I hadn’t been complaining to my partner about work or anything for a long time, and so on one fine day in March, I decided that it was now time for me to voice some dissent about a happening at work that week, that I didn’t like.
“I have something to tell you about something that happened at work” I solemnly pontificated to my Mere Male (I will call my partner Mere Male or MM).
To his credit, being none the wiser with this introduction, MM stopped what he was doing and kindly listened to me.
“We had a team meeting” I explained, “and it’s for issues and blockers, but I don’t like that because I thought a team meeting was for information and not just for what’s going wrong.”
MM continued to politely listen.
“When it came to my turn, I told them that I usually take time off in winter, for my health, and that I would like to take all of July off” I went on.
“Then JM ( and this acronym is for Just the Manager ) said quickly we will take that off-line. What did she mean by that??”
By this time, my chest is heaving with outrage and I am standing tall and … well, a bit angry.
“AC (an acronym for Another Colleague ) later said that it meant we won’t put it on the internet, but that’s absurd because we use an Excel spreadsheet on the intranet, and we put our leave on the internet, so we don’t take it OFF the internet.”
By now, MM was getting a bit flustered, and digging in deep for a response.
I continued with my speculations, “I think JM was not interested in what I said, but I got fed up because I’m tired of people ignoring me, so I said loudly, well it’s a long time that I’ll be away for, so I thought it a good idea for people to know.”
MM now suggested that maybe JM was just saying we’ll take it offline because she meant that she and I could look at the bookings online and do something offline if it was needed.
Scornfully I replied, “No, she’s always saying we’ll take it offline, it’s her fancy way of saying let’s not talk about that now, we’ll deal with it later.”
I think this is what MM had been trying to say, but it was not the response that I wanted. I wanted him to feel sorry for me feeling un-thanked and ignored by JM.
MM then helpfully asked “Well what should your process be for taking leave? Why did you bring it up at the meeting if you could just have told JM only and it would be up to her to organize leave relief for while you’re away?”
Cue: .. ….. steam emitting from Celine’s ears
Shouting from me, “I am a courteous person, I told them all as a matter of courtesy, and when I spoke up for myself, some of them looked like they really appreciated me telling them in advance that I will be away for a whole four weeks.”
A rebuttal from MM, “yes but what I’m trying to say is that surely there must be a process for taking leave and so you don’t need to get upset over it.”
By this time it is clear that he is from Mars and I am from Venus
“I just want you to listen,” I say with anguish, “JM should say what she means, I mean next time I will ask her what do you mean by saying we’ll take it offline. I’ll ask the question because I don’t know the answer.”
MM’s measured response is, “But you just said you know what she meant by it, that they will discuss it later.”
At this stage, I am feeling rather like a deflated balloon and I am feeling sad.
An argument blossoms over who should do what at work, MM saying that I shouldn’t be so helpful at work, and me saying, with eyes popping out of my head almost, “You know that I like to be helpful, I can’t help it the way that I am.”
Here is the Kicker.
We don’t realise that we have different goals. He wants to genuinely help me his way, by teaching me how to avoid these situations (getting upset or angry) in future. I want to pour out my troubles and be treated like a treasure, without being given advice on what not to do or to do.
“Maybe she meant something else, I don’t know” I ended up saying, fearful about the situation at work that I had got myself into, and feeling like a failure because MM thought that I should have acted differently.
Then came the ball-buster (if I had them) when MM had the cheek to say to me, “Don’t have a go at me, I was only trying to help.”
He wandered off. Disbelief from me.
Silence from me, then luckily because we have been together for 25 years now and have learned to relax with each other around and to trust each other, and like each other, I quietly went to him and said nicely “I wasn’t having a go at you at all.”
“All I wanted was for you to feel sorry for me. I mean I can speak up at meetings if I want to” I said, feeling very sorry for myself by now.
MM replied emphatically “Yes you can, poor thing, that’s horrible of them, you can say what you like.”
Big smiles from me and an aura of self-confidence as I sagely expounded upon my newfound wisdom.
“Oh I get what you have been saying, now that I think about it, there is a process which is to email the manager and when she approves the leave, put it into the Excel spreadsheet, then leave it up to her to organize around it.”
Relief and a happy smile wreaths the face of MM.
As I leave him to do something else, I advise him “I think that next time I won’t worry about being courteous and I’ll just email JM because I know that she will just give me the brush-off if I raise my leave at a team meeting, even if it is long leave and even if team meetings are supposed to be to give useful information, not just to bring up what’s going wrong.”
The penny had dropped that I was complicit in my own creations, and thus in some ways responsible for situations leading to unhappy feelings.
It was a great day and a useful dialogue between MM and MF
Both Mere Male and Mere Female learned that we have rights, and particular strong character traits, and that we genuinely love each other.
Next time that I have a misfortune that I want to tell MM, I am going to preface it by saying:
“Something I didn’t like happened at work today and I want you to feel sorry for me, and then if you like, you can analyze it so you can help me.”
Men may be from Mars and Women from Venus, but taking the time to tour each planet thoroughly does help to navigate the mine-field of inter-alien communication!