Sunday, July 15, 2012

I'm 50-Years Old and Still Can’t Think on My Feet

For most of July my boss, our company’s CFO, has been out of the office due to a family emergency. In the interim I've been covering for him. At first it was kind of fun – doing or delegating his work –  most of which he shouldn’t be doing anyway. But as the month drags on and I and our accounting department fall further behind, playing CFO has stopped being fun.

Then our HR Manager (regular readers may recall I've had issues with her in the past) decided our payroll person was incorrectly processing some of our payroll deductions. She called me into her office and began berating this employee behind her back telling me how stupid she was. Instead of standing up for my employee I offered to look into it. I went back to my office and searched how to process the specific deductions on the website. What our HR Manager had concluded didn’t make sense. I came up with a couple of examples as to why, braced myself and went back to her office to explain why she was mistaken. Of course I couldn't convince her and she ended up insisting she needed to check into the matter herself. It has been two days and I still haven't heard from her, so I assume her sources informed her she was wrong. If our CFO had been here this would have been a simple fix - I would have asked him, he would have said our payroll employee was correct and the HR Manager was wrong end of story.

This is such a minor incident why does it bother me?
Because here I am turning 50 this week and I still can’t think on my feet. I don't have a thick enough skin to stand up for my employee and articulate my thoughts when I am put on the spot.  When my boss retires in a few years I will never be strong enough to be the CFO on a permanent basis. Several years ago while re-reading my journals I discovered two years in a row I had written almost the identical entry on my birthday – in the upcoming year I am going to work on becoming a stronger person.

So here I am turning 50 and still challenging myself to becoming a stronger person in the upcoming year.

I didn't think I should blog about this. My challenge is so ordinary and there are others who have written about similar projects - Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (I couldn't take all the crying),  Noelle Hancock's My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir (Her dialog was atrocious - like nails on a chalkboard) and Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Happiness is her job how can the average person find time for this). Then I came across Danielle LaPorte’s post "The Biggest Threat to Your Creativity" where she writes:
... is the fear that it’s already been done, said, created.

(So why bother?)

Say it, do it, make it anyway —

but tell YOUR story along the way.

The story of how you came to know what you know.

The story of what you want to know more of.

The story of why you do what you do.
        The story of how you came to care.
And that’s how you create what’s never been created before
Danielle Laporte has inspired me. I’m going to do this. My 50th year is going to be all about:
Finding my Strength
For starters I have added Danielle Laporte's book The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms to my reading list.

I have signed up for the Chopra Center's 21-Day Meditation Challenge beginning July 16th. Guided by Deepak Chopra, and other master teachers I will learn practical techniques for becoming more calm, centered, and happy. The challenge is  21 days because studies have shown that it takes 21 days of consistent behavior to change a habit or create a new one.

I am also challenging myself to read books about those who have persevered and succeeded despite having obstacles in their lives.

I have a few other ideas, but nothing definite.  Have you taken on a similar challenge? Do you have any suggestions for me? If so please share.


  1. Good for you, Girl. I totally understand where you are coming from. I am the same way, only way older. I solved the problem by staying with a tiny company where i can be the "loyal lieutenant" and not have to be the one who makes the important decisions. Not a good strategy, especially if you want to make real money in this life.

    I wish you great success in this undertaking and will be rooting for you all the way.

  2. I wish you a very happy birthday celebration with this milestone. I wish you success on this road to finding inner strength. Unfortunately, when you deal with difficult people, it can be exactly what you described, but I do think you have inner strength already, and diplomatic grace. When a person thinks they are right, it is hard to deal with them. You didn't insult the HR manager by immediately saying "you are wrong.". You said that you would look in to it, and in the world of politics of dealing with people and managers, that was the best answer. You found she was wrong, and told her so. Best wishes.

  3. Happy Saturday Sharefest!!! :) I wish you success just like the rest did... good post!

  4. Anonymous8:48 AM

    1. Happy Birthday! Fifty is a beautiful milestone!

    2. Don't be so hard on yourself. HR Manager was unprofessional (sounds like that's a common issue with her) so don't feel bad that you are shocked and unprepared to deal with her when she behaves in a way that surprises you. You can't expect to be ready any time someone behaves badly and honestly I think the way you handled it was perfect.

    We can't control other peoples behavior only the way we respond and it sounds to me like your approach (bringing facts to the table) is the safest and best way to deal with someone who reacts the way she does.

    Don't beat yourself up because you didn't Verbally defend your employee - it doesn't sound like it would have made any difference in this situation. You did defend her by finding factual evidence that proved her compliant.

    Lastly, I'm all for working on bettering ourselves, but I hope before you embark on this journey you take time to contemplate your strengths. Self improvement is recognizing where are weaknesses are, but "don't go changin" you in the process :) Your CFO is one person who leads his way, but don't think you need to be him to be good! Be the best YOU and make your own beautiful mark ;)

  5. I love this and love the challenge that you have set out for yourself. While others may have been put up to a similar challenge, it's *your* story and your journey. I have heard amazing things about Danielle LaPorte and this has made me want to read her book even more.

    As to the situation with your HR Manager, I often feel the same way - that I don't think fast enough on my feet. But you handled the situation well. It's hard when you have to navigate office politics, especially since you are only covering for your CFO temporarily. I think that you did the right thing.

    Happy Birthday!

