Corporate America is a strange and bewildering place. Like working in a galaxy far, far away only you’re the one who’s the alien. Every company has its own cultural nuances and these can be difficult to navigate without a guide. Hence the whole corporate mentoring craze.
Clearly, the only one responsible for my career is me. The Peter Principle states we will all eventually be promoted to the level of our own incompetence. I don’t think I’m there yet but I still have a massive headache from banging my head against the glass ceiling. I’m not good at getting ahead but I am good at what I do. I’ve won awards 3 years in a row. The company, however, does not recognize me as “talent.” It’s not like I have goals to be President or CEO. I’m not the kind of person who lives to work. Instead I work to live and I want to live comfortably. And retire early. So even though I’m not particularly driven, I’d like to at least reach my full potential. I’ve got more to offer–why can’t the company see that?
I’ve suspected for some time now that I’ve been labeled but I can’t quite figure out what exactly is keeping me from progressing. It continues to elude me. So a few weeks ago I asked my coworker, let’s call him Matt, who’s acting as an informal mentor to me. “I think maybe I’m too honest,” I said. “I’ve been told repeatedly that I can be a bit harsh.”
“Nope,” Matt said. “That’s not it. It’s two things. First, you’re too emotional. You can’t let anyone see how you really feel. And second, it’s your family. You’ve probably shared what’s going on with your sister with your manager, right?”
“Well, there you have it. You can’t get ahead if people perceive you don’t have your personal life under control.”
“But everyone has family stuff. Look at R. His father has Alzheimer’s and he’s shared that with the entire department.”
“Yes, but think about what he says. It’s always ‘the medications are working and slowing progression. The family is dealing with it.’ With you, everything with your sister is unpredictable. She’s doing well. She’s not doing well. You’re overwhelmed. You’re uncertain. There’s always an emergency. Things are definitely NOT under control.”
I did not argue with him. He may be right. But if he is, I guess I’m stuck. I’m not an actress. I can’t be something I’m not. Life is sometimes hard; I can’t pretend it isn’t. If that means I’m not “leader” material, so be it.
Well played, glass ceiling, well played.