Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Being PC

I had a funny thing happen at work today.

My team has been very busy. We have a demanding client who we love. In one year we have seen our $500K project with 5 people working on it balloon to a scope of between $6 to $10M and a team of about 20 people. It is a great team for the most part and they are busy working their butts off keeping our client happy.

I like keeping a foot on the technical side even though my main role is in management. So today I e-mailed one of the task leads and asked him if he wanted me to tackle a document that needed to be written up?

My phone rang about three minutes later and I picked it up.

"I love you," he says.

Then he stammers and says, "I can't believe I just said that, oh my goodness!" He goes on to tell me about another project he has and how busy he is (which I knew) and stammers through the 15 minute discussion while we agree that yes, I will tackle the document.

I didn't think much else about the conversation.

Then my phone range about 3 minutes before I was walking out the door and he admits that he has been preoccupied and upset with himself for what he said earlier and wanted to know if I was totally freaked out?

I told him that I took his statement as I thought he had intended it, i.e., a huge relief that I was going to take something off his plate that needed to be completed. And truth be told I didn't think anything otherwise until he started correcting himself. And even then - I knew what he had really meant, I didn't suddenly start thinking "J loves me!"

That 5 second comment from a stressed out person in a work place had him so worried about being fired that he had to clear the air. Which was fine. But for a second there I wondered what we are coming to - or what we have become that we have to worry so much about context.

And then I remember back to another project I worked on. Sigh. The one where the guys would walk in the lab and announce to me, "hey honey, I am home". And how tired I got of being "the woman of the group" and when it started dawning on me that as a post-doc my role should have never been "procurements".

So maybe the rules there are for a reason. Even though my former group toed that line far more than my task lead did today through purposeful comments.

Shades of grey.

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