Who: Features Journalist
Where: London, UK
What: A young writer comes to terms with her manager's shortcomings
I had been doing entertainment journalism for five years but had always wanted to move into features because I find it insightful and inspiring. When the opportunity came to start a features role at the age of 26, I was over the moon.
I remember my first day. My manager was very smiley and took me out for a coffee in a nearby cafe. She explained the position to me, along with her expectations, and my first impression was that she seemed approachable and nice.
As part of the job, I had to write and publish six original stories before lunchtime. I was initially slightly overwhelmed with the amount but felt embarrassed to admit this to my manager. I always struggled with asking for help in work as I didn’t want to be a burden or seem incompetent.
One morning I forgot to set live one of the priority articles on the site. My manager, who was working from home, called me up and was furious at me: “It’s completely ridiculous! You just can’t do things like that!”
I apologised profusely and accepted my responsibility. She then calmed down and said if I needed support with my workload, I had to be more vocal with her.
Taking her feedback on board, I nervously asked her for help over the internal messenger.
She read my message but didn’t reply until a few hours later. My manager didn’t acknowledge the support I required but brought up my mistake again and said I must try harder.
Her response left me feeling confused and frustrated because she completely contradicted what she told me to do.
This happened on several occasions during my year in the role. I once gave her a first draft of my article for some guidance and my manager told me she didn’t like the tone of my piece.
“You need to get some common sense like Sarah”, she yelled at me, referring to my colleague.
I felt completely deflated because when I asked for clarity to learn from my mistakes, I was faced with passive aggressive comments and criticism.
Even though it pained me that my manager didn’t like me, it made me accept in work you won’t be liked by everyone. But one person’s opinion doesn’t define you and your working abilities. By being communicative, enthusiastic and helpful in the team, my colleagues saw my potential and encouraged me to enhance my skills.
The CEO always praised my work in team meetings which gave me an inner strength that someone senior thought I was great at my job. He recognised I wanted to learn and develop and gave me the direction I wanted. My teammates were supportive of my ideas in group discussions which gave me my confidence back. Embracing the positives away from my manager helped me to deal with her.
I have since stepped into management and the experience has shaped me into an empathetic, supportive and patient manager. The biggest thing I've learned is that empathy is everything.
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