A friend recently commented that Lady M and I are both warm, friendly and laid back individuals, but he could also imagine that when needed we wouldn’t be. Its not the most backhanded compliment I’ve ever received, but it has struck a chord this week.
In short succession I’ve heard how mere mention of me has ended arguments and raised disclosures of honest fear from people who have barely met me. I have obviously left the menacing stillness switch on without realising it.
On the one hand, there’s a certain ego-fuelling satisfaction in hearing that mere mention of my name has silenced dissent, but it isn’t something that easily meshes with my own self image, or the working brand that I had hoped I project with people outside a personal context.
I think – from conversations with colleagues recently – that my quiet calm, dry humour, and reserve are being interpreted as harsh judgement of everything that I see. Given how I am not shy about calling out unhelpful behaviours or speech, I can see how this might have a chilling effect on some, but I’m not convinced that this is necessarily a bad thing.
When I was working on the shopfloor, so to speak, I had a lot more freedom to speak my mind on things, but this is not always a luxury that I can appropriately exercise now that I am managing people.
Confidentiality plays a much larger part in the sort of information that now comes my way about people and situations in the workplace, and I temper my conversations accordingly without resorting to cryptic allusions. Perhaps this is adding to the impression that I am somehow silently judging people (well, more than usual anyway).
I may have mixed emotions about the reported reputation, but I won’t deny it is also a useful tool in the box as I work on different sites. I can allow myself the luxury of being friendly, but I am still their manager; so when I have to deal with the more unpleasant side of the job having that degree of emotional separation is invaluable.
We’ll see how this evolves. I hope the consensus migrates to one of respect rather than fear. Most people seem to be there already thankfully. I’m trying to stop fights, not look for new ones.