I work in a large professional setting in Athens. There are numerous divisions within my organization and hundreds of employees, but I work in a smaller group within the organization. I have four employees under me, and, while we are friendly, I am definitely their boss. With three of these employees, all is fine. With the fourth, things are usually fine. However, this fourth employee responds to the slightest criticism with tears. Sometimes it’s not even criticism, just a small correction, or if she perceives I’m upset with her, she’ll tear up. When this happens, I always end up reassuring her that she’s a good employee and doing a good job but that I just need her to do this one thing differently. She usually does whatever I ask, but I’m getting tired of going through the process of talking her down every time she gets upset. No one else in the office reacts this way when I ask them to redo or fix something, and I don’t think I’m being harsh with her. Possibly adding to the tenseness of this situation is the fact that I’m a man in my 50s, and she is a relatively young (maybe late 20s) woman. Is there any way to talk to her so she doesn’t end up crying?
Your responsibility is to talk to her politely, considerately and professionally. If you’re doing that, you don’t need to change the way you talk to her. You do need to realize, though, that her tears don’t warrant a reaction from you. Crying isn’t a sign that a person is completely devastated. Your employee is probably tearing up because she’s tense or uncomfortable or nervous or worried. All of those things are fine. It’s not your job to assuage those feelings. You’re her boss, she’s an employee and you’re fulfilling your role exactly as you should by telling her what she needs to do or do differently.
The next time this happens, just continue telling her what you need to tell her. Don’t detour into apologies or reassurances. I suspect you were giving her those reassurances because her crying made you uncomfortable and you wanted it to stop. You need to ride out that discomfort and give her just the information she needs.
I have a really hard time asking for help when I need it, which has been especially hard in recent years, because I don’t have reliable transportation. I often need to ask people to go out of their way to give me rides when my vehicle is on the fritz, as it has been quite often for the last year. I’m working to address the vehicle thing, and that’s a process because of the burden on my time and finances in finding a new one while I try to hold down a 50+ hour-a-week work schedule. In the meantime, I have friends who are willing to help me, even one who often lets me use his extra car and seems truly to have no issue with basically ride-sharing with me, when all I can offer is the occasional fill-up and, when I’m a little flush, some extra cash toward insurance or repairs, which he never asks for. I’ve been chided by bosses who’ve seen me getting out of a cab at work, insisting that I call them for a ride instead. I help people as often as I can, and I think I’m someone my friends want to take care of, help and support in return. But it’s hard not to see the frequency with which I have to ask for help as an outsourcing to other people of the inconvenience of being car-less (which, to be fair, is a consequence of some poor choices I made a few years ago). I think I need a little help reframing what it means to ask for help, especially the smallish and sustained kind, so I can let my people in and give myself a break. Any thoughts?
It’s more than OK to ask people for rides frequently while you’re trying to get your car situation sorted out. Be considerate of other people’s schedules and try to ask different people, so you’re not always relying on one person. And, as you’ve mentioned, try to thank frequent drivers with the occasional fill-up or six-pack or cash. But remember that everyone has had car trouble, and most people have had to rely on an unreliable car at some point. They understand your situation and are probably happy to help. Some people enjoy getting a chance to socialize a little bit.
The bigger issue: asking for help. Most people want to help other people, especially if it doesn’t cost them too much. In fact, most people like helping other people (again, when it doesn’t cost them too much). Humans like connecting and interacting with other humans. Imagine one of your co-workers asking you if you’d give him a ride to work or bring him a lunch because he forgot his. Would you be angry or frustrated or resistant? Surely not. You’d probably be happy to help him out. Most of your friends feel the same way.
Here’s what people don’t like, though. They don’t like having to say 50 times that they don’t mind giving you a ride. Ask for the ride and say thank you twice: once when your friend says yes and once when you arrive at your destination. Don’t spend the whole ride talking about how sorry you are. Have a nice conversation.
People also don’t like seeing you get out of a cab when they’ve offered you a ride. Getting a ride from a different friend would be one thing. Calling a stranger and paying him money is another. Take your boss up on his offer. Use half the money you’d spend on the cab to buy a cup of coffee or croissant for your boss and put the other half in an envelope labeled “Future Car Repairs.”
Lastly, don’t worry too much about “outsourcing the inconvenience” to your friends. That’s a very Republican, boot-strappy way of looking at it. No one can be entirely, 100-percent self-sufficient (nor is that desirable). Friends help each other. You’ll have the chance to help someone sooner or later, and you’ll be glad to do it.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.