Today I got taken to task by my boss for not being “firm” enough with some co-workers. These co-workers weren’t my direct reports (I don’t have any), but one of that tasks that’s their responsibility greatly effects my job, and I depend on them doing their job correctly, and on time, in order to be able to do mine.
I realized pretty quickly that she was right, and that I’m someone who doesn’t want to make waves at work, so I often don’t make demands of people. This is either my OCD telling me “you might not be in the right when you ask someone to do something,” or my social anxiety telling me “you want this person to like you so don’t antagonize them.” These thoughts seem to me to be putting a pretty serious damper on my career advancement. I’m 45 and I don’t manage anyone.
I’m not sure that I actually care whether I manage anyone, but I do have a gnawing sense that, manager or no, I’m not getting the most out of my work experience because I don’t trust my gut enough, and because I don’t want to have any conflicts with anyone or run the risk of making any social interactions at work “awkward.”
The weird irony of this is, by not allowing the possibility of conflict, and therefore awkwardness, with my coworkers, I’m essentially creating more awkwardness between me and my supervisor when something isn’t done correctly and I have to justify my timidity.
Anyway, today was one of those moments where I had to confront the idea that being “firm” with people doesn’t make me “bad.” There’s a big difference between being assertive in a work situation and being a power-tripping prick. It’d be good to remember that.
Someday I’ll write a long piece about my social anxiety that gets into more detail than this, but I think this post will have to do for tonight.