We were watching the second season of the new Carmen San Diego on Netflix the other night. I was sitting there thinking about how when I was a kid I needed a second 5 1/4 inch drive for my Tandy computer to play ‘Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” I was thinking about how much has changed in technology since then. I wondered what the girls were going to marvel over with their kids thinking about how when they were kids they used thumb drives and the cloud, how ancient that was compared to what their kids are growing up with. I reached over and kissed my youngest on the head and she snuggled in a little closer.
That was a public display of affection. Or was it an affectionate display of public processing?
I was in a meeting where a woman became visibly frustrated, she was trying to take a third brain storming session into action items, maybe a road map, but definitely some sort of actionable direction. Someone else in the room who was very resistant angrily verbally demeaned her attempts. She teared up and choked up a little, no tears fell and it was over the instant it happened, but it happened. As we were walking out of the room the most senior person in the room said that he hated that public display of weakness and that she needed to be stronger if she were to succeed in a manufacturing environment. But he said nothing about the demeaning comment, or the other anger expressed expressed in less than professional fashion in the meeting. All very emotional responses, yet only one was considered a weakness.
They were really all just a public display of processing. She was processing her anger and frustration her way, instantly and without harm to anyone else. The others were processing their emotional situations, only they actually did harm. One way was considered weakness, the others were considered acceptable, dare I say, strength.
The interesting thing about all of this, if you were to watch an ethics CBT video on acceptable workplace actions, which one was acceptable in the video? Which one was actually rewarded in real life? This isn’t just a gender issue, I’ve seen plenty of tantrums and angry outbursts in meetings from both genders, and I have seen the same basic frustration, emotional silence reaction from both genders. Its closer to 50/50 than I thought when I first started really watching for it in meetings. Although, the tantrum outbursts get rewarded at an alarmingly higher rate.
This is what I hope my kids view as a thing of the past, a thing their parents dealt with in the workplace that they no longer need to. I know that there are things my parents dealt with that is just plain illegal in the workplace today. In their time they just had to suck it up and deal with it and keep their silence if they wanted to get ahead or be able to support their families. I hope for my kids, being demeaned in a meeting for getting frustrated becomes illegal, that people have the emotional intelligence to see what is happening and take positive action before it gets to that. I know what I have to keep my silence about, and I feel complicit, I am complicit. I hope my kids won’t have to know when to keep their silence, or have to feel complicit. I hope for them that public display of processing will be much more informed, much more aware, much more useful to solution instead of silence and judgement. I hope that workplace silence and judgement become the 5 1/4 in floppies of their time.