An Ode to Dealing with Tough Managers

Photo by Jonathan Borba

Recently, I posted being concerned about my performance appraisal this year as the previous ones did not go well. I have some news to share – I finally got good feedback! This is a reason to celebrate, as my head was clouded with self-doubt over the past year, and I questioned my work quality. “This is the only type of work I believed I was good at. Am I not as good as I think?

When managers take time to appreciate your work, your confidence hits a different level. It’s the type of reassurance every hard-working employee deserves.

Needless to say, I am over the moon. If you had gone through my past appraisal posts, you would know how distraught I was. I gave it my best this year and wondered if it would be enough as my confidence was quite shaken. But it ended well (this year, at least). Now, the challenge is to maintain this level of performance.

I am not exactly sure what I did right this year, but I am sharing one key takeaway.

I know the internet is filled with advice on avoiding interacting with difficult managers as much as possible. I did this initially. I was intimidated by my managers and found it challenging to reach out to them. They weren’t particularly friendly either. So my solution was to avoid them. My advice is: don’t.

Try increasing your interactions with them to a point you no longer feel intimidated by their presence. I started asking questions regularly, reaching out for discussions, and becoming more proactive. Initially, it felt tough, as anyone would feel uncomfortable interacting with someone who intimidates them. But then, things started getting better. My fear was gone as I trained myself to approach them more. This helped me ask better questions and seek their help if needed. This, in turn, improved my work.

I realized they weren’t criticizing me on purpose. I did lag in some areas. When you are only given negative feedback, your first impulse is to escape. I almost thought about quitting, thinking maybe they disliked me for other reasons.

At this point, I can’t help but think how many employees must have quit their jobs because they couldn’t take criticism. We see posts about “work where you will be appreciated.” Sometimes, we need to take time to reflect on whether it is really them who should work on appreciating us or if it is actually us who need to make improvements.

Yes, some managers will not like you or your work, no matter how hard you try. You need to change your job for peace of mind in such cases. But often, that’s not the issue. Sometimes we overthink and overanalyze things and make decisions on the spur of the moment. Like quitting. When we quit, we stop ourselves from learning from our mistakes.

Learning only happens when someone points out the areas you need to improve. Some managers communicate this empathetically and effectively, but some might take a different route.

Not every manager excels at communication. As long as a supervisor doesn’t abuse or resort to toxic, manipulative techniques, employees should reflect on what is needed, reach out, ask questions, and work accordingly.

An Ode to Women Taking Financial Decisions

Photo by Bich Tran

This is a topic close to my heart. As a single woman in her 30s, I often find myself having to deal with people second-guessing my financial decisions. I am always told to consult a man before taking things further. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely okay with consulting experts. The keyword being “experts.” This is a gender-neutral term not limited to men. If they had told me to consult an expert instead of a specific gender, I would have been fine. But that’s not the case. They pinpoint the gender – it should be a “he.”

In my experience, people in India are skeptical about a woman’s money-managing skills. There’s an absolutely valid reason for such cynicism. Over generations, men have been handling money, and women have been doing household chores. This mentality is deeply ingrained in us. It is only now that the roles are shifting, more women are joining the workforce, and men are learning to handle the kitchen by themselves. In the past, this role-shifting was unheard of, which might explain why breaking away from it now takes some conscious effort. It does not come naturally. People tend to look at you with distrust if you take up a role that goes against the gender stereotype.  

“I rather my husband not cook. He might make a mess.”

“I rather my wife not handle finances. She might make a mess.”

These dialogues are not fictional. They very much exist – especially in Indian households. True, some women may not be good at finance, but that applies to men too.

Here’s an actual conversation with my mother:

Me: “I have decided to invest in Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs).”

Mom: “Oh! Why don’t you consult XYZ uncle about this?”

Me: “But what would he know? He’s a mid-50s person who distrusts new investment schemes.”

“Okay. But are you sure?”

“Yes! I have done my research, and I understand this product well.”

That was the end of the discussion. My mother looked at me with doubt etched all over her face. I had to convince her that I was making an informed decision.

