I'm not really a 'people person'. More specifically, I'm not an in-person people person. Through a screen I like people just fine but in face to face situations I clam up and nod and smile a lot. A lot probably has to do with me not trusting what I hear to actually be what was said so to play it safe, I don't allow myself to be put into scenarios where a response is actually required of me. (Yes, hearing aids, blah blah blah and they help a bit BUT they also boost the sound of EVERYTHING, not just what you are trying to concentrate on so not a panacea.) Around family and friends it's different and I can play the 'Okay, here is what I heard you say' bit for laughs. So most of my communication I prefer doing through the screen. Sometimes, however, that's just not an option. You know, for things like career planning and asking for big, giant, HUGE favors from your boss who is not always the most approachable of people. Or so you've heard because you've been hiding in a corner for several years now.
I fully admit that some of what colors my perception of my boss is hearing about the difficult time a friend of mine has had in working with him. I tend to think that it's simply incompatible personalities and they seem to have declared 'detente' recently but the thought of having to have an in-depth discussion with him over anything was giving me major anxiety so I kept putting it off. Then three things happened at once: two weeks after returning from vacation I was going to need to be out of the office for the majority of next week; the realization that at 40 years old and with nearly 17 years at my company, I should probably make some sort of career plan seeing as my original plan was torpedoed by a different manager after returning from maternity leave from Noelle's birth 7.5 years ago (I'm not bitter.) (Okay, maybe I'm still a little bitter. And a procrastinator.), and hey, school starts in two weeks so I really need to get permission to change my schedule finalized.
But this was a scary proposition for me as the last time I had asked for anything from my company, it was agreed to then rescinded the day after I returned from maternity leave with Noah. (And that my friends is why we stopped at two kids; who knows what would have happened when I returned from maternity leave from a third.) Coupled with that, my boss believes firmly that employees have sole responsibility for their career development and that meant introspection and planning and GAH. So learning from those who went before me, I made an agenda, focused my topics with 'this is what I've researched to date' , and girded my loins for battle. It went like this:
1. Coverage for next week during training
2. Career development
3. Alternate schedule during school year
And it was easily the best meeting/discussion I've had with him in his tenure. He doesn't want open-ended things; present an issue, give a potential solution and be prepared to talk through it. I did that for each point on my list and the two that I was most worried about - career development and work-life balance - were both received favorably and we made a plan on how to get the training that was recommended for me to move to the next position together. Dylan and I will be able to save additional money by not having to put the kids in before and after school care; they'll ride the bus in the mornings now. I came out of the meeting feeling buoyed and energized and relieved and, dare I say it, happy.
Wow, so this is what it's like when adults act like adults; it's such a powerful feeling. I'm no longer alone; because I was willing to do the background work and present options rather than a complaint list, he was more receptive to what I had to say and I feel much more aligned with my boss and his goals and he with me and mine. Now if you'll excuse me, I hear there are some Internet trolls who could use a beatdown.