crucial conversations

Editor’s Note: This post is written by guest writer Vanessa!

My first year in the professional world was brutal. I was living in a small town in the south walking around as if I knew everything. I was cocky, confident, naive, and competent. This combination is sure to fail, but it’s all I knew, and it was survival of the fittest. I was tasked with raising a quarter of a million dollars in 3 rural communities – a job that is not meant for the toughest of heart to be successful, but I was determined and made it happen. Through this journey, I encountered a vicious work environment – one where I could never be right because I was “too young.” I walked in, as an outsider, to a very much “insider” world, where I could never fit because I didn’t go to prom with anyone in that office. To say that I was disheartened is not doing the experience justice; I was beaten down, starved for validation, ridiculed until I finally gave up. I worked with my office door closed, did whatever was asked of me, and disappeared into my world of work. When my military husband was transferred, I cried in exuberant glee that I had a reason to quit. As we were driving away to our next destination, I made a pact with myself to never allow that environment to exist again. Two years later, I found myself hired for my dream job… and it all began again. This time I was older, wiser, and committed to my job. I knew in my heart that if I allowed myself to be bullied, I was proactively accepting defeat. My new work environment was filled with people that always knew what was best for everyone. I remember a defining moment where I was having a “crucial conversation”, one that I knew was a baseline for my new coworkers to assess how much they could push within my acceptance. “I’ve been doing this for ten years,” she said. “And I value your opinion” I chimed. “You need to do what I suggest; I’ve been doing this longer than you.” “Yes, you have been doing this longer than I, but I was hired into this role because they were confident that I could be successful” I said. “You were hired because they had to hire someone; you’re a check in the box.” “I strongly disagree with that statement, but I understand your question of my competence. I would appreciate your support moving forward, just as you’re demanding my support of your past experience.” This was the first of many crucial conversations that continue to keep me on my toes. There is a tipping point between defensiveness and assertion, and it’s a point I teeter with each and every day. I can handle my job, I’ve proven that; the question is if I can handle the amount of work it takes to ensure a team environment, when it feels as if everyone on the team only picked me because the teacher told them they had to. Regardless, I am growing more into myself when I have one of these conversations.

Do you ever wished you should have had a crucial conversation? Or do you want to share one you had? What are additional tips to having one?

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