I am a people pleaser.
Being in a corporate environment has created some difficult challenges for me given my personality, but it’s also created some opportunities to go against my normal approach to life and surprise myself by standing my ground. Unfortunately, those instances are far outweighed by my desire to make those around me like me, want to get to know me, enjoy working for me and establish meaningful relationships beyond the realm of customer/sales person.
I am a hugger.
I want to be friends with everyone. I will most likely consider you a friend within three minutes of meeting you. In fact, I know I’ve caught customers off guard when they’ve extended their hand after a meeting and I instead go in for a hug. Man or woman – hugging is my form of hand shaking.
I’ve mentioned this in previous posts. I like to joke and laugh; I treat my coworkers and customers like I would my husband and friends. I’m not easily offended and I do not take myself too seriously. I don’t change who I am just because of the audience I’m in front of, but that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of assessing a situation and knowing when things are more serious and need a different approach.
Flexible – Resilient – Resourceful.
These are 3 adjectives commonly used to describe my tenacity in the corporate setting. In all the years I’ve spent in this environment I’ve learned that my personality type can also be mistaken for being too forward, too flirtatious, and open-minded about off-color comments and jokes that might offend. In an earlier post I wrote about a situation where keeping it real went really wrong. Well, that’s the theme of my life it seems but I roll with it. I very rarely let things phase me.
But in a professional setting of any kind – do we, as women, allow certain situations to play out and certain scenarios to occur because we’re too afraid to ruffle any feathers or give push back for fear we’ll not make a friend? Or upset a customer? Do we brush off comments made to us in a sales/corporate/work environment that in any other type of setting we wouldn’t, all because we are afraid we’ll be told that we’re a prude? Because of my easy-going, fun-loving personality, does it mean I should have to deal with and accept comments made about my physical appearance? I’m easy-going and fun-loving so I can deal, right?
The older (and more mature) I’ve gotten, the less tolerant I’ve become of annoying comments about my sizable chest, decently apportioned derrière and sexy legs. These comments have become more grin-and-bear-it fake laugh type moments than ones accompanied by genuine fun and a genuine, thank you, because often times they aren’t comments coming from a place of sincerity. They’re meant as an affront to my intelligence by pointing out why I must be in the position I am – because of my appearance and not the fact that I have proven my ability to succeed and lead, consistently, for many years.
Thinking about my daughter who’s growing up faster than I’d like to admit, I’m finding that I’m more disgusted and frustrated by these types of thoughts becoming more prevalent in conversations with men who still feel a woman’s best role is served by being at home or in the kitchen. Even worse than these words being spoken into existence is the fact that those words can quickly become actions. So how far is too far? And where is that balance of being able to “hang with the guys” while still preserving your dignity and self-respect? Where is that line drawn in the sand so it is clearly visible to all parties involved? And when it is crossed, why do women shoulder the majority of the burden and guilt for pushing back?
A customer nicknamed me ‘Melons.’
Just to be clear, I hate them – my ‘melons’ that is. I have despised having breasts for as long as I can remember, but somewhere between middle school and three kids I have grown to tolerate them. I have never used them to my advantage and anyone who knows me well would tell you I do everything I can to cover them up, make them appear smaller than they actually are and I dress appropriately. I’m not uber modest but I do not flaunt what I have.
When my rep first told me what this particular customer had nicknamed me, we were on the phone and I uncomfortably laughed and rolled my eyes (here we go again). I’m a jokester – I can take it and dish it – and I’ve learned to beat the intention of these types of comments at their own game. My rep and I were heading to meet with this customer two weeks later but before we arrived, we made a little stop at the local Wal-Mart where I very carefully picked out two of the nicest, most round and ripe melons I could find. I even had her take a picture just to prove my level of culpability in this hysterical moment, because I’m not going to allow someone to call me a nickname and me not be in on the joke.
I walked proudly into the customer’s office 20 minutes later holding the (delicious, I’m assuming) melons exactly even with my chest and greeted him with a smile. I stated that I just had to bring him some of My Melons and that I was hopeful he’d enjoy them. His face told all sorts of lies on itself, not sure of whether he wanted to laugh, be offended, or ashamed, that his secret was out. I diffused the uncomfortable situation by laughing with him and my rep and using it as a way to discuss how far our relationship had come. Clearly it had if this is what we were now joking about.
But for every ‘melon’ comment that can be laughed away, there are far more damaging, harassing and pervasive comments that do have extreme and negative impact when made in the corporate world. Words matter. Actions, even more so.
It forces me to reflect on whether my ability to brush off a situation like this – and even make it into something more by drawing attention to it and getting it out there in the open – means that I am part of the problem that allows these types of scenarios to perpetuate.
Am I setting a good example? Or am I just as bad as the person who made the initial remark?
It begs the question, does talking about my melons turn into someone thinking they have the right to touch my melons? Does passivity equal acceptance of what might come next? I know the answer – and it’s an emphatic “no!” Just because I can laugh off a crude joke or implication does not mean I appreciate or welcome it, it just means I don’t care enough to make it a big deal. And it certainly will never imply that a ‘next step’ is okay.
But…if we muddy the water too much do we begin to lose the consistency necessary for keeping it balanced?
I’ve worked with many women over the years who ask these same questions and share these same feelings. Yet nothing has changed to move this conversation forward toward a proactive approach in the opposite direction of what’s currently the norm. The reasons many women I’ve spoken to don’t speak up have ranged from fear of being looked at as not being capable of handling themselves in the situation (or in a “man’s world”) to feeling like others will assume they brought it on themselves. Many feel that women can judge other women so harshly in these kinds of situations and they so quickly place blame on only the woman and maintain the mindset that if she didn’t do “x” or didn’t look like “o” then this wouldn’t be an issue.
I’ve played both defendant and plaintiff to that mindset so I know it’s true. I’ve been judged so many times by other women who have no clue what I have to deal with and put up with (on a daily basis at times) nor the nature of what it is I even do, but who gladly make grandiose assumptions about my integrity and professionalism. And I have also judged other women who I have witnessed behaving the same exact way I do – and my inner judgement knows no mercy.
Both of these realizations hurt. To face ourselves and admit that we effed up and that we judged, sucks. And I also don’t want to get in the weeds with this particular side topic as it deserves its own post entirely.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the men I have worked with – the good ones – like my husband, who would never cross that line and completely understand where it is at all times. And those men make working in their world fun, challenging, exciting and rewarding because they see women for their intellectual ability and skill set – not just their physical worth and what could possibly be in it for them if ever a moment were to present itself. Sadly, these kinds of men don’t get enough praise for coaching, developing, promoting and supporting us women – because the ones who decide to work against them on #teamdouchebag take up all their space.
So, how do we change the very basic approach to how we are treated in our day-to-day to interactions with male coworkers/ustomers who skirt the line of inappropriateness?
It’s a question I have been trying to figure out the answer to for over a decade…and one that might just need a glass of wine and a big old slice of melon to figure out.
-Confessions of a Corporate Mom
What are YOUR thoughts? As a male or female – what are your thoughts on what’s appropriate and what’s not? I’d love to hear from you and share your thoughts – openly or anonymously – so that we can further this discussion and conversation. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
#confessionsofacorporatemom #maniacs #melons #harassment #jokingaround