learning to trust my own opinions and expertise
Some time ago, as a slightly less experienced manager, I made a mistake that has stayed with me and still makes me cringe. It was a complete Management-101 fail, or really, to be honest, a complete common sense fail.
An employee says to you “Can I go to a medical appointment on Friday morning. I won’t be very late because it is only in <Location> and my husband is coming with me and will drop me back”.
OMG! This isn’t even worth doing a multiple choice answer, because it is so clear. You NEVER inquire as to an employee’s private medical business. Maybe if you have a good relationship you could ask a generic “Everything OK” question. BUT THAT IS IT. No more. Not your business. Walk away.
Here’s what I actually did. I got excited. Because in my half-formed brain, the location of the appointment, and the accompaniment of the husband meant only one thing: Babies. So, if I was thinking clearly, these pointers would have actually led me to “stay away” territory, because unless the employee has mentioned that she is pregnant, it is (and now I will do the multiple choice):
a. Very Early Stages
c. Fertility problems
d. something else totally not my business
I went for option: Unlisted. I said to her “Ohhhhh! Babies!”
You can probably guess what happened next. Tears. Disclosure of her personal situation.
And then, maybe worst of all, Apologies for crying and being a mess.
Shit. Double Shit. F-word. Cue: My apology. For invading her privacy. For being a complete clot of a human being. For her situation.
In the end, I was lucky. The staff member is a lovely person, and my reputation as a caring manager is marginally stronger than my reputation as an insensitive idiot, so no irreparable harm done. It was only mentioned again once, at the staff member’s instigation.
And I learned my lesson that I will never never not ever do that again.