A few years ago, I started working on a pretty stressful and high-profile account. The partner was a big electronics company and many people across the company were invested in keeping them very happy. It was my job to work with them on their marketing campaign that involved our movies. With so many eyeballs on this partnership, it was no easy task.
I forget the details of why, but the TV spot we were supposed to be doing with them was turning into a bit of a mess. We had many meetings about it, and at a point I would take meetings by myself and the Production team, without my boss and immediate supervisor. We’d gotten to a point over several weeks where we were coming to some sort of agreement and actually had an action plan to move forward. One day Sharon*, my boss, called me into her office, with Lorna, my immediate supervisor, there as well. Sharon had just hung up the phone with the VP at the client’s company and was really stressed about the TV spot. I tried to explain how we’d had a good call and everything was moving forward. Sharon wasn’t listening to me and told me, “You need to send them an email and tell them that because of XYZ we can’t be responsible if this spot doesn’t come out well.” I protested – what she wanted me to say was contrary to everything I had just spoken with the partner and their advertising agency about. But that was the end of the story. I was sent away.
I went back to my office, conflicted. Lorna literally stood behind me and told me what to say in the email, throughout my protesting. She knew fighting with Sharon was futile and she just wanted to get this over with and be done with it. So I sent out an email that I didn’t agree with and knew in my heart wasn’t even accurate.
That was a particularly busy time at work. There were a lot of projects happening at once, and that particular one was stressful and time consuming. I am not usually in the habit of checking in on my work email during non-work times (I am a huge believer in work-life balance, which most people laugh off as a myth, but I think it is crucial to physical and mental well-being), but for some reason, I checked my email on my Blackberry that Saturday as I was standing in line at Starbucks. There was an email from the President of Operations to the effect that we had a huge problem with the client and we needed to have a meeting about it first thing Monday morning. It was about the same topic as my email. I felt immediately panicked and stressed and couldn’t get it out of my head the rest of the weekend.
The next day, I went with a friend to get a Tarot reading from a psychic we had heard was amazing. She read cards but was basically just crazy in-tune with what was going on with someone’s aura (sounds nutty, but it was true). My friend went first, and she picked up on all sorts of stuff about him that I don’t feel like she should have known about someone just because they sat in front of her. Then it was my turn. As soon as I sat down, she jumped back a bit and said, “Woah! What is going on at work?” And I told her the highlights of my story, already impressed that she picked up on it. Looking at my cards, she said, “There’s someone here I don’t like. This person is sneaky and can’t be trusted. I think it’s your boss? It’s a man? An Aries?” I thought maybe she was just wrong, since my boss is a woman, although I agreed she most likely couldn’t be trusted.
The next morning at work, I had an invitation to the meeting about the partner with everyone who was related to the project. This included Sharon and Lorna, me, the President of Operations, and about four other people who were the “Head” of their departments. Most of us sat in the room while we waited for Sharon, the President, and the Head of Home Video to come into the room. When they finally arrived and sat around the table, the President said that they had just talked to the partner, and that she was upset about a few things, but they had calmed her down and everything was ok. Then, Sharon looked at me in front of everyone in the room and said, accusingly, “That email you sent her on Friday made everyone really nervous.” I was a bit speechless, but with all eyes on me, the only thing I could think to say was, “What do you need me to do?” in the most neutral tone I could manage. I knew being defensive and protesting would only make me look silly in front of all these people who are at least 8 levels above me on the totem pole of importance. Inside, I think I was in some sort of shock from the unfairness of it all. After the meeting ended, Lorna and I walked back to our office – Sharon had stayed behind. Lorna was actually more visibly upset than I was about the entire thing – I think she even said something like, “She made you send that email!” I told her it was ok because there really wasn’t anything we could do about it – which was true, we couldn’t. It was done. Luckily it didn’t damage my reputation at all. In a funny way, I think it helped me. Sharon doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect from the other senior managers around here. I think something about the exchange (and certainly, the look on my face) in that conference room that morning let everyone know there was more to the story than just what she insinuated with her comment. Also, I think they had all seen my work long enough to know that I was better than that. So I feel like it almost earned me more respect because I didn’t react and my instinct was to offer help to fix it. And what can I do about Sharon? She is hard headed and, in her own mind, never wrong. It is not a fight I would win. So I let it go. However, I will never look at her in the same way again, not even a little bit. That move smacks of a very, very poor character, and there’s not much to respect in that.
Later that day, I remembered that Sharon is an Aries.
* Names (of course!) have been changed. Despite this story, I don’t want to get fired. I still need my job.