Tuesday Thoughts: The Importance of Vulnerability in Business
Yesterday was, for a lot of people, the first day back in the office after an extended Christmas break. I worked sporadically over Christmas, but for me it felt like the first day back too.
My anxiety was through the roof.
I got about 4 hours of sleep, sat up at 7.30am, and cried. Partly because I was sick (I’d had a cold for a few days), partly because I was tired, but mainly because I was overwhelmed by all these expectations that nobody was putting on me but me.
Once I’d caffeinated and pulled myself together I posted on Instagram that it was ok to feel anxious, it was ok if the only thing you managed that day was show up, and it was ok to feel like you’d forgotten how to do your job.
Lots of people replied thanking me for my message, that they were feeling awful too, and they really appreciated the permission to just make it through the day instead of putting hugely unrealistic expectations on themselves.
I feel a lot better today! The good thing is it never lasts.
The problem of vulnerability in Tech
I’ve worked for and with lots of Tech companies, and they all have a problem with showing humanity. In highly competitive environments I’ve been guilty too of taking advantage of other people when they weren’t feeling too great.
When someone on the team was going through an awful break up, I used it as an opportunity to demonstrate that I was better than her, that I wouldn’t let a break up interfere with my performance (I have), and that I deserved the praise and the promotion and another step up on the political ladder.
It was kind of ugly, actually, and more to do with the insecurity I felt than anything to do with her. She was, and is, brilliant.
It’s kind of exhausting to be in that world sometimes. I remember saying to my husband ‘every single person at this company would be the star employee anywhere else’.
Some of the better companies do a good job of doing more than paying lip service to mental health, but stress is rampant in Tech. It’s highly competitive.
We could all do with being a little more honest.
One of the things that struck me when writing this is if I practice what I’m preaching.
I’m good at being human. I use it as a psychological tactic in meetings, showing a glimpse of myself to build rapport. But have I actually ever been human beyond a whimsical comment that actually, I know, adds to my brand?
So I thought I’d throw some honesty into my blog today. I LOVE what I do, and I am really proud of the success of my company so far, but I want to show people that nobody’s life is shiny and looks like it does on social media all the time!
Radical Honesty- 10 mental health confessions from 10 years in Tech
- I have invited colleagues out for a drink, then been so anxious I ghosted them on the way to the pub, even though it was my idea.
- I’ve cried in toilets at one job so many times I had to tell my boss I had allergies.
- I once gained 2 stone and a prescription for anti-depressants in 18 months in a stressful job.
- I’ve blamed train problems for lateness, when actually I had a panic attack on the tube and got sick in a bin.
- I once didn’t get a job because I thought it would be a good idea to wear green nail varnish to an interview. Looking back at it, I think I was self-sabotaging because I thought the job would be too good for me. Also, looking back at it, that’s a stupid reason not to hire someone.
- I once had a reputation for always being late, but having a coffee in my hand anyway (I’m over that period of being an awful human). I figured if I pretended I didn’t care, people wouldn’t see how much I did.
- I once hired an agency so that they could have my boss shout at them instead of me for a few months.
- I’ve never been to a Christmas party and stayed for more than an hour.
- I once pretended to be on a conference call by playing a recording of one so I could have 30 minutes to sort my head out.
- I’ve told my job I had a Doctor’s appointment once a week, when I was actually going to therapy. I think they still think I had a physical illness.
By writing these things I hope I can help a few people realise that not everything is always awesome, all of the time. I also have a ‘rip the bandaid’ approach off to talking about mental health.
The first time I did it was at Sweaty Betty Live, when I decided to tell 500 people about my struggles, when I’d never even told close friends. I expected it to kamikaze my career, it didn’t, it was like rocket fuel. People appreciate honesty.
Look after yourself and be human. January is rubbish, let’s make it a bit kinder.