One of the trickiest parts of office navigation thus far in my new position has been knowing whom to be open with and how open and when. In my organization, the big bosses/head honchos/big cheese people are in another office, so our main line of communication is through email, with some phone calls and visits here and there. While this is great for not feeling like the boss lady is breathing down my neck every minute, it also means that anything I say to her is in writing; not just for that conversation but to potentially be pulled up, forwarded on, printed out, or put in my employee file forever. Those I see daily are people who are a generation above me and whom I supervise. In addition, we work with several organizations as partners or colleagues or whatnot. Whew!
I regularly find myself in a place of questioning my words and often remaining silent out of uncertainty. Those I work directly with feel like they could be my mother or grandmother, people whom I might otherwise confide in… but as their supervisor, it’d be completely inappropriate to discuss the stress of my personal life with them. My direct boss is even more delicate both because she’s also the Director of HR and because, had we met in another situation, I’m certain she’s someone I’d want to hang out with. Then there are the other organizations, all with their own needs and agendas, some of which are opposite to my job’s purpose or my agency’s goals.
So how do you know? To be honest, I wish this was the place where I inserted a chart or some wise words of wisdom or something, but thus far, I don’t have the answers. What seems to be working for me though is observing more than speaking and thinking ahead about what personal information I’m okay with sharing in a broader sense. This way, I don’t feel caught off-guard when lunching with the staff or come off as rude by not allowing them to get to know me and I don’t accidentally give things up that I later wish I could take back. For example, I’ve decided that I’m open to sharing stories about my dog, but annoyances about my roommates need to stay in my head. I’m open to discussing holiday memories of the casserole my relative always made, but I won’t be sharing the stories of the annual argument between siblings.
As for professional time, I’ve been working to get to really know my boss and to watch her in different situations. I watch the way she handles those who work for her and those she works for and I listen when she speaks about life and her philosophies on how to treat others. Those tell me a great deal about her and about whether she’s someone I can ask, without judgment, for guidance, which allows me to ask her before speaking to others without fear that she'll use the opportunity to sabotage me, pretend to know when she doesn't, or to steer me wrong, which is a wonderful trust to build with your supervisor!
Thus far, I think I’ve avoided saying too much… but then, the day isn’t over yet!