I am a fairly calm person in the workplace. meaning, i do not get rattled too easily. I am a fierce advocate and take firm stances, but i am easy-going and approachable. It is part of my charm, apparently. Although on occasion there are instances where I just go “what the duck was that?” Moments like that will at times just send me into a momentary angry tizzy that quickly disappears but nonetheless flashes brightly and scares those around me.
Many years back, well exactly 7 years back to this date, I looked at two staff and I wondered out loud what the hell they were thinking. I had repeatedly explained how a particular statistical analysis had to be done. I had sat with them for three hours the day before to build their capacity. They took copious notes. That boded well in my eyes. At the of my “tutoring” session I asked them if they felt comfortable with the data and whether they felt they could go on now on their own to do the work. They both affirmed they could. I took them at their word that, indeed, they could do the work thereafter.
Next day, they come into my office with the data outputs and my body reacted before even my brain could process what I was seeing. Everything I had taught them they had gone to do the exact opposite. I scrunched my nose and looked around my office. Was I in some kind of weird twilight zone? I never before had lost it in the office, but at that moment I couldn’t help the words that cam out of my mouth. I asked them what they were thinking bringing something so completely wrong. had they not listened at all yesterday? They stood there like deer in the headlights and just couldn’t’ speak. Which of course made me angrier. as quickly as my anger flashed it subsided. I asked them to give me a few minutes and that I would get back to them. I closed my office door and put my head in my hands and then patted my growing belly. This little boy or girl was surely going to be an opinionated being. I just knew it. My staff still didn’t know I was pregnant since I hadn’t grown very big due to extreme continuous morning sickness. It was obvious to me my hormones were driving me crazy. However, my staff had no reason for my outburst other than their work product. which in actuality was pretty bad. Although, I normally can handle bad products in a way where I sandwich the feedback and get them to walk through their own mistakes and fix them. I learned from that situation that it is best to not only ask people if they understand what you just reviewed with them. One needs to also get them to repeat back in their own words what they understood and what they feel are the steps going forward. Trust me, this type of processing will save you headaches later on.
I didn’t feel that type of anger again until this past March when an employee clearly promoted beyond their capacity by my predecessor, let us know that an important document was due that coming Monday (it was Thursday) and she had received the email notice back in December but had not told anyone until then in March. I heard this and I flashed back in my mind to that time 7 years ago when I lost my temper for a second. I shook it off and walked away. I went to the restroom and splashed cold water on my face as I laughed. I was livid for my life just got harder for no fault of my own. I was being expected to produce a miracle. And indeed we did. We got the report done on time despite the late notice. What I learned from this situation is that despite our constant attachment to technology there are people out there that still don’t get the modern era. Those are the “old school” people. Now I know to constantly check in and ask her whether she got any important emails I should know of that day and prompt her to check her email cue. Yes, sometimes you do need to check in with people face-to-face to find out what has been communicated electronically.
Someday we will all figure out this communication thing, right?