Working Girl (and Lizards and Hamsters)

I’m a bad boss.

I give more negative feedback than positive, frequently telling my team they’re lazy, behind, unimaginative, or doomed.

When I give positive feedback, it’s narrow and limited. Great job this morning! I say, when I should be telling them they’ve kicked butt every day for two years with dismal pay and grim working conditions. Who else, after all, would work for free, two to six hours per day, with interruptions at unpredictable intervals? (And with a bad boss?)

I grant vacation days unwillingly. I make them check email and social media even when they’re theoretically not working.

Sick days and personal days are almost unheard of. To qualify for one of those, you have to be barely functional. Cross-country moves and a month-long near-constant barrage of visiting family? Work later and get up earlier, you lazy bums!

I ignore the signs of burn-out. Mental health days are for wusses. Press on, team! Wrists hurt? Dictate! Throat hurts? Drink more water! Butt hurts? Stand up!

You, over there. Are you slacking? If you can’t actually put your hands on the keyboard, at least you should be thinking about work. Did you just start to relax? Stress up! Surely there’s something useful you could be doing.

I’m a bad boss, and here’s the thing: I’ve got to quit it.

You know how they say you should be as kind to yourself as you’d be to a well-loved friend? (And you know how hard it is?)

I want to run this team—me, my lizard brain, the workers in the basement, the hamsters on the treadmills, and all the other critters on team Bell—like the best boss I’ve ever had, not Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl.

So, starting tomorrow, Team Bell is getting a real vacation. The hamsters, the lizards, the dudes downstairs, and I are going to the beach, where we are not going to work, and, more to the point, we are not going to hate on ourselves for not working.

When we come back from the beach, and the next slew of visitors arrives—nearly two straight weeks of them—we are going to enjoy them, not see them as an obstacle to productivity. The lack of childcare? It is not the universe thwarting us, it is an opportunity to throw ourselves into mothering for a few more weeks before school snatches the kiddos away and tosses them into the fray.

Perhaps, if I am exceptionally kind to myself and my team, if I am loving and give myself space to think, if I really relax for a few weeks before the school year kicks into gear—perhaps my mental health will even improve to the point where I can stop talking about myself in the plural.