Updated: Feb 29, 2020
Recently a close friend of mine experienced a significant loss. I wanted to take the time and support them and their family in any way I could. Watching them deal with this situation, it took my mind back to a time when I had to deal with a similar loss. I remember the moment I learned about my situation. I remember the million thoughts swirling in my mind. Could I have done or not done something, how quickly could I get to the side of the loved one facing the crisis,
travel arrangements...work. I remember the flood of emotions and attempt to process information and thinking I needed to contact work and let work know I'd be taking some time away. I remember feeling bad because I didn't have a plan for the work I was leaving behind.
I also knew that emotion aside..I had to explain to my manager what I was faced with and what I needed. Period. I needed this.
Because my situation was emotional for me, I opted to send an email to start the conversation. I didn't divulge too much information, but shared enough to express the gravity and the urgency. It worked out fine. I took the time I needed to take care of my family and myself.
That's the happily ever after part that you see on television. Here's the other part that's not so pretty. There was no one on my team to carry the projects that I was involved in. So my team moved forward with what they could. But several other tasks and deliverables that I would have stayed on top of had I been available, were late. Really late. Unfortunately, they piled up and were waiting for me when I got back to work. The stressful part was less about the leaving, and more about the getting caught up when I got back to work. I can tell you that I counted to 10, and breathed. I can tell you that it didn't make me anxious and that I held it together..but I would be straight up lying to you. The workload just burned my brain. I was pissed. Pissed that I had to leave for the reasons I had to leave, pissed that we didn't have the resources to fill in for me. Pissed that my team was stretched too thin and barely keeping up..just pissed. While my manager was understanding..her manager was not. It meant logging in early and working late in order to right-side the ship. Yes I was able to do it. The cost however was a lot of stress, lack of sleep and irritability. Obviously this pace wasn't going to work for me. So...being the me that I am..I needed to figure out how to avoid this scenario again. Two things ultimately stuck out to me..two things that I should have done to honor myself:
1. Ask for help - I didn't consider my team. I knew they had a good deal of work for themselves so I never bothered them. Not sure if I was playing the martyr or something in my mind, but I didn't think that they would make room on their plates to pick up some of my slack. I was wrong. My lead developer let me know that the team anticipated I would need them, and they were just waiting for me to give them instructions. I'm sure in some failed womens - lib moment I told them "I got it" when they extended a hand. Foolish me.
2. Set expectations - when I returned to work and my manager said what the portfolio needed and when it was due. My response wasn't clear about what I could deliver. I allowed my manager to think that I was going to get everything done by a certain due date. In part because I didn't want to come off as someone who not only needed time off, but couldn't come back to work and just get back to work..immediately. The truth is...I couldn't. I wasn't focused and could have used a plan to get back on track. It was my responsibility to make sure we set clear expectations around what I was able to deliver. I didn't do that. I failed myself and paid a price.
Part of being successful is being honest. Lying is as much what you embellish as it is what you don't include. It was dumb for me NOT to say that I wouldn't be able to do everything in such a short time frame. It was immature and irresponsible not to engage my team of 8 developers to pitch in. In hindsight, prioritizing those tasks and re-prioritizing our current work load would have been a more efficient way to plow through. Devising a plan to conquer the mountain of work vs. working like an ox would have been smarter and a more health conscious approach. The lesson learned was huge for me..as much a reasonably possible...don't react. Don't knee-jerk and hit your knee on the edge of the table, don't swat at the flies and knock over the lemonade on your white pants and look like you pee'd your pants....don't react. That will be a sure-fire way to create more work than necessary. Learn to approach situations with a clear head and a plan. Sometimes this requires that we take a moment, go to our corners and consult with our team. Just because you think you can do something, shut up and keep it to yourself if you're not absolutely sure of it! I've learned that it is much better to exceed the bar, then to trip over it lol. Go ahead..grab that image of yourself falling on your face. Now picture yourself falling on your face in the mud..and it's cold..and your mouth is open..yep, you look awesome! LOL.
Listen, take care of yourself. Acknowledge your limits and your capacity. It's okay to ask for help or say that you're not able.
Every super hero has a sidekick. Find yours..and let them do what they do.