Sunday, February 8, 2015

Amy Poehler is Smarter Than I Am

The other day, this came through my Facebook page:

...and my head nearly exploded.

I spend a lot of time apologizing: apologizing for being opinionated, for being strong, for being unavailable, for rocking the boat.  At work right now, things are pretty bad: my boss has crossed all kinds of HR lines (not sexual ones, but just about every other variety), and he tells me "don't do X" and so I don't and then he says "why didn't you do X?" and it is crazy-making of the extreme variety.  He yanked some of my benefits without notice - the very benefit that made this an attractive job, actually.  (No more comp time for me.)  He refuses to follow best practices for the industry, but doesn't have alternate methods that work.  He brought me on board to change things....and then when I try to do my job, he puts up roadblocks at every single step to make it impossible for me to do that job.  I identify problems, propose solutions, and he says NO.  I say, "How would you like to resolve the problem?" and he walks away.

My response to this has been to bend over backwards trying to make things work.  To apologize to him for my misunderstanding, to try to smooth things over and make it all okay for everyone, even as I seethe.

I finally broke down and spoke to a favorite board member off the record, and she nearly exploded.  "He did WHAT?" she said.  She went on to say that if he treated her like that she wouldn't care what the results were, she'd rip him a new one, etc. etc. etc.  (She was quite colorful about it, and it was actually pretty funny.  My response?  "So, I'm not crazy?" and she said, "Girl, you're crazy for sticking around with that kind of behavior!" and then she begged me to stay anyway and offered to help.)

This is an old pattern, learned early, and it takes me a while to unlearn it.  45 years and counting, actually.

So, enter Ms. Poehler, and the quote in the photo at the top of this post.

Why the hell am I apologizing for improving my organization?  Why am I apologizing for being good at what I do?  Why am I apologizing for innovation?  Why am I apologizing for doing my job?  Why am I apologizing for expecting him to live up to his end of the bargain?

I may be a slow learner, but I AM learning, and I'm going to stop apologizing for this nonsense.  If I hold my ground, he will blow up (I know that, because he has blown up before).  But I am not going to apologize for his response, or make myself smaller than I am.  If it doesn't make sense, it doesn't make sense, and I am not going to own his nonsensical reactions any more, trying to Be A Nice Girl.

Being a Nice Girl has gotten me into all kinds of trouble, now that I think about it, and it's the number one thing I'm trying to unlearn.  My value is not in how many people like me, especially if they only like me because of what I can do for them, as in the case of my boss.  Trying to make him like me is a lost cause, and that sits poorly with me.  I try to work harder, smarter, kinder.  I try to find the way to apologize for having better ideas, or better rapport with the board, or better documentation, or whatever.  Why on earth would I apologize for THAT?

Amy Poehler is much smarter than I am, clearly.  But here's something I have in common with her: I like bossy women.  I like working with super smart people.  I like working with outspoken people who are passionate about what they do, and who are always willing to improve.

I often get the feeling that my boss is rooting for my failure, because then his Top Dog Status would remain intact.  Recently, I've been rooting for his failure, because he's driving me nuts and I want him to stop bothering me, but that isn't the right answer, either.  I'm working on finding a way to use this tension to drive the organization to a better level.

So I'm working as hard as I can to honor my existing position despite the challenges, but in the meantime I'm trying to take a GIANT leap professionally to do work that will change the world even as it changes my life.  A job with more responsibility, but also more resources, and a team of super smart, interesting colleagues who have indicated their willingness to support me.  A chance to play with the Big Kids, as I keep telling my girlfriends.  (This makes those friends laugh.  They've been Big Kids for a while, and can't entirely relate to my feelings of smallness.)  The job I want, well, I am almost ready for it, but I am going to dive in like I am absolutely ready, and I'm going to make it happen.

But there is one thing that Ms. Poehler could learn from me, because she's wrong about this one:

I am as old as I have ever been, but I am only now learning how to take big risks, to release the fear, to find flexibility in my life's path.  (Even though my knee hurts!)

I'm more ready now than I was before.  I'm going to stop apologizing for who I am when who I am is smart, tenacious, hard working, and respectful of the people around me.  I'm going to be more bossy when leadership is needed.  And I'm going to do great things professionally, either with the job in front of me for a big national organization, or with the job opportunity that comes after it.  I'm ready to take the leap.  I trust myself to make it happen, and I'm not going to try to be patient and put it off out of fear.

Even if I am 45, I'm ready to take some bigger risks than ever before, and to make it happen.  If not me, it'll be someone else, so why not me?

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