Thursday, April 18, 2013

I Can't Complain, But I Will Anyway

Today I figured out what makes me really, really angry at work: it is when people assume I don't know what I'm talking about.

On the plus side, now that I know what it is, I can try to come up with strategies for how not to get angry when it happens.

On the negative side, given my gender and choice of career, this happens rather a lot.

And as we discussed in the comments on my post about Lean In, I'm not really allowed to get angry at work.

Also, I sure wish I'd figured this out before I almost lost my cool in a meeting about furniture. Now I have to go clean that up tomorrow- after all, there is no way that guy knew I read about productivity for fun and wasn't just pulling opinions on workspace arrangement out of thin air.

Furthermore, since people assuming I don't know what I'm talking about does happen a lot, I need to figure out why sometimes it makes me so mad that I have to leave a meeting and sometimes I can laugh it off. Every time I've been really angry at work, it has been because someone is assuming I don't know my stuff. But I don't get mad every time someone assumes I don't know my stuff, because if I did I'd walk around angry a lot.

I suspect that part of the problem today was, as the Onion so succinctly put it: Jesus, This Week

So really, I'm grateful that my biggest problem right now is figuring out how to recover from this burst of anger (only partially displayed, thankfully).

And my mood has been much improved by an extended game of tag after dinner, and the fact that Pumpkin is teaching Petunia the song from The Tiki Room in the bath right now.

Oh, and they just started singing It's a Small World.

I can't complain.

How are you all holding up this week?


  1. Cloud - that is my EXACT hot button as well. And as a young(ish) women in a heavily male field (ie. colleagues, clients, referral sources, etc are almost all men) I have to believe that the reason it happens so often is because of my gender. I also find myself arguing against armchair lawyers a lot (eg. I'll give a client some advice, and then they'll come back and tell me that their husband, or brother doesn't agree - because of something they read or something they saw on TV). I get mansplained a LOT. Grrrrrrr.

  2. Anonymous4:52 AM

    Check out Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office. I haven't read it yet, but I've glanced through it, and it has a chapter on what to do when you're angry.

    I'm really good at reacting non-angrily when people assume I don't know what I'm talking about. Deep down I know I'm better than most, if not all, of the guys who make that kind of assumption. My field is very hierarchical and I have a tippity top pedigree. So my automatic reaction is always surprise. My eyebrows go up, eyes narrow, and then I push through exerting my authority. This sometimes includes name-dropping, or just schooling them by giving them condescending information, "Yes yes, X blah blah." A lot of it is just self-confidence.

    One of my professors, a black woman, told us a story from when she was working in the South and had a bunch of tall white football players acting out in her class, making sotto comments that were sexist, racist, etc. basically that she couldn't know what she's talking about. So she filled the board with (unnecessary for an undergrad class) Calculus and terrified them. I can't remember if she pointed out to them that she was the one with the degree and she knew her stuff or just let the equations speak for themselves.

    (Also: I did read the chapter on how women aren't allowed to cry at work. And what to do if you can't help it, which is to use a canned phrase they give you and get the heck away from anybody else until you're composed.)

    It's not fair that we have to deal with these assumptions and tests (the Geek cred thing Scalzi has been highlight recently comes to mind), but it is a known problem and there are ways that we can school ourselves to use to deal with it.

    1. Anonymous4:28 PM

      I should add-- it's great that you figured this out! Now you can watch for it and counter it rather than getting angry and not knowing why.

    2. Yep. That's the book I've been recommending ad nauseum since 2004.

  3. How frustrating! I deal with this too, but I think it is to do more with me being "lowly" staff at a university (even though I have a PhD like them). I surely can't know more about something than them...even when directly related to my work (and they don't do anything remotely related).

    I'm holding up okay this week, but kind of want to unplug the Internet. I also tend to have a much shorter fuse when pregnant, so every day things I deal with are more annoying than usual.

  4. I'm really good at not SHOWING that I'm angry, but oh yes, that is my biggest hot button issue too (I mostly am really good at not showing I'm angry in life in general, so it's not work specific.). Although I think a lot of the issue in my office is less gender defined as generation defined.

    This week has been tough. Really tough. I'm really glad it's almost over.

  5. I'm doing terribly. Sunday evening I got word that father's cancer seems to have metastasized. And then the events of Monday, and the aftermath, have hit my heart heavily. I only spent five years in Boston, and have been gone for longer at this point, but I still miss it regularly (weekly, if not daily) and consider it the hometown of my heart.

    Anyhow... to the other topic regarding anger triggers and being believed to be less competent and/or knowledgeable than I am... I can relate. At an earlier point in my working history I had an unsuccessful career change. In order to keep myself afloat, I took a temp administrative assistant job at a mutual fund company which turned into a full-time gig. I had a "better" degree than most of the people I worked with and many of them assumed all I had was a high school degree. Fortunately, my boss, and her boss, recognized my competence and potential and I started moving up the ladder. Though then when I got moved over to a manager who *didn't* know my experience or credentials and then passed me up for a promotion that I was more than qualified for... yeah, I was pretty pissed. I didn't go anywhere with it, because that was also the time that other life events were taking me away from the company (and Boston, actually.)

    I don't have any good suggestions or answers for you. :/

    1. I am so sorry about your father. I know how you feel about Boston. It was how I felt about San Diego when I moved away for awhile. This is home.

      Wishing you a better week next week.

  6. Ugh. I rarely get angry at work - but that is mostly because people do believe I know what I'm doing.

    The news from the USA, this week - that's another thing entirely.

    I'm happy to say that there is plenty of good news to focus on here in NZ - passing marriage equality for instance, the opening of a reconstructed New Regent St in all it's pastel glory and the kick-off of an inner city mini-golf route (ok, that's been delayed for rain -but it IS NZ, rain delays are to be expected )

    If you want something kind of fun and inspiring to read on the internet, check out and and the Hello Campaign.

    I love being back in New Zealand - in the awesome, awful and utterly ordinary city of Christchurch

  7. So I don't want to be sexist here, but I have (anecdotally!) noticed that men are more likely to say things with confidence when they actually aren't sure what they're talking about. Like they'll act 100% sure when they're only 50% sure. Whereas a woman may act 50% sure when she's 50% sure, and even if she's 90% sure, she'll hedge a bit, and come across as 80% sure. Since, to a guy, sounding 80% sure translates into only 40% sure, he may question if she knows what she's talking about. Which is, of course, infuriating.


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