Me: Closet mean girl?

It has been one of those months with work, and it’s only the third. Yeah, I am probably exaggerating. Mostly, anyway. Let me just say the next couple of weeks until I go on vacation for an entire week cannot pass quickly enough.

My depressed associate is proving a lot more challenging than angry exercise will overcome, and unfortunately I am not the only one being affected by his morose and glum outlook. Two others on the project have requested reassignment, which I cannot grant, and one lost her patience completely in an email meltdown that will probably haunt her career for awhile to come. What is worst is that it slants unprofessional and unwarranted shade on me as a boss and a leader; I had to speak to him directly and frankly about the way things are progressing. I dislike having to have even pointed, constructively critical meetings with staff members, being more a guiding and correcting as issues arise sort of boss. Having to have a come-to-Jesus with a clinically depressed team member is just plain hard.

And he made it so much worse, by getting defensive and blaming everyone else for the issues we are all experiencing at his hands. I did not say anything I regret, I was not unprofessional and personal in my statements, but I did pushback with a stronger tone and more assertive stance than I like to take in such matters. I brought out the emails, notes, and documentation of his attitude impacting the rest of us and my attempts to guide and rebalance his workload and the many follow-up emails with excuses for deadlines blown, direct assignments coming back late enough to directly impact someone else, and the general woe-is-me attitude displayed in response to our attempts to assist him. I am not an ultimatum deliverer unless I feel pushed into delivering one, yet today I found myself doing just that, because I had had it. 

What makes me feel guilty about the whole thing? I actually felt relieved and so much BETTER to spell out for him exactly how far he has pushed me and the rest of our team. It was not pretty combined and presented that way, and it was also not something new he was just hearing. Every item discussed today has been brought up with him in prior, more informal conversations. He is not one of my direct reports, but talent on loan from another firm for a joint venture. He is definitely capable of doing some truly amazing work, but lately his absences and excuses and not being available have made all our jobs more difficult. He left my office for the day and did not respond to anything for the balance of the day. I wrote an email to his boss discussing the issues, my actions, yet stopped short of requesting a replacement, although I am reconsidering that as well. We can finish this without him, but it will take a lot more effort and hours from the rest of us. I know I am not alone thinking it will be worth it to not have to deal with the ongoing tension and struggle. His boss promised to talk with him tomorrow, my boss has offered to allocate some additonal staff hours to help us push this through no matter what. 

I still feel guilty, like I have kicked a defenseless yet morose dog. We are not mental health professionals and do not know how to cope when a depressive’s behavior crosses his normal line. If we do not push and make reasonable accommodation for his disability the situation got worse. If we do push and make less accommodation his behavior and attitude became unbearable for the rest of us. 

Sometimes I hate my job. I already know I hate being a manager, but for whatever reason I generally tend to be good at it. Days like today remind me of why I always think I am not cut out to be anyone’s boss. I used to think the same thing about parenting, that I sucked at being a mom, because I hated to have to lay down the law and to discipline my kids. I still shudder thinking about it. Somehow we all got through it, my kids are doing well and still speaking cordially and affectionately to me, and this work thing will pass as well.

Soon, I hope. I hate feeling like I am a secretly cruel bitch just waiting to happen.

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