Smart Lemming Diary: Taking Things Personal at Work is Self-Defeating

weight-scale-out-of-balanceNovember 3, 2005

When I get unhappy at work, I probably have taken things personal. Taking things personal can energize us, making us more passionate at work or more productive. But it comes at a cost. It can lead to the flip side, leaving us feeling angry, frustrated, or disillusioned. After years of trying to learn how to master how to not take things personally, I accidentally fell into that trap for the first time in my dream job as Director.

Yesterday was difficult day at work. I found myself taking things personal. I was okay until Jonathan and I met with Tom to identify marketing priorities for the next 100 days. Yes, it’s nearly been 100- days since I started this job. I completed 78% of my deliverables or 80 out of 103 urgent deliverables during the first 100-days. The remaining 23 were no longer high priorities or were placed on hold due to resources.

In yesterday’s meeting, Tom was all over the place; it was hard to get through our list of things to discuss. Fortunately, we knew what the short list was:

  • Update existing collateral and sales tool with additional messaging.
  • Update existing online product demo based on my UI redesign.
  • Update the corporate Web site with an incremental to major redesign, depending on resources in The COO’ department.
  • Search engine optimization and marketing.
  • eNewsletter for November and January.
  • Articles submissions.
  • Stay the course with our Webinar schedule for November, but take a wait-and-see approach for December.

Taking It Personal

My day became difficult when Tom was pressing me for my view on the online demo and corporate Web site redesign. Closing the door to the conference room we were meeting in, I told him, “I’m annoyed that the CTO brought up the corporate Web site as an issue during our Management Team Review meeting yesterday. He should have thought through this issue, that he’s the last leg in the relay race. We know doesn’t have resources to build v3.0 due to bug fixes, doesn’t have resources to build the online demo or the redesign. I appreciate you stepping in, telling him it has been a lesser priority. But even if it was a top priority and our requirements and content was ready to go, the CTO couldn’t build it for us. The COO and the CTO have acknowledged that they don’t have resources to build the new online demo and redesign our Web site.” Tom replied, what do you need?”

Being Candid with My CEO

I told him that I know the top priority is our online demo based on my new UI design; it key to our business and product strategy. “I’d like a cross-functional team assigned to this project. I’ll write the requirements to make the work go faster for the developer. I’d like a review meeting and regular project meeting, so we have a team approach to this. I’ll take care of it and see what the COO’ answer is.” I continued, “I’m not confident that the v3.0 project is on track. There’s no plan or additional definition of features or functionality. My UI design provides 70% of the detail, but it should be more flushed out. A team should be assigned so it doesn’t languish.” Tom replied, “I know. I’m not comfortable either. I’ll meet with the CTO.”

Feeling Vaguely Unhappy

After the meeting, I was unsettled. I spent the next three hours fighting vague disappointment and anxiety. I didn’t think we had identified priorities in functional area because I’m not convinced we have bandwidth. Jonathan and I can’t continue to operate at 120%. I’d prefer 105%. I’m almost done with Marketing Department Function and Workload Analysis.

I’ll present it to Tom next week. I’m not sure what my goal is. At first, I thought I wanted a writer, but I really need a data entry person for Jonathan to free him of data entry hell. Today was the first time I felt a pang of resentment about being overworked. Then I reined that in quickly, since I knew what I was getting into.

For now, life is hard because work is at 120% and I’m working on my LLC on the side, a project that Tom has always known about. It’s only weeks until I have the database driven Web site ready for alpha, then beta testing with a go-live at the end of December. I’m just overworked, needing a vacation.

Identifying Development Resources

I was back to calm again after I changed my focus. The COO came into my office, telling me that Tom told him my projects were a priority. “So if your projects are a high priority, then they’re my priority. What are our next steps? When do you want it done? You’re mockups are like functional specs so we’re almost there.” The COO stated. I replied, “Well, my mockups reflect 70% of details. I’ll have the requirements written by Friday. Your Web developer can review my post notes on the wall; they’re organized by tab, features, and functionality. She’ll be able to give high level work estimates, and then we can refine and determine a feasible deadline.”

Regrouping, Focused on Improving UI Design

I reframed, focused on changing my thoughts. Rather than feeling out of balance, wanting to go back to center, I had taken the CTO’s comments personal in our Management Team meeting. I know that Tom will accommodate any changes Jonathan and I need if we educate him on how we’re overworked, that it’s not sustainable. I enjoyed updating the UI design and finalizing. Tom came in before he left the office to let me know he had met with the COO and was making sure things were happening.

After work when I got home, I realized that my unhappiness was caused by taking things personal, which I swore I’d never do again after my last company. The last thing I want is for my CEO to think I’m high maintenance. So, I let it go.

The Smart Lemming Diary is a series that chronicles a journey of laid-off worker, who becomes a Vice President of Sales Operations & Marketing for a small entrepreneurial healthcare technology company. For previous entries in this series, click here.  For the first diary entry, click here.

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