“So I can see this one is a pain in the ass.”
That was a comment about me, made by a freelancer to my boss G. and I at a meeting yesterday. He had a big grin on his face when he said it; he was joking; it was getting-to-know you banter in the first few minutes after we met, and we all laughed.
And believe me, I am fully aware that I can be a pain in the ass; it just usually takes longer than two minutes for someone else to realize it.
Then I started thinking about what prompted it this time…
While we were settling into our booth at Panera for breakfast and getting the laptop fired up, my boss and I received an email from a client, before the official work day had even started, asking to get an emergency press release out as soon as possible.
Since we were going to be in the meeting and out of the office for at least two hours, I quickly said, “We have to get M. and Z. to do it,” and then proceeded to call and email and text and do the things I needed to do to make sure the client press release got edited, approved, and distributed by my colleagues.
That’s why I was “a pain in the ass.” Because I did my job the way the client expected me to do it. I was no-nonsense about what had to get done.
I kinda have the feeling that, had I been male, my actions (which were simply a quick response to a client request that I could not immediately fulfill myself) would surely not have branded me “a pain in the ass,” even as a joke.
Later in the conversation, in response to me correcting something my boss said, the freelancer noted to G., again pleasantly, “It must be like working with your wife all day.”
This was followed further on with, “I have never known women in their 20s to say anything of value.” (This was not directed at me, but we were talking about how long my boss and I had known each other and what it’s like to work in an office with many younger colleagues.)
I know that this is just my new colleague’s manner, and he made just as many sarcastic remarks about my boss, although none that had to do with G. being male. At the end of our official meeting we ended up having a very nice conversation for almost an hour about clients, work, and other things we had in common. I wasn’t upset by his comments, or offended, but I was surprised.
I’m most surprised at myself, though, for letting the comments pass right on by without addressing them. For once I can honestly say, why did I keep my mouth shut?
I didn’t react to what was said in my meeting yesterday. I had convinced myself our breakfast guest was “joking,” so I smiled and laughed and kidded back and let it go. But by letting those comments float out into the ether, I let it be okay to treat me with a little bit less respect than a male colleague would have received–and demanded.
Those of you that know me in real life can testify that I am no shrinking violet. In fact, I tend to err on the side of opening my mouth too often and at the wrong times. Which is why I’m kicking myself right now for letting what happened yesterday go unchallenged. Have I settled into the mindset that it’s impolite to start such a discussion in a work setting? Or was I just too tired from the previous night’s insomnia?
But if doing my job competently and efficiently makes me a pain in the ass (or worse, a bitch), then I don’t see my PITA status changing anytime soon.
Next time, though, I’ll go back to my usual manner of not shutting up about it.