I was on Zoom call today with 3 new colleagues and something upsetting happened. Mind you, this call was initiated by them, not me, as part of my on-boarding. I do tend to ask a lot of questions during a training -namely, things that pertain to my work – so that I can learn once and become self sufficient. I usually operate by the “tell me once and you’ll never have to tell me again” theory. Besides, I don’t share this often, but I have close to a photographic memory, so if you should me something visual, I usually remember it. This is why I like to write things down. So, if someone schedules a “talk, talk, talk” meeting, I take copious amounts of notes because I retain information 5 more times if I see it than if I hear it (visual vs auditory learning). Anyhow, I digress…
Anyhow, we’re almost done with the call and granted, I asked many questions, but this was a training set up for me, so why not, right? Well, just before we signed off, the leader of the meeting messaged one of the participants on our internal instant messenger, “She’s kinda exhausting.” I thought it was on my computer first so I was confused, but then I realized it accidentally popped up on the shared screen so I saw it too. I stopped talking. They asked me if I had any more questions. I quickly said, “No, we’re done here.” I was stunned, embarrassed, and mortified. Here I am, taking my work incredibly seriously, and I was being punished for it.
I messaged her after the call and wrote:
I apologize for all of the questions. I am trying to learn so I don’t need to lean on your team. Thanks.
She immediately responded with:
No No no no no no no!!! I APOLOGIZE. I am so cranky right now.
Then she called me and profusely apologized. She explained that her frustration had nothing to do with me, but rather, a series of internal work politics she is dealing with. She took out her frustration on me. I explained to her that I am trying hard to learn quickly as I know my boss is tapped out, so that I can identify where I can find resources, etc. She apologized again, probably around 20 times, at which point I told her she was off the hook, and didn’t need to apologize anymore. I told her I got it, that Covid-19 and the protests and working from home and the like, were wrecking havoc on her. She thanked me profusely for “being an adult” and for being so understanding. I explained to her that I am incredibly sensitive to being too chatty and that I realized I had asked many questions. She assured me that she has no problem with it or me, but she stupidly took out her frustrations on me. And she clearly was sorry for it.
So, there you have it. I’m not going to deny I had tears in my eyes from the initial sting. But I’m going to let it roll off my back (after writing about it, clearly). I told her that she has no idea what shit I’ve gone through at various jobs and this is nothing comparably. But the reality is that ever since mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I’ve worked hard to not sweat the small stuff, like a clearly stressed out colleague who (pardon my French) fucked up and feels bad about it. I mostly worry about my parents as they age, how I can help Ted’s kids deal with their anxiety, and when I’m going to be able to get a pedicure again (ok, just kidding).
I often say to Ted: “If we didn’t have to deal with other people at work, it would be perfect.” I say this tongue in cheek, clearly, since my job is all about relationship building, but I mostly mean it in relation to the cranky folks. I love what I do for work and find so much personal satisfaction in it. But sometimes, you come across someone who clearly needs a vacation.