How I learned to step with caution in the workplace.
I recently read Womenomics and it got me thinking about guilt. You can read the full book review here, but one of themes focuses heavily on workplace guilt women are prone to feeling. In most cases, it is the guilt a woman feels when she misses family activities for work. Now, I’m not saying that men don’t feel this guilt as well, but there isn’t the same social stigma around a man missing dinner at home for a business trip as there is for a woman.
While working as an Executive for Target, I had a crazy schedule. Like with most retail stores, my Target was open from 8AM to 10PM daily, with extended hours for the Holidays. On Monday, I would work 8AM-6PM, Tuesday was my day off, Wednesday was 6AM-4PM, Thursday was 2PM-10:30PM, and Friday I back in the office at 8AM, often very tired. And my weekend hours rotated. I worked every other weekend, coming in at either 4AM, 9AM, or 3PM.
The rotating Executive schedule made planning life difficult and we often swapped shifts with each other. Well, over the course of my first year in role, I started to notice that I was consistently being asked to be the swapee. In many ways, it made sense why I was being asked. As the youngest Executive, I was the only one who did not have a family of my own (in addition to not being a mother or married, I also lived 6-hours away from my parents). I was, essentially, Sandra Bullock from While You Were Sleeping.
Before I was asked to swap weekend shifts, I was primed with stories of how my peers would miss yet another soccer game or family holiday. I agreed that the schedule was tough, and I felt guilty that my peers were missing family time when I could do something to help. I, of course, said yes, effectively ensure that I would work seven, 10, or even 12 days straight.
After about a year and a half of this, I finally realized that I was letting another’s guilt, guilt trip me and it had to stop. We had all agreed to work this job, and the rough schedule was part of the deal.
I finally began to say no. I know, I have talked a lot about saying yes, but this was one time no was the right answer. Actually, let me frame it differently, I said yes to what was best for me.
I finally realized that no one was forcing the short end of the stick on me, but I was taking it every time it was offered. And why? I had worked hard, interviewed for, and earned the same position as my peers. I should have been giving myself more credit for reaching the Executive level at a young age, instead of feeling undeserving and as if I still had to “pay my dues.” I had the right to maintain a schedule that worked for my unmarried, unbabied life, one that didn’t involve working someone else’s unwanted shifts.
In the end, I found it completely crazy that I was feeling this family-career guilt at only 21 years old and it wasn’t even my family.
In Womenomics, the authors speak about the importance of finding balance, the key being to not lose sight of who you are while pursuing your career. Your time out of the office is invaluable. It rejuvenates you for the week ahead and allows you to reap the benefits of your labor (AKA, spend some of that hard-earned cash on coffee dates and movie tickets).
So, why do we, as women, often feel that family is the only suitable reason to leave work early or request time off? Does a parent have to be ailing or a child upset for us to take a day off? Why can’t we feel free to ask for a schedule alteration to suit a marathon training program, night-time Italian lessons, or just a mental health day to catch up on sleep?
If you are looking for the answers, I would recommend reading Womenomics, but for now I will continue to push guilt aside and say yes to myself when faced with these situations.
How do you avoid the guilt trip? Let us know below.