Carol’s Corner
Welcome to Carol’s Corner, a blog where I riff on some of the topics that interest me (or keep me up at night) and hopefully will be of help to you! For more, please check out my column on BizCatalyst 360°!

Pitfalls of a Nice Girl

Most women who consider themselves to be sensitive or empathic have one trait in common: they have been labeled as “nice girls.”

The Beauty of Surrender

After I left corporate to strike out on my own, something interesting happened.

Stop Panicking Over Your Purpose

How many of us have felt panic because we’re middle aged (give or take) and don’t know what our purpose is?

Your Job: Time to Break Up or Make Up?

Lately you head to work with a pit in your stomach. You pull into the parking lot with a growing sense of dread.

The Moon Circle

Last night I did something I’ve never done before. I attended a Moon Circle. I had no idea what to expect.

Respect Me or Else!

Very early in my career I had a manager (let’s call her Pam) who would quite literally throw temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way.

Very early in my career I had a manager (let’s call her Pam) who would quite literally throw temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way. She’d throw things and slam doors when she didn’t get the respect she thought she deserved. She would march into people’s offices brandishing reports and other deliverables, screaming that they were incorrect or not up to par. These outbursts were an almost daily occurrence. She was flabbergasted when said outbursts didn’t garner a drop of respect. In truth, there were several people who mocked her and made fun of her behind her back—the exact opposite of the response she was hoping to get.

One morning as I was settling in to respond to some emails, she came over to my desk and rested her arms on the walls of my cube. I knew she was there, but I didn’t look up immediately. I let out a loud sigh in my head. “Here we go,” I thought. She rapped on the cube wall with her knuckles—“Knock knock!” she said with fake cheer. I willed myself not to roll my eyes as I looked up at her. She didn’t wait for me to say anything and immediately jumped in. In her best patronizing voice, she asked me if I was aware that the mail counts we had been provided by DP (data processing) were off. “I haven’t looked at them yet. I just got in.” She cocked her head and smiled, but only with her teeth.

“Well, I think you and I need to go and speak with Ken. He’s screwed up these counts multiple times and I’m sick of it! He’s so careless!” She shoved the “green bar” report in front of me so that I could see for myself. “Ah” I nodded, not really looking at the data. I knew what was coming next. She was going to go on a rampage, confront poor Ken, embarrass him in front of his co-workers and make their relationship even more contentious than it already was.

You see, Pam took every error as an afront against her. If someone handed in work with a mistake (or God forbid, multiple mistakes) then obviously it meant that they didn’t respect her. As green as I was back then, it was clear to me that Pam had some serious self-esteem issues. If you’re curious about the health of your own self-esteem, a quick way to know is to ask “How easily do I get offended?” Pam may have appeared as hard as steel on the outside, but one sharp word and she fell into a fit of angry tears.

I remember when she was working on an important project and for months had to work closely with three men from IT. The three men worked in a small room dubbed the “think tank.” Pam’s office was upstairs yet she constantly accused them of leaving her out of important conversations. Finally, one of the men said, “well, you’re welcome to come down here whenever you want.” Pam felt vindicated for a moment. But things quickly went from bad to worse.

Almost daily Pam would get in a rage and cry that they didn’t take her ideas seriously. She’d go to anyone who would listen, telling them how mean these men were to her and that they didn’t give her any respect. One of the three gentlemen from IT asked if she wanted to take a walk and talk it out. His heart was in the right place and for a day or two, Pam seemed better. But soon things were back to the status quo.

I know there are many women who are treated unfairly by men in the workplace—no doubt. But I got to know all 3 of these men really well and they couldn’t have been nicer and more supportive. Still, she was not getting what she wanted: respect. So, she tried to take it by any means necessary. It’s no surprise that not only was this not an effective approach, but she got a reputation for being a loose cannon. She was considered too emotional and unpredictable.

Most of us learned early on that you have to earn respect. It’s not given “just because” and it certainly can’t be demanded. But Pam never learned that lesson and what’s more, she didn’t want to look at her part in the equation. She embraced her victim and gave her power away willingly. She spent her energy demanding and manipulating and ruined her professional reputation in the process.

When I look back on all the managers I’ve had (and there were many), I remember her being one of the absolute worst. The leaders I admired most had a calm presence. They treated everyone equally. They were consistent. They gave accolades freely and used mistakes as teachable moments, not to shame. They never tried to gain respect. It wasn’t even a goal. It simply was. They had healthy self-esteem and self-awareness.

I often wonder what happened to Pam. Even though she made my work life a living hell, I’m grateful for the time I reported to her. She was a shining example of what NOT to do. Years later, when I became a manager, I modeled my behavior after the managers who impressed me. Eventually I developed my own style. From this mindful, empowered state, I earned the respect of my team members without slamming one door.