The most important task of my day yesterday was to take the female team member for chai. I love how chai brings people together. Smoking, too. But I don’t like smokers (kill yourself, why are you trying to kill me?) so I treat chai as the lesser evil. I don’t even like chai.
Anyway, X and I have interacted on and off since she joined as a management trainee. She is from my B school, a fact I keep forgetting. But since I moved into the new role, she has kept a distance. And since she doesn’t report to me directly, we have no reason to interact except when we talk about sales numbers. I, generally, leave it to the other person to take the first step. I will keep a distance if that’s what you want or we can hang out for chai everyday, if that works for you. But this doesn’t work when you are in a senior position, many people get intimidated (that’s what I’d like to believe, maybe they hate me, think am a bitch and don’t take me seriously) and don’t approach you. The onus is on me to take that first step. In fact, I have made a list of people am going to hang out with for chai to make them feel a part of the team.
X and I went to a nice chai cafe. Obviously, we weren’t going to stand at a tapri and have tea. Over her green tea and my iced tea (sugar water), I proceeded to ask her if she was doing ok, if the team who report to her treat her ok, if the team she is part of treats her ok, if she feels safe, what does she do over the weekends etc etc. I told her that while she doesn’t report to me, she can speak to me in case of any issues. Woman to woman. More importantly, I asked her not to tolerate any sexist shit that the team throws at her. And there has been quite a bit of it.
(I can already her APC saying ‘Not another rant. So NOT reading this blog again’).
Everytime we are in the meeting, I watch her get interrupted by the team (not everyone, just one or two people) because a combination of a young, smart, pretty, educated woman who knows more than someone who has been working in the field for 10 years brings out the worst in people. I keep remembering Trump interrupting Hillary.
This is an actual scenario that happened (I didn’t overhear it but got to know about it later).
S (to X) : You don’t drink? Why don’t you drink?
(I pull the leg of non drinkers and vegetarians and don’t differentiate between the genders of the people)
X : I don’t
Branch manager (to S) : You don’t drink, either, right?
S : No. I don’t.
Branch manager : Does your wife drink?
S (VERY defensively) : Of course NOT
Now I know this guy like a textbook. Now am not surprised he would try to pay for lunch or autos. He stopped when I told him “You are only offering to pay because am a woman. If I was a man, you wouldn’t do it”.
I can deal patiently with people who think they know their job better than me and don’t think I deserve to be in the position am in. I get it. All my colleagues (all male. Am the first female person in this role) have been through this. One person was promoted in the SAME region and his colleagues, many of them senior guys who were in line for the promotion, were now reporting to him. Atleast I moved channels.
But if someone thinks that I can’t do the job because am a female, well, I have no option but to turn on my bitch mode.
It is also hilarious how all the gossip reaches me even when I don’t actively seek it.