more valuable than theirs.

It doesn’t matter if traffic was bad, you had to drop the kids off at school or your prior meeting with the executive team ran over. Late is late.

When you accept that being late is not okay and learn how to appropriately handle the situation, the people you work with can adjust accordingly and waste less of their time waiting on you.

If you have CLS or Chronic Late Syndrome, here is one way to get better at managing your time. Every day for the next week outlines your time. Look at your day and everything you have planned in 30-minute increments. Plan out traffic, time to make lunch, time for post-meeting discussions, time to go to the bathroom, time to walk from one side of the office to the other, literally map out time for everything you do. Get good at managing your minutes. Being late can almost always be avoided if you plan ahead.

Make sure you always give yourself plenty of time for the unpredictable. If you realize you are going to be late, make sure to let everyone know as soon as possible. Don’t make excuses or interrupt the meeting when you get there late – just sit down and jump in as an active participant. When you walked through the door late everyone realized you were here. You don’t need to stop the meeting to notify the attendees of your presence. If you are late, own it. Apologize and move on. There is nothing worse than listening to a long story about why someone is late when you are already behind schedule.

If you are dealing with someone who has CLS it’s crucial that you have an honest conversation with them as soon as it starts happening to let them know that it’s affecting their performance. Don’t allow them to derail progress when they are late. Give a five-minute grace period and start the meeting. Don’t waste everyone else’s time on one person. Make sure someone always takes notes at meetings and then sends them out promptly after. If someone is late and asks a question about a topic that was covered when they weren’t there, kindly let them know that you won’t be going back to discuss the topic again and that they can catch up in the notes and reach out to you with any follow-up questions. Include a list of attendees and who was and wasn’t present so that you can refer to this information in the future. If someone is always late to your meetings reevaluate if they need to be there in the first place. Lastly, find out what led the person to be late so you can prepare to avoid scheduling meetings in a way that could cause a repeat issue in the future. If Joe always has another meeting that runs over before yours maybe think about pushing your start time back a half hour.

Tough Decisions

Tough Decisions

For me, the one thing that gets me really motivated is new ideas. I find that I do my best work when my mind has time to roam. If there is a problem that I need to solve, the answer usually comes to me on a long car ride or during my daily shower. I’m not good at making decisions quickly, but I’m great at making decisions and I find that I usually make good ones – if I have enough time to think them through. Everyone is different. For some people, if they have too much time to think through a problem, they end up overanalyzing and can even end up in decision paralysis.

As you grow throughout your career, there are going to be a lot of times when you must make decisions. Some will be small; some will be really big. Some will be easy, and some will be very hard.

It’s important to reflect on how you make the best decision. The best leaders that I have worked with have been the ones that understand their own personal decision-making process and don’t stray from what works best for them. They are comfortable saying “I need time to think it through” or “I’ll get back to you once I consult with the broader group/leadership team”.

Here are a few things to consider when making a big decision:

  • How long do you need to decide?
  • Who do you need to weigh in on the decision?
  • Do you need alone time to think it through?
  • Who is impacted by the decision?
  • What’s the deadline?

Don’t Be The Acronym Asshole

Don’t Be The Acronym Asshole

Every industry has its own set of acronyms, their own set of jargon and words that relate to their field. When talking to your peers regardless of it’s a small group or large group and their education level, I’ve found that it’s best to avoid using “slanguage” as much as possible.

Determine what the lowest education level in the room is and then adjust to that. If you have folks that are younger or newer to the industry always over-explain. I can’t tell you how many times I have left a presentation given by someone on a different team (think research and development or finance) or someone more senior than myself and has felt so incredibly lost throughout the entire presentation that me even being in the room was pointless.

Every presentation, email, or piece of communication is either absorbed and processed or absorbed and confused. If you are going to be digging into deep dives and details be sure to send out an email ahead of time with the information that will allow the audience to be more educated on the subject matter. There are so many times where someone higher up in the company will address a large crowd and use words that everyone doesn’t understand and acronyms out the wazoo and it ends up making the content meaningless for the group at large.

I will never forget one of my first big corporate meetings. I was new to the company (but I had eight years of experience in the advertising agency world, so I wasn’t a total newbie) and I was sitting next to someone else who was much younger. As we walked out of the meeting my head was spinning trying to keep up. About 20 minutes into the meeting I could tell she was embarrassed because she couldn’t follow along and had no idea what anything they were saying meant. After that meeting, I sent a note to the organizer of the meeting and let them know that the material might be too complex for the audience they had assembled but nothing changed. So, each month the company was pulling together about 500 folks and using an hour of their time to spit out words that most of the attendees didn’t even understand. How is that helpful? How is that effective? It’s not.

I’m sure you have heard the saying “write like your talking to a fifth grader” and it couldn’t be truer. The most effective communication is simple and easy to understand. Is it harder to be simple – sometimes, yes – but if your message is important and the people you are talking to need to understand what you are saying than your message better be clear.