Fill the Damn Silence pt. 1

(Or, a moment of transparency.)

Okay gang, if I told you that the last six weeks (at least) at work have been less than stellar, would you be shocked?

I think I’ve done a half-decent job of playing it off as busyness. The thing is, it’s been nothing more than a constant passive battle between my boss and I.

In the past three months, I’ve had four different titles. My job focus has shifted probably twenty times on the whims of my boss. And, I’ve let it happen. Through that, I’ve bred resentment and legitimately failed in vital areas.

As the person that makes shit happen in the company, this year was the first time we’re not delivering a printed publication in the first half of the year. I can point so many fingers, but in the end, it’s on me.

During one of the more frustrating meetings, I could do nothing except cry from frustration and anger. (We’ll talk about the idea of being labeled emotional in another post, but not now.) Our team was asking for content, but we weren’t getting it from the one person that has the knowledge base. Most of the time, it would be as simple as me going to that person and putting the pressure on. But, this time that person was the owner of the company.

Talk about a power differential... 

It occurred to me last week, while I was editing the previous post, that I haven’t been using my own social GPS tool. These past weeks I wasn’t looking at the interactions strategically or, as some may say, attempting to manage up. I was going with the flow; leaving silence in the air.

Like many, I find it difficult to provide critical feedback to supervisors or people in authority. I don't want to come off as "bitchy" or rude.

But here’s the thing- if I was using my GPS and channeled my assertive communication skills, I would have learned that a significant portion of the power differential was self-imposed. What my boss was verbally saying the last few months was pretty much “hey, here are all these new tasks and job requirements that I’d only give to someone I really trust.”  He never said anything about changes in how he and I interact as supervisor/supervisee, though I eventually found out that all this time he was implying he was intentionally reducing the organizational power differential between he and I. That would have been nice to know earlier. 

He was not saying “Hey, do all these things, and check in with me about it all as you feel you need to.” (Which is what I heard.) It was “go, be awesome. But keep me informed.” (Which is definitely not what I heard.)

Hindsight is always 20/20 right? Hindsight bias is a legitimate thing. And, looking back, asking neutral and assertive questions would have saved me and him a lot of frustration.

Taking an assertive stance when he started to express frustration would have saved me my own frustration and a lot of larger headaches and struggles. But, when he got big, I got small.

Shrinking your feelings, ignoring your right to your own experiences is never a good idea.

Wait, isn’t this in direct conflict with the previous GPS post?

Last week it was all about taking note and putting things to the side if they didn’t meet your larger goal. Now, I’m saying step up, find your voice, and utilize direct communication skills. Although these ideas may initially seem to be contradictory, they’re pretty complimentary if you think about it.

Me stepping up and developing a discrepancy when something is changed with regard to work is using both my GPS and assertiveness. In fact, it’s assertiveness driven by my GPS skill. (If you want to review the GPS basics, check it out)

So, what is assertiveness?

Fundamentally, it’s the idea that when two people talk there’s a foundational understanding of— I’m okay, you’re okay, and our experiences may not match up. The art is in then navigating that moment. It’s owning your right to think and feel what you want, acknowledging the other person’s response isn’t on you and continuing in a respectful manner.

Below is how I should have used my GPS skills, and in the next post, we’ll look at what assertiveness looks like when it’s fueled by a GPS review focused on business goals.

G:Goal-My goal is to have my supervisor understand how my behavior contributes to the company goals, as well as to get him to stop this barrage of new focuses or changes to the plan, understand my new role, and have him let me fully own my roll.

P:Perception-I want him to perceive me as competent; able to lead and manage the team in my own style, without fully succumbing to his idea of what leaders are (stay tuned folks, we’ve got lots coming up about introverts and leadership! Spoiler-it’s not just for the charming, boisterous lot.

S:Self-reflection & self-confidence: In these situations, I continuously wanted to be viewed as strong and confident. If I were to do a do-over, I would have reflected on how my actions and responses may have come across and channeled more self-confidence in my actions. It is this piece that launches assertive action.

If I had taken a moment to figure out those three things, I would have felt more confident about assertively addressing the issues at hand before they got as toxic as they did. We'll look at that next week, and what may have happened if I filled the damn silence I created.