In Her Shoes

red shoesThis week I walked in her shoes. Last week I started a new contract. Today I feel pretty good.  There is a connecting thread here, I promise.

After the horrors of the last two contracts I was a little nervous about this new one. What would the people be like? Would I be able to cope with the work? Would the company culture suit me? Or would this be yet another Horroffice?

It’s now been five days. Not a very long time at all. But long enough to start seeing how the land lies. It’s been a hectic few days. There is a lot of work to get through. Which is what it is, and also why I was hired. From the conversations I have overheard, the more senior team at least have been working incredibly long hours. There also seems to be a lot of tension in the air. Although on the surface everyone seems to get on relatively well with each other, it feels to me as though there is an undertone of accusation, or resentment or something. Something I can’t quite put my finger on. There is definitely an air of ‘It’s not my job to do that’. Which may well be linked to the workload.

Amongst all this, I have been getting to grips with new IT systems, new financial information, processes and so on. And I’ve been adjusting to new managers. One of whom I initially found to be extremely abrasive and sharp. Not rude. Not horrible. But very impatient, and wanting things done ‘now’ and then asking for other things to be done ‘now’ instead, even though she was the one who asked for the first ‘now’ thing. And initially I wondered whether I wanted to work with someone like that for the next three months. Because for the first couple of days her impatience and abruptness and underlying panic kind of infected me too. I felt constantly tense, and hurried through everything I was doing. And then felt out of sorts and exhausted. Hurried and tense is not my natural style. I tend to be fairly calm and relaxed and paradoxically that makes me more efficient, which helps me cope even when things are busy.

Over the weekend I did some thinking, and some chilling out. I decided that I was going to make this contract work for me. I wasn’t going to look for things to be tense about. I wasn’t going to stress. I wasn’t going to worry. After all, I am the temp. I am there to help. I am not there to stress. And because I’ve gone back to my natural setting, I’ve found myself getting back in flow with the work too. It’s all starting to come back to me, and I hope I’m starting to make a difference.

Taking a step back has also allowed me to realise why my manager behaves the way she does. I’ve been able to metaphorically step into her shoes. Being in her shoes is painful but useful – they feel tight, and uncomfortable and hurt a little bit. Which translates to – she’s under pressure, under resourced and over worked. I think she is naturally sharp, but I also think she’s just extremely busy and overwhelmed. And that realisation has made it much easier to cope with the abrasiveness. It allows me to see that there is no rudeness or malice there, just a need to get everything done. In fact, there has been kindness, caring and a naughty sense of humour. In amongst her crazy workload she reminded me twice to book an appointment for the dentist and get my chipped tooth fixed. And even though she was going to be in the office until at least 9pm, she made sure I was packed and leaving on time. So my aim is to stay in the role, work hard and lighten her load as much as I can, knowing I don’t need to take on any of the stress.

It’s been a good lesson to re-learn – to always avoid judging a person until you have walked in their shoes just a little. To judge character not by someone’s words alone, but their intentions and actions too.  And to always remember to go back to wearing your own gorgeous comfortable shoes, because they fit the best and will take you the furthest.

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