Here’s the situation: I’m in a meeting with my coworker, Liz, our boss Roger, and a few other members of our small team. Liz is explaining to us why she wants to put a process in place for new signups to our SaaS product. It’s a sensible suggestion, but our boss is reluctant. Here is Liz’s chance to sway him.
She says, looking at the table, “I’m probably just being over-procedural like normal, but I feel like it’s kind of important that we have something like a process for newcomers?”
Our boss doesn’t look convinced.
She continues, “I just think… if we have a set order of operations now, it’ll be easier when we start to get big — not that we couldn’t manage even then, but it would definitely be a little simpler, don’t you think?”
Silence reigns in the room.
The overwhelming and contradictory rain of messages is confusing even for the most seasoned (female) professional. It’s a thin, thin line, and on either side lies catastrophe. Too assertive? Take it down a notch. Not assertive enough? Nobody will take you seriously.
So when my colleague Liz was speaking up there, even though to my boss it looked like unprofessional floundering, I, of course, recognized the classic symptoms of “speaking while female.” Who hasn’t been there?
She was trying to convey the fact that our current process, designed by our boss, is flawed. Not through any fault of its own, it’s simply outdated for our current business model.
However, she’s learned that our boss is touchy. He values feedback only as long as it’s positive, or couched in terms of self-deprecation, hence why Liz referred to herself as “over-procedural” as a way to excuse her implication that his idea was not effective. Time after time, though he’d asked for our…