Stress – While it cannot be avoided, please do all that you can to minimise it in your life. I am learning how stress literally kills right now. Sometimes we encounter people who really need to step out of their own way, they confuse the issues, make resolution harder than it has to be, perhaps they’re not always mindful before acting, speaking or typing. Maybe sometimes that is us, because sometimes, we all just lose it. These are all self-sabotaging behaviours, which typically manifest during stress. I cannot over-emphasise yoga for stress management. Even going once a week will provide you great benefits over time. You will learn breathwork, breathing techniques that increase lung capacity but also will aid as a cue for you when needed. You will also learn amazing self-control! My PM work was very enjoyable for me, overall. But, there were times when the typical length of the day was too much or a person or situation was. Let calm rule you. It’s perfectly ok to step inside and shut the door of a break-out room and primal scream if you must. I needed to do this just the once in 26 years there, and over a completely unrealistic situation I had been placed in, that I could not get myself out of. But I never lost my cool in front of the group. To share this story a bit further, in case is resonates with and helps you, I had been placed on a new team of people who, while I had been there, fully vetted and known to be an excellent PM, these particular people never had worked with me before. The work-load, and the folks on this project made the situation untenable. There were layoffs and stress was exceedingly high. I resolved to be kind. It was all that I could do. When insults flew, I was kind. Someone actually asked if I was stupid. In meetings with the folks I supported, they would ask me to provide status to the team, then immediately proceed to talk over me. Team-mates I worked directly with on this project from hell, came in unshowered; there was no time for cleanliness. Some folks did not keep working as hard on their personal time as I did and were let go; it was considered their fault. It was never that there was far too much work on everyone’s plate. People in the situation causing unnecessary chaos weren’t managed down. A team-mate lost 4 of their molars, due to stress, grinding the teeth. Molars are forever gone once gone. There were divorces born of this time and illness. My mother was going through Chemo and Radiation. I could not be there for her during the daily commutes to radiation so I found rides for her to treatment by way of the Cancer Society volunteers. And I worked 7 days a week, all holidays and 12+ hour days for over a year being kind. It was bloody hard being kind, but I maintained kindness in every email, every sentence out of my mouth. This act was the only one, other than of course getting my work done, that I had any control over. I had no control over how others chose to think, feel or act toward me, but I did have control over myself and how I visibly reacted to it, as well as pursuant actions.
The Kindness Effort – In an effort to help spread kindness and minimise the onslaught of completely unnecessary emails (I was getting 400-800 a day) I placed the query: Is it helpful, is it necessary, is it kind into my signature line. In an effort to manage down my hours, I also noted my hours too (7a-4p). These things did not always sink in with others, but it did help me focus on what was fair and what I could perhaps let go of. In all my years there, I had never taken 2 weeks off together at once before, but I was breaking apart and knew I needed to go on holiday. An individual who was hostile, took over my base while I went out for 1 full week of training followed directly by 2 weeks of vacation. I was hoping for a friendly to take on my base but hostile spoke right up demanding my base. I didn’t know what was going to hit me when I returned, but I had to have the break. This was in 2007 and I was laid off in 2016. This was the epicentre of unbearable pain, unbearable odds. When I returned to work, there was a new level of respect given, eyes opened to exactly what was going on in my base, with my portion of this project our team had taken on. Every product was ordered correctly. Every communication accurate and current. My work was found to be flawless and on track. I assumed I would be laid off, but suddenly things got immensely better for me.
This too shall pass – I assumed I would be laid off, but suddenly things got immensely better for me. Whether it is work, family or personality driven, all of us experience stressful times. Know that if managed correctly, these times should be temporary. IF they are longer in term, there is a management issue somewhere. My takeaway from this time of fire is twofold: 1) always act in kindness, never lose your cool in front of people. Right or wrong, folks will always remember your wig out if you have a double geared hissy fit in front of them. You don’t want that visual following you around later. You also don’t want to be known as cruel, snarky, or unstable, no matter how much you feel justified at that moment in time, so be kind. This doesn’t mean you don’t protect yourself and stand up for yourself, where you can, but do so in a way that is ‘professional’ and offered in kindness. 2) Document Everything – I have been a documentation specialist for decades now, but this situation really brought home the need for managing by fact not emotion and retaining a documentation trail on everything. At the end of the day, it will be kindness, composure and a level head, followed by all the backup docs you’ve culled, that wins the day. And It will ultimately shine the light of truth on anyone intentionally doing you harm. As it turned out, I lasted longer and stronger and was able to get out and off that project and team simply because my work took center stage and my kindness became part of that great reputation.
Check out this book, Dare To Be Kind by Lizzie Velasquez. You may have seen her on Youtube as the worlds ugliest woman. Rather than let it cripple her, she took charge and became a motivational speaker. Sometimes we all need a push to go from zero to hero, but that push always starts with us.
Yours in kindness. 😉