Well I have been going through a rough patch at work. The one’s where you believe that the entire world is conspiring against you, trying to make life difficult for you at every given opportunity while they drive their own agenda. The kinds where the entire day is spent screaming and banging your head against deaf and stupid walls. It is not the kind of crisis where you are not getting along with your Boss, or you seem to be caught up in meaningless work, or you resent the slaving away for long hours. It is the kind of crisis where you see the whole year’s hard work come crumbling down, days clocking away with asking rates climbing upwards, days where you are at your tethers ends as seemingly simple solutions are twisted beyond recognition by complicated situations. Basically I am feeling lost and dejected. What makes matters worse is the fact that I have 15 people in my team who look up to me for support and guidance and everyday I feel that I fail them as a leader. And the thought that the success or failure of these three months is going to affect each of them of them personally, professionally and monetarily weighs me down. It does not help that I actually care for my team and am genuinely pained as I am forced to be a mute spectator to their trials and tribulations.
Now as is clear from the address of my blog,I can be a little capricious, to quote myself from the very first post of this blog I easily fluctuate between extremes, “there are times of extreme happiness followed by those of extreme melancholy, extreme optimism followed by extreme pessimism, extreme anger followed by unreal forgiveness; annoying verbosity followed by worrying restraint, profound courage followed by loathable fear....”. And for all those who know me I am not one for hiding my emotions, what you see is what you get. This entire fortnight my team really saw my emotional, angry and desperate outbursts sometimes caused by them and at other times just aimed at them. The fact that my team also cares about me makes my misery painful for them too. Basically it has not been a good work week.
Today was particularly bad, I sought advice from close friends at work and the super efficient and extra professional husband, got the usual spiel on detachment and dispassionate approaches, all of which I knew were right and were probably the only things that would salvage my sanity. But somehow the burden of acknowledging that there has been a fundamental flaw in the way I deal with professional crisis made making amends all the more difficult. The sense of defeat as I witnessed my greatest strength compassion, turning around its head, teasing me as it rolled its eyes and tongue at me to become my greatest weakness made me cling on to the impassioned, emotional reactive frame of mind that I had gotten into. The more the voice of reason and well meaning colleagues told me to distance myself and care a little less, the closer I pushed myself to the problem till it became a blur I could not see but could not help caring about. As I dealt with all this, quite emotionally may I add, I got a call from my dad. Normally conversations with my dad are about things back home or about what we do apart from work with some fleeting and inconsequential references to work. But today I just spilled the beans and cried my heart out as I told him how bad things at work were and how I have been struggling to bring myself together to deal with things a little more effectively. I cried about how much I cared and how I felt cheated every time something went wrong for no fault of mine. I complained about how other seemingly casual colleagues seemed to get past all the daily tribulations like a breeze. I cribbed without the hope of learning anything new; with the sense of quite defeat as you anticipate yet another person embark upon the familiar lecture of the wisdom of being pragmatic and practical and the foolishness of being emotionally involved with work. To my utter surprise I heard my dad in his usual matter of fact tone say, “But what is really wrong with being emotional, passionate, what’s wrong about caring for the people you work with?”. I was shocked to say the least, I mean even though I agreed with what he said, I knew it was not the right thing to do. He went on as I listened spell bound, “Who would not want a boss who cared and did not treat her subordinate as just another resource at her disposal, I would be glad to have such a Boss and so would you.” Somehow what he said started making a little sense to me. This seemed like the conversation I had wanted to have in a long time. He went on to recount stories from his work life, where sometimes his passion and emotion were misdirected but he did not seem to regret his passion and emotion. He was sure that at the end of it all people around him had been left a little better off than before because of his passion. At the end they seemed to care about him too. He went on, and so did I cringing a bit while narrating various incidents and events that had been nagging me for a while. He listened patiently and each time cajoled me to look at things in a different perspective, a perspective that forced me to be a little less censorious of myself than I have been and a point of view that gave me a little more credit than I was willing to give myself. I was already feeling much better, the smile was inching its way back and my head felt much lighter. And at the end of the phone call, my dad very simply told me; “Be emotional, be passionate but don’t take it personally”. As the conversation with him ended, I realized that not only was my father probably the only one who knew what it is to be me, who appreciated my motivations and motives, the only one who empathized with my agony, he was also the only one who knew how to set me free. It was not about my misguided passion or emotional outbursts or about caring a little too much, it was about not taking it personally. My dad reminded me of the two lessons I had learnt the hard way in school and college:
- Accept who you are, be matter of fact about it, be neither apologetic nor cavalier about who you are.
- Its not personal, professional things are never personal.
As I came in from the balcony, I smiled as I realized what my mom always knew; I am Daddy’s little girl.