Let me tell you the story of a young girl who had just started her first job at a multinational. She felt incredibly lucky and excited to be part of such a well-known organization. After all those diverse side jobs, she was given the opportunity to shape the future of a newly international set-up.
She was so nervous during the interview that she thought for a second that everyone in the room could hear her stomach spasms. Contrary to her beliefs, she was offered the job and soon after she was feeling integrated and part of the organizational culture.
A few months went by and the girl started to develop more self-confidence. She also had high hopes for herself, so it was only natural that she kept an eye for new challenges. When she was invited to join a different team within the same location, yet with a distinct set of skills, she didn't hesitate to accept.
Starting from scratch as well as being exposed to new learnings was never an issue, rather a welcomed change. So, she slowly started to take over more tasks with the support from her peers, her manager and a colleague abroad who was responsible to supervise her work.
I don't think I have told you this yet, but this girl was friendly, communicative, hardworking and very trustful in people. Actually, people were her passion...being around them, talking to them, and mostly listening and learning from them.
Working closely with this colleague with whom she would learn from was a promising growth opportunity. Little did she know how much this would negatively impact her.
In the beginning, everything seemed smooth and easy. They used to meet virtually almost every day, exchanged ideas and information, designed a plan. They eventually met in person and kept working together. The girl followed the mentor's footsteps, posing some questions now and then, while absorbing all the knowledge she could.
They were already working together for a couple of months, when they started disagreeing on a few things. It started as a common difference in opinion and it evolved to an unspoken tension between the two of them. The girl felt she was outgrowing her mentor. Whereas the mentor probably felt they were being dismissed.
Going back is hardly an option, meaning the doubt remains on what exactly triggered what took place next.
One day, while they talked in one of their regular exchanges, the mentor mentioned their disappointment towards the girl's performance. They kept talking about how the girl was not adding value to the role and that this same feedback has been given to the next level manager.
While the girl sat there listening to those incomprehensible words, the tears run down her face. Never she expected such a negative feedback, especially when it was the first she was hearing it and definitely didn't see it the same way. But above all, what came as a bigger shock to her was the tone of voice and that rude and insensitive attitude she hadn't foreseen.
Every word felt as a rock was being dropped on her chest preventing her from breathing properly. She stood in silence surrounded by a sea of people looking at a black screen while the mentor's voice kept going.
Eventually the conversation came to an end and before the girl realized, she felt a friendly hand touching her shoulder.
It was not professional to be crying at the workplace - the girl thought - while she did her best to get herself together. But it was too late. Everyone has seen her in that poor demeanor, her boss inclusive.
On that day she promised she would never cry again at work, unless they were tears of joy.
Luckily (or perhaps just destiny), her boss was incredibly kind and non-judgmental. Moreover, he knew this next level manager quite well and approached him directly.
In a matter of days, the whole situation was settled and the girl could resume her tasks. She would soon receive a proposal to work abroad - but this she didn't know yet.
By now you must have guessed that this girl was me. It is still me in the sense that I haven't forgot about her. She taught me a lot.
I may not enjoy to remember or talk about this experience. However, if I keep asking you to be authentic and vulnerable, it only makes sense when I follow my own advice.
What has led me to share this story with you? Well, conflicts happen in the workplace. Even when you do your best to avoid them.
For a long time, I was haunted by the memories of this experience. Partly because it was my first conflict with a colleague at a fresh new job (I only had one more after that and I only count it as half since it was in a complete different context - a story for another day!). Though mostly because I dealt first hand with injustice. I trusted that person and felt deeply betrayed and disappointed...and I never saw that coming.
Despite this unnerving experience, I did not lose faith in humanity. I not only kept seeing the good in people, but also kept building strong and healthy work relationships. Today I am stronger and more assertive, in part due to this girl's experience and perseverance.