Weight of Words

I read a pretty amusing article today on The Onion: “Boss Has Deft Touch For Making Employees Feel Like Shit”. The Onion has a reputation for its mordant touch with humor, and this article is no exception.

Pretty much the first thing I thought was that I hoped I never ended up as a manager. Not that I think of myself as a particularly cruel person, but sometimes, when you’re talking, you just say things offhand that you don’t even think about until later, and you realize how you came across. Everybody does this — even if they don’t think they do. You forget to give just the right word of praise or acknowledgement at the right time, and you seem dismissive or even critical.

It happens.

Now imagine you’re in a position of respect, responsibility, or even authority. Imagine, even, you’re a woman (for example), on whom society piles on just a tad bit more scrutiny. Now, you say “hmm,” and you’re a cold-hearted devil bitch ruling your underlings with an iron fist.

So while reading the article, I found myself checking myself.

It fed pretty hardcore into my already existing fear of being in any position of leadership, and I’m already feeling weird about my boss regarding me as a team lead. Now I fear that even when I try to encourage the newer engineers on my team, it might come across as damning with faint praise. Not to mention that what, to me, seems like an inconsequential venting or offhand remark will land with a weight I might not even realize.

I guess as a general rule of thumb, I can err on the side of being too nice, now. But then that’s probably a good idea, in either case.