A co-worker made me cry yesterday
I'm pretty sure my professional friend Christine.....and by professional I don't mean she is a prostitute
I mean she is someone I met at a conference and though we do not work together, she is a professional work colleague who has befriended me and she is my secret mentor
Anyway, I bet Christine read that line and her first thought was who was it? I will kick their ass...
It's how she rolls
So a co-worker made me cry.....like really hard
And not in the good "he did something nice like had Lucy's baby shoes bronzed for me (do they still do that)" way but in the "mean malicious yelling" kind of way
I was on the phone with him trying to help him with something when he lost his temper and just went all out on me
I was so caught off guard that I stumbled over my final thoughts and words and to be honest, I'm not even sure how the call ended
After I hung up, I sat there for a second, rubbed my forehead and felt the tears welling up in my eyes
And I was fine until another co-worker down the hall came on over my phone intercom to let me know I had a call on line 1
When I went to answer him, my words got caught in my throat and I lost all ability to speak
Are you OK he demanded?
Fine I croaked
You don't sound fine
I'm fine I say, can you just give me a minute?
I hung up and spun around in my chair so no one would see me if they walked by my office
Within 15 seconds, I hear my co-worker come storming into my office again demanding to know what had happened
I'm fine I say with tears streaming down my face but refusing to turn around
Maria, look at me
No thank you I say
Turn around please
Umm, no, I’m good thanks, I’m fine
You are not fine
He came around the desk, stood in front of me
Is Lucy okay? Sean's okay?
Then tell me what happened
I can't, I'm fine
I think its Mike on the phone for you.....
I take a deep breath try to regain composure and snap up the phone so as not to keep my boss waiting any longer than he has been
But, it was not my boss; it was the co-worker who had just been yelling at me
He started talking and when I realized it was him, I could not hold it any longer
I tried to answer his questions but my voice was cracking, hands were shaking and tears were flowing
Uhh, I can't really...I'm, not able...can I call you back please?
I don't think he had a clue of how I was feeling
By now, I am sobbing, like heaving and sobbing, and snot is running down my face and I don't even have any tissues and my dear sweet co-worker is just trying to get out of me what's wrong
I'm fine I just kept repeating....I'm tired
I'm just tired I say, it’s been a rough few weeks, you know that
Yeah, I know that but you've not gotten this upset....something happened...what happened?
The intercom on my phone beeped and a voice informed me the yelling co-worker was on the phone...again
Could you tell him I'll call him back please?
Tears keep streaming, might have actually started falling harder
What did he do to you my co-worker asks? It was him wasn't it?
I'm fine I say, I’m just tired.....I was up till almost 2am doing work...I'm just tired
What did he do to you?
I shake my head
Nothing I say, I'm fine, it’s fine, I'm fine
I'm calling him! I'm calling him to find out what the hell he did and to tell him whatever he did was wrong
Please don't call him I say, I’m fine...I'm just a bit overwhelmed, tired...I wish I could blame my cycle but I can't...so let's just chalk it up to my being overwhelmed and tired.....
No, he says, you tell me now what happened!
He was standing with his hands on his hips jiggling his leg and frankly, looking like he wanted to tell the other guy to meet him at the bike racks after school so he could beat him up
Maria, you won't tell me?
No, I say.....it does not matter and please, don't call him, no need to make a big deal out of it....I think he's just frustrated and I clearly sent him over the edge
Ok well that does not make it okay for him to talk to you the way he did....and I'm not even sure what he did or said but clearly it was enough to get you to this....
He sort of waves his hand in my general direction
This went on for 20 minutes - his demanding, my assuring him I was fine and not to worry
He finally relented and said he would not call our co-worker as I asked him not to and he agreed he would not take it any farther
We spoke for a few more minutes and he begrudgingly left my office
Around 4, he came up to my office and told me he had spoken with our co-worker
I narrowed my eyes at him
You promised you would not...
I didn't! I swear! We were talking about something else and he blurted out he had yelled at you....
He said he yelled because you were being condescending and he had just had it
Oh, ok, well, yeah, I can see that....
Sure……the nature of my job is to tell people what they are doing wrong and no matter how I say it, it will always be condescending...no one wants to be told they are doing something wrong….or that they are not doing something they should be doing.....and when you have to tell people that, and when you have to tell the same person the same thing multiple times....well, there is no way to sound except condescending...even when you are not trying to be.....and we both know he's been, well, he's struggling, trying to keep his head above water....but just won't listen to anyone long enough to learn anything
He shrugs his shoulders....
Yeah, I suppose....your job sucks
I know I say
And your eyes are still puffy
I don't know what to say to you...he trailed off
It's okay, I'm fine
I'm sorry it happened
This morning, he popped his head in to check on me
I'm fine I say
I know, it's just I've never seen you so upset
I'm good - thanks for checking on me, for asking
Sure...but just so you know, if it happens again, I'm saying something...and I still want to punch him in the face
Thanks I say
I've been with the company over 12 years now
When I was hired, I remember in my interview telling the accountant doing the hiring I was not qualified for the job
But he told the owner I made him laugh, that there was something about me that told him I could do the job
So they offered, I accepted and the rest, as they say is history
My job started as one thing and has changed so many times over the years I'm not 100% sure what it is all the time
All I know is there is a whole lot of stuff that needs to get done so I just do it
And I think I do it well.....but it took me a long time to get here
In 12 years, work has made me cry a few times
I don't know anyone who does not get overwhelmed, tired, frustrated and angry with work..its human nature
But I have to tell you, I was genuinely shocked at my reaction
I have no idea why I was so distraught, so bothered, so hurt by this co-worker yelling at me
And I'm not even sure those are the right words - but I'm not sure how else to describe how or why I was moved me to tears
If I were about to start my period, it would make total sense to me but I'm not so it doesn't
Funnily enough, I just had a conversation with one of my bosses Monday and he asked me why I don't push back on people when I know they are dong something wrong - why don't I hold them to the higher expectation I hold myself to
Because, I said when I push back, when I hold people to a certain expectation, no matter how I do it or say it, people take it totally the wrong way
The issue then becomes the fact that I told them they did something wrong, not that they actually did something wrong
Good point he mused
But you're right he said, when you tell them it was wrong, you are right
I know, I said, that's the sad thing
I'm not sure what set my co-worker off
But if I had to guess, it was when I said to him “logic would tell you to do xyz”
I could have said something as simple as “the next step we should take to get to that outcome is to do xyz…”
But that was not what I said
I implied he was not being logical
So I get it
I really do
And I’m sorry about that
But here's the thing
At no time was I malicious
At no time did I attack him
I never called him a name
I never raised my voice
And if I appeared to him to be condescending, I'm guessing maybe I was but it was not intentional
My point? Where I'm going with all this?
I don't know, I just needed someplace to go with it - and this seemed as good a place as any
But do me favor
Next time you start to raise your voice, next time you think someone deserves to be yelled at
Don't open your mouth
Count as high as you can before you have to speak
And when you do speak, soften your tone, lower your voice and smile
It will make all the difference in the world...to you and the person on the receiving end
Maria the Mum