Saturday, July 14, 2018

When It's Okay To Let 'Em See You Cry

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

As a woman, one of the top five lessons in life when it comes to success in the workplace is "never let them see you cry."

I think it's safe to say that since the dawn of time, or at least since women decided to step out of the house and into the work force, we've battled the stigma that we are dainty creatures with uncontrollable emotions. At the drop of a hat, our quiet, reserved demeanor could give way to a torrent of tears given our unpredictable menses that render us incapable of anything but chocolate consumption and distress.

And if by some miracle of modern science or divine grace we are able to pull ourselves together and function on a professional level without succumbing to the vapors, then begins a host of new monikers.

And there's really no crying in news.

But is there ever a time when it's okay to let loose? Break down? Bawl? Open the floodgates? Turn on the waterworks?

If tears are a sign of weakness then I can pinpoint my weakest moment of the past two-and-a-half years.  It was the moment I realized that finding a new job needed to become my highest priority.

On an average April morning, I allowed a coworker to crush my spirit. I take full responsibility for the incident because I allowed him to make me feel like a fraud. Worthless.

Things were humming along as usual, when as the producer and "adult in charge", I tried to issue a directive about news delivery. I was told in front of my entire crew that not only would my directive be dismissed, I would no longer be the voice of authority to this person, as he would be listening to his agent who has different opinions. Mic drop. I had been stripped of any say-so. I was exposed as unable to effectively do my job.

I spent the next hour trying not to break down and cry. I didn't lose it completely until I got in my car and choked out the story to a friend between sobs. I cried for my wasted efforts. I cried for my sudden vulnerability. I cried because I had to return the next day and face it all again. I was broken. He won.

I spent the next week replaying the incident in my head, picking it apart to determine where I had gone wrong in this professional relationship. Had I ever steered him wrong? Hadn't I been fair? Impartial? Hadn't I given hours of my personal time to hold meetings about delivery, content and execution? Was I a total bitch all this time and no one was reigning me in? Was this the moment someone was stepping up to put me in my place?

What I concluded was, it did not matter. It did not matter whether or not I had provoked the incident. No one deserves to be made to feel so small and unworthy. What he had done in one thirty second conversation was undermine two years of working to bring our crew together as a team. He proved that it did not matter to him.

I cried uncontrollably the day he made me feel so unworthy. I have not shed a tear over it since, nor have he and I spoken to each other about anything that was not work-related. If that one conversation is still the elephant in the room, neither of us is addressing it. I've learned a lot about myself since that April mornng. The biggest lesson: my life is too short to be made to feel so insignificant.

I've learned that it's okay to let them see you cry on occasion. I am only human. I've learned that I am still strong enough to want to move forward, and resolute enough to take those steps.

I've learned that there is no shame in acknowledging failure in a situation as long as the learning never stops. I failed at managing my coworker. But what I gained from the past two-and-a-half years of trying is an increased level of patience, and a fine-tuned sense of which battles are actually important.

So after fighting the good fight, I'm leaving my coworker and the rest of my team for a new job. I will truly miss most of the people I worked with. They are professionals bound by the common thread that just because your work hours are insane, a little levity can make it all okay.

And though we've laughed a lot since I announced my impending departure, I know on my last day, I will cry. In front of all of them.

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