I had just finished reading the The Art of Possibility when I ran into a work acquaintance in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at. He introduced me to someone and said "and Stormy’s on maternity leave." Surprised, I said "no I’m not!" (Why would I be at a conference if I was??) He went on to tell me that so-and-so had said that I wasn’t really truly back to work, that I worked from home a lot and didn’t work full time. I was furious. I thought I knew what was up and it made me mad. I work from home a couple of days a week – and I’m not sure everyone is happy with that – and I don’t officially work Fridays. (I do some work on Fridays but I don’t get paid for them so that I don’t have to work them.)
My first response was to call so-and-so and demand an explanation. However, just having read the The Art of Possibility and thinking the authors had made a lot of good points, I felt like if I called in anger, I would not have learned anything from the book. So I thought about it and tried to apply the ideas from the book to my situation. (Well, first I griped to someone I trusted to handle it well, and twittered about it, then I thought about it.) I tried to think about the interactions between the three of us as a game. I wasn’t just a player – I was the one deciding what game I was playing. I realized that I didn’t know what so-and-so’s motivations were. What I did know was that:
- So-and-so had said something about my work hours or habits to at least one person. For unknown reasons. (Idle conversation, jealousy, excuses, as a good example, … I had no idea.)
- It was likely that so-and-so would continue to talk about my work hours to people. Confronting him was likely to make him talk about the confrontation and my work hours even more. Not to mention that if his intentions were good I would look petty.
- I work 80% for 80% of my full time salary – I don’t on Fridays.
- I don’t (or didn’t) tell people I don’t work Fridays because I was afraid it might hurt my career.
- I had no proof that it would hurt my career.
- My career is going really well in spite of the fact that I don’t work Fridays.
So I changed the rules of my own game (part time might hurt my career, keep part time a secret, etc.) and blogged about it. On my work blog. Now everyone knows that I don’t work Fridays (most of the time), they know how I feel about it and why. So even if so-and-so continues to talk about my hours in ways that are misinterpreted, my version is out there and has been read by a lot of people. People that I care about and people that are interested in my career and what I have to say. (At least I assume that’s why they subscribe to my work blog!)
I think the The Art of Possibility is one of those books you could read again and again and still get new things out of it, so I’m keeping it on my book shelf. It’s a short read and I recommend taking the time to read it.