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As women, we’re constantly bombarded with critiques on our professional behavior: We’re too emotional. We’re too bossy. We don’t speak up enough. We speak up too much. As 20-somethings, we’re also at the bottom of the totem pole — which can equate to even more insecurities in the workplace: We “haven’t paid our dues,” or we’re “too millennial.”
I personally struggle with several things at work — time management, speaking with confidence, work/life balance — but without a doubt, my biggest struggle at the office is asserting myself — even more, caring about the way people perceive me asserting myself. I hate confrontation, so I often come off as a bit of a pushover (I’ve literally said the words “I’m not a regular editor, I’m a cool editor” before, no joke) — until I’ve had enough, and then I go into total HBIC-mode to over-compensate. I have a hard time maintaining a balance between the two extremes.
Everyone else’s perception of my quiet-yet-direct personality is something I’ve struggled with my whole life, but I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t change the world; you can only change yourself. So although I do wish everyone would just take everything I say (or don’t say) with a grain of salt and be less sensitive (which is a whole feminist thing you probably don’t care for me to get into, but I’ll just say this: Women, stop apologizing for getting straight to the point — men aren’t expected to sugar-coat, so you shouldn’t be either), instead I ask for feedback regularly and pat myself on the back every time I communicate effectively about an issue with a co-worker.
I was interested in seeing what other women my age deal with on a daily basis, so I asked our contributors: What’s your No. 1 personal struggle at work? And what are you doing to work on it?
One. “The No. 1 thing I struggle with at work: Not doing everything myself. Delegation and following up! I tend to want to take care of everyone and often times forget to take care of myself. I now make to-do lists in my Day Designer planner so that I can go through each day and see what is absolutely necessary for me to complete myself opposed to what I can have a shift supervisor do.” —Hayley
Two. “I feel like I struggle with a lot of things, but the main issue is usually work/life balance. I feel like I always have to be available to answer emails, IMs, and to handle anything left over. Then I end up feeling burnt out and angry that my work has taken over my life. I’m an extreme person, so I kind of swing back and forth with it. Then I end up wanting to scroll Facebook during work hours, and I feel stressed from my to-do list. It’s not healthy at all, and causes a lot of unnecessary stress in my life.
“I try to manage it by setting specific hours that I’m allowed to do certain things, putting my phone away during work hours, and completely leaving work alone on the weekends. I’m still working on it — it’s definitely hard to do when your job is on the computer and can be done from anywhere.” —Natasha
Three. “It’s really hard to have a mental illness and reconcile it with a 9-5 structured environment in an understaffed office, and that has been my last two day jobs. Not enough people trying to do too much work for not enough money is hard enough on a neurotypical person, but when you physically cannot make yourself sleep on time, you have no semblance of focus, and you have unbidden trauma flashbacks at inconvenient times, it’s 100x worse.
“I don’t know how to overcome it. My employers have treated my going to therapy (which is almost always only available during office hours) like an inconvenience and it has sort of ‘counted against me’ as an employee. I can’t always afford the medicine or doctors visits that will help me be productive or even just functional. I don’t know how to overcome it. I haven’t managed it, because I’ve been fired twice for it.” —Chelsea
Four. “I’ve always struggled with not getting along with at least one person – I have a bit of a strong personality, I guess? (I don’t necessarily see that, but that’s what I’ve been told!) Learning how to have a working relationship with someone who I know actively dislikes me (or vice-versa) has been tough. I also struggle with knowing when to stand up for myself and when to sit down – while it’s always my natural instinct to never take ANY shit, sometimes the situation would realistically benefit more from me holding my tongue and letting it fizzle out instead of complicating things further. I’m learning, but that’s still something I’m actively working on and have to be aware of.” —Christine
Five. “The number one thing I struggle with at work is being social. Even at home, I’m a huge introvert, and I talk to most of my friends through texts. It gives me more time to think about responses, and I’m always worried I’ll say the wrong thing or misunderstand another person. I’ve learned to overcome this issue by just forcing myself out of my comfort zone, and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s been really rewarding. I love coming to work and talking with my co-workers. I love my job, but after working retail, I can say that even the dullest of jobs can be SO much better when you work with friends.” —Shannon
Six. “I’ve always struggled with focus and prioritization – even back when I was still in school. At work, it became even more of a struggle because not every project came with deadlines. Or a less important project would technically have had an earlier deadline. Now, I’ve been in the same job a few years so I have an easier time spotting priorities and buckling down on them. If I’m having trouble focusing, I’ll find a quiet area of the office, decide I’m working for 15 minutes without a break, and then see where I am — just to get started.
Another tool that’s really helped has been my Day Designer planner because it has a to-do list and then a separate “Today’s Top Three” section. That keeps me from handling a dozen less-important tasks and never getting to the main point.” —Meleah
If you’d like to become a contributor, shoot Elise an email: email@example.com