“HOW RUDE! HOW DARE YOU DEMEAN WOMEN THAT WAY!”
Liv declared loudly at Bob and Joe. Bob stares at Joe, Joe stares at Bob. Both search each other's faces for a sign that they are not alone in feeling completely clueless as to what just happened and what it is they had done that was so wrong.
I would like to tell you that they both just shrugged and went about their day and everything returned to normal as it was before.
On the surface, this is probably what it looks like and for the most part appears as though the result is just back to business as usual. Unfortunately, there are some side effects that are not so minor that they can be buried in fine print.
So, now let’s take a quick look at the unfortunate side effects of this exchange. Bob and Joe shrug off the event as very strange and confusing. They also, make a mental note that to avoid having to deal with this again, they will not talk about movies when Liv is around.
Later that day following a meeting, Liv gives Bob a smile and says,
“Man I could have answered at least 50 emails in the time we just wasted in there”
This time, instead of playing along and joking with Liv that he had actually responded to at least 60 emails while the meeting was going on, Bob just shortly answered ‘yep’ and walked away.
The same avoidance started happening with Joe as well. Speaking to her only when there is absolutely no choice, however, they keep it short like looking for ways to minimize any further interaction. It started with that same day, then a month and maybe even a year in which Bob and Joe avoid Liv like the plague.
In the name of survival and avoiding any false accusations and future ‘drama’ Bob and Joe just avoid having those conversations, which used to be their mini-vent moment during the work day.
It doesn’t seem like such a big deal at face value, however, without those mini-vent breaks to be able to think about anything but work, actually makes it harder to stay focused on work.
Eventually, getting into the office slowly grows into a feeling of dread in the morning.
Such an unfortunate side effect from a simple misunderstanding. This could be brought down to a change of perception on both sides.
If Bob and Joe take a moment to realize that Liv’s outburst actually has nothing to do with them or their conversation. They simply happened to be a trigger. Liv had worked so hard for so many years constantly trying to prove herself and the painful bruise those years had formed was irritated by their conversation causing it to burst.
I’m not saying that Bob or Joe should have made a cup of tea for Liv, asked why she exploded the way she did and have a heart to heart. I do think there is great value in just taking a moment to regain some perspective and realize that this one moment will not determine all future interactions with Liv. This one interaction does not dictate a new rule to live by that is not questionable.
So now I turn to you. Take this week to just pay attention to random interactions that may cause you to think twice about how you act in the workplace. When it happens, slow down, take a moment to think through what just happened and try to figure out if the situation really was down to you or not.