To date, I have not made a poor investment choice. I read both the pros and cons of all investment schemes before selecting. I stay away from products I do not understand. I avoid systems that are too risky. I only invest in government-regulated schemes, not impulsively, but after going through much examination. However, all this research is still insufficient for society to stop doubting my capability to handle finances. Because I am a woman. Instead, a man who has done half the study is trusted more because of his gender.

Women are encouraged to be financially savvy and aware. But my question is – when we do become financially literate, are there people who would trust us to efficiently handle our money?

An Ode to Ignoring Toxic People

Photo by Pixabay

We are often told that communication is key.

People advocate the importance of openly sharing your feelings with your partners and friends, thoughts with colleagues, and so on. That’s absolutely true. You should. But what they don’t tell you is that sometimes, communication does absolutely nothing.

You can talk all you want, but your effort is lost if the other person is not ready to listen.

Communication can be key. But with the right people.

Try talking it out with a toxic person – someone who wants absolute control over the situation. They might demean and insult you for sharing your thoughts. What do we do then? Should we communicate more? Will that lead to better results? Sometimes, maturity is cutting off such people from your lives without lengthy dialogues when you realize things will not improve by talking.

It is not popular advice – to ignore. But it has its powers. Ignorance is indeed bliss when you know talking will not yield fruitful results. You can save yourselves from getting hurt when you choose to ignore. I sure did not believe in the power of quiet when I was in my 20s. I ardently believed each and every problem could be resolved by talking. In the process, I bared my soul, talking about my insecurities, frights, and pain with people who did not deserve my empathy or trust. I over-communicated in the hope that they would be more kind once they understood what I was going through. Some ended up using that private information against me. A piece of advice – unless you are absolutely confident about your relationship with this other person, do not be vulnerable and reveal your negatives. They just might misuse it. Communication is key. Again, with the right people.

When you ignore toxic people, you take away their right to infuriate you further. You are making them lose control over you. You are suffocating them because they are satisfied only when you retort. They want you to be affected by what they say. These are the people to watch out for and consciously avoid interacting with. You are not liable to hold any sort of communication with them. You end up saving precious energy this way and can divert it toward more productive interactions.

With experience, you know who such people are and how much effort you are willing to spend on them. You start to understand when things get “too much,” and you eventually start holding back. It’s something, unfortunately, that the 20s won’t teach you. We don’t learn unless we experience the same thing multiple times because it’s by rote that lessons get drilled into our brains. You experience similar people again and again till you learn how to deal with them in the future – that’s the way of life. No amount of advice or posts (like this one) will stop someone from thinking or acting how they want. Only experience can help you – it’s the best teacher, after all.

An Ode to Surya Namaskar & How It Helped Me Manage My Heavy Periods

Photo by Elina Fairytale

Since it is International Yoga Day, I thought I should narrate my own experience with Yoga. I have an on-and-off relationship with it. The irregularity has nothing to do with the practice but my own laziness. I prefer walking. But each time I do Yoga, I am impressed by its benefits.

I started Yoga as a form of exercise to supplement my walking. At that time, I was unaware of the health benefits as the only reason I chose Yoga was to tone my body. I initially went through some basic asanas for beginners and then slowly shifted to Surya Namaskar. It involves 12 steps akin to providing sun salutations.

In one month of doing Yoga, I noticed the following:

  • It strengthened my neck muscles and helped prevent a stiff neck
  • My back pain reduced
  • And the most relieving of all – my periods became more manageable

I cannot comment on whether Yoga helped tone my body because I wasn’t committed enough to try it regularly. The stress is on the third point – how it helped ease my period flow.  

I recently shifted to menstrual cups, so half of my period-related issues got resolved with that step. Before Yoga, I used to have 3-4 days of heavy flow. During the months I diligently practiced Yoga, my heavy flow reduced to 1 day. My period cycle was shorter and more manageable. This is a big win for me. But mind you, you cannot do Yoga just once and think your periods are manageable for life. I have to do it at least twice or thrice weekly to see the positive effects. I skip Yoga during periods because I do not wish to subject my body to stress and stretches at that time.

If you are facing any of the problems I mentioned, I would highly recommend trying Yoga.

Happy International Yoga Day!