“Can you believe it?” said the frustrated voice on the other end of the line. .. “She did it again!” the voice was getting louder. “I think it may be time for me to quit, I can never please her.” This was the essence of the frantic phone call from one of my coaching clients.
“Real life is much more intriguing than fiction” was my thought as I began to dig into the drama that had just happened in the office of a large recruiting agency.
The back story: Janice was a great recruiter. She worked long hours, followed up leads quickly and effectively, and knew how to match people and jobs so that everybody was happy with the outcome.
Except she felt she could never please her boss Nancy. Nancy was a perfectionist, a stickler for tiny details. Janice was a big picture thinker. It seemed that the only time Nancy paid attention to Janice was when she made mistakes. It was stressful, negative attention.
This time there were some minor details about the records that were late to the client company; late, according to Nancy, within the acceptable range, according to Janice. They were at a standoff.
Janice was ready to quit. Her health was being impacted and she had a chronic cough that no amount of meds seemed to cure.
So here we were on the phone, Janice willing to give it one more shot before she went into HR and handed in her resignation. “I always end up feeling like a bad kid here. I second guess myself so much I feel immobilized. Nothing is right; she is like that witch boss from “The Devil Wears Prada”. In fact, no one can stand her.”
“Not so” I countered. “You’re attempting to stack votes. I know many others who think she is a great boss.” With that Janice was ready to hang up on me. “Hey, Janice, stop for a moment, and let’s look from another perspective before you zip over to HR. Let’s just take a peek at why she pushes your buttons so effectively.”
Janice sighed. She was new to coaching and really was working hard to get me to side with her against witch Nancy. When I asked Janice to tell me about her family she was, again, ready to hang up on me. “That’s nonsense. My family has nothing to do with this problem.”
“Maybe so” I agreed. “However, let’s take a quick snapshot to make sure there are no connections.” I must admit, I would have bet the farm we were going to find that proverbial pony in this pile of manure.
“My father was a great guy who worked really hard and was not home that much. My mother was a stay at home mom who watched every move that my brother and I made. She checked homework; made sure we dressed appropriately, and monitored our friends……” With that Janice seemed to enter another world of the past.
It was very quiet until Janice said, “Oh my god! Now I get it.”
The “it” Janice got, was connecting was that no matter how good her grades, no matter how popular she was at school, her mother would only pay attention, real attention when she came home fifteen minutes late, when she wore a see through blouse, when she got a B on her report card.
She developed a superficial relationship with her mother and the two only saw each other for appointed holidays. Janice told her mother very little about her personal life and never mentioned anything that could cause her to be judged as not good enough.
Suddenly her anger with her boss Nancy was crystal clear. Janice moaned with her new understanding “The last thing I need is another mother, and yet here she is in full bloom!”
Now our coaching work would really get going. Janice had learned the basic premise of “Don’t Bring It to Work”, that we do bring our family with us in hidden ways until we can learn the way OUT, to Observe, Understand and then Transform the button pushing people in our lives into allies.