  6. Webb,
    I like the sound of "loyal lieutenant" and imagine that is the role where I will remain. I am so much more comfortable there. You are so right though the pay isn't nearly as good. Regardless of my role, I really need to become stronger if for no other reason than I want to be able to sleep better. Thanks for rooting me on and please share any strategies you think may help.

  7. Leigh,
    Thanks for your much needed comment. Your advice is much appreciated.
    Thanks for stopping in.
    Tina Kempa,
    I’ve been looking into taking a class called “Assertiveness training for the Workplace.” I think you just saved me $350. That was terrific advice I am taking to heart.
    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It has changed mine.

  8. Good luck on your new focus!

    I have been trying to push myself to get out and try new things, rather than avoid them or be too lazy to do them. I have felt an effect in that I am more open to new experiences, and I am more confident about going places by myself.

    Blogging is a great way to explore a new focus and stay accountable to new goals.

    I also agree with the comment that you are being too hard on yourself. She sounds like an unprofessional person who wouldn't have handled it well even if you did assert yourself more.

  9. Congratulations on the recognition at work, and the milestone birthday, Savvy. Good for you! My boss is pretty good at doling out the positive comments. It's often what keeps me going!

  10. Marcy,
    Thanks for stopping in. I agree blogging is a great way to explore new goals and to stay accountable.

    I have about 4 weeks of challenges plotted out for myself. I am nervous though.

    It is so much easier to post about why fixed annuities are not a good investment -

    High fees
    Complicated contracts
    Misrepresented interest rates

    See what I mean.

  11. Monica,
    Thank you. If more managers complimented their employees think of all the work that could be accomplished. Negative energy is such a waste.

  12. Anonymous6:23 AM

    Boy can I relate to this! I've been "retired" for almost 10 years and I still wake up in the middle of the night and in my quest to go back to sleep I catch myself having imaginary conversations with that CFO that was such a thorn in my side! You'd think I'd be able to win those battles when they take place solely in my head...thankfully you've got a plan to move forward...which is so much better than the way i handled it ...which was just to get out. I realized I wasn't running to anything...just running away. Congrats to you for figuring it out AND passing it on!

  13. I quit my job to go back to school, and I'm dreading the workplace politics (inevitable) facing me when I return. Your plan sounds good. It's hard work to stay grounded.

  14. ha, I threw 'one' of those books across the room, and I have never thrown a book ;)
    You sounds as tho you have a year of awesome planned - you go girl.

  15. One thing I have learned is the magic of the word "yet."

    Instead of "I will never be strong enough to be the CFO on a permanent basis." how about "I'm not YET strong enough to be the CFO"?

    I haven't been traditionally published YET, I'm not good at dancing YET - whatever it is we aspire to do, and haven't done, YET, doesn't mean it's all over.

    IMO, the way you approached that situation was fine. You listened to the concern, you investigated, and you told HR she was wrong.

  16. Anonymous12:27 PM

    I'm another who thinks you handled the situation appropriately, but I think your goal is a worthwhile one.

  17. Barbara Joy:
    Uh still having nightmares after ten years that is awful. Believe me I've considered just leaving. I appreciate your advice to run towards something rather than just running away. I really like that. I have an idea - kind of a far-fetched idea, but it is a start.

  18. Karen D. Austin,
    I love going to school. When I do retire I plan on taking a class every now and then. You are right office politics is the worst.

  19. Sister from a mister,
    Hmm... I wonder which one it was. Thanks for the encouragement.

  20. Beverly,
    Yet - I like that. I'm writing that in my journal too.

  21. Thanks Faded Ginger - I think so too.

  22. I'm really interested in reading more about how you progressed in the challenge.

    I think you are a little hard on yourself in this post. I think you handled the situation with the HR person well. While she did talk negatively behind the other employee's back. You should not feel responsible for it. You did not let her opinions sway you. You investigated her view and informed her that she was wrong. You remained calm and provided the correct information.

    Just because you did not do things the way the CFO would have does not mean you did a poor job. If you ever wanted to be the CFO you could do it your own way.

    I do know what you mean about being thin skinned. I would like to thicken up myself :-)

  23. I'll be interested to hear how you've grown and changed over this past year given your goals. Also, please let us know which methods seem to work for you - the book vs. meditation. I started doing Yoga about a year ago as a part of getting to know myself better. Every time I do yoga, it pushes me to "live in the moment" and refocuses me to "be comfortable in my own skin." I do about 15 mins of it every morning and I think it helps to reset my compass each day and help remind myself that I love being who I am and that I am comfortable being that person. For me, that has been the key to getting stronger and having courage to be myself - whether that means following my heart or standing up for who I am and what I believe. Thanks so much for sharing!

  24. Chasing Joy,
    As part of my challenge I've been trying to read a book a month about aspects of inner-strength. This month's book, "Quiet" by Susan Cain was about introverts. I am a classic introvert. The book pretty much sums up why I can't think on my feet and helps me understand what I need to do going forward to be stronger. I need to carve out more ways to feed my soul (carve out restorative niches) throughout the day. You can read more about this book and what I learned here:

  25. Cherise,
    Meditation hasn't worked for me. I think I need to sign up for a class I just don't have the attention span for it on my own. I haven't tried yoga yet, but plan to do so next month. Relaxation and maintaining my energy is going to be my focus going forward.