Issue #13: The Emotional Labor Union is here to empower you 🙌🏼

Ever been in search for an outlet to make new friendships with local women? There is a new resource for that! The Emotional Labor Union was created in September 2017 (the same month as Capital Women was created!) in order to allow women to open up to each other, learn from each other, and become vulnerable in a safe space together. In today's podcast, learn about that and much, much more with news and events that are relevant to you below.

One of my biggest professional strengths is that I stay cool under pressure. Unfortunately, it seems to be working against me at my new job! I work with a small team on events, and my manager in particular tends to get really stressed about them. She responds by getting a bit micro-managy. I’m not sure, but it feels like she interprets my not-freaking-out as apathy or laziness! It’s like she thinks that I’m not on top of the details if I’m not pulling my hair out over them. Event planning is stressful; I just don’t get emotional or panicky, and I don’t need an additional source of stress from my manager being panicky. What do I do?

Oh, gosh. That sounds terrible. People often say that they really want people who work well under pressure on their teams, and that having cooler heads in a crisis helps make everyone feel calmer. But I think what you describe happens more often than we might think; if I’m really stressing about a project and another stakeholder isn’t, I can imagine thinking, “They just don’t care about this as much as I do!”

That being said, I think there are some things you can do here. You don’t need to pretend to be freaking out yourself, but you do want to communicate that you care deeply about the results and that you’re on top of the details.

One solution might be to simply share more information in a more structured way. So, if your manager tends to stress on the details, you might start writing a weekly or even daily morning email (or propose a short daily stand-up, depending on the vibe of your office) that just lists important status updates that your manager might be thinking about. Especially if they tend to be the same for each event; it could be an easy template to build.

Something like:

Hi (manager)!

Here’s your Tuesday update for the 11/23 engineering panel:

Venue: contract is signed; we’re waiting on a floor and table plan. I’ve contacted IT and they’ve marked the calendar, so they’ll be on-hand for A/V.

Catering: Gathering quotes. Expect to have some finalists by end of week.

Panelists: As you know, Grady dropped out, so we’re finding another person to represent her space. I’ve got a short list and am having Jamillah reach out (would love additional suggestions!)

Guest List: Dom’s team is owning this; he’ll send to you when it’s ready for approval (anyone you want to make sure is invited that wouldn’t be on our regular D.C. list?)

There are a couple benefits to this approach. First, you’re giving lots of info., which should be reassuring to your manager (and hopefully is even more so, if she sees the phrase “contract is signed” in the Venue update every day for a week, so it really sinks in). But you’ll notice there are also places asking for her input. These questions illustrate that you’re thinking through details that she cares about and making sure you get it right by bringing her in when its appropriate, without bombarding her with questions. You’re giving her extra insight into how you’re going about this project, without bringing a tremendous amount of extra work on yourself.

The other way I would deal with this, honestly, is just with relentless positivity. When your manager says something like, “Oh, my god. We need to have the invitation designed by the end of the week, and where are we on chair rentals?!” try to always insert something positive: “Alexia is a great designer. She’s got it handled. I’ll poke the chair rental people for a quote, but I’m not worried at all; they’re pros, and we’ve never had an issue in the past. They’re gonna look just great.”

If you have a good/reasonably casual relationship with your manager, you can try adding in a “Breathe! Everything is on track. It’s gonna be OK!” It might just be that you’re new to the job and need to develop a style and level of communication that works for you both … and that might look like more friendly reassurances, more detail in communication, or more frequent communication. Or all of the above! But I’m confident you’ll figure it out together.

If you’ve got a work, job-search, or networking question for Kim, hit her up at kimberlee.stiens@gmail.com or find her on Twitter: @ranavain

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  • "I don't think there is anybody in my family who has ever had a portrait done," said Michelle Obama. [NPR]

  • February 20: At the Lemon Collective, talk about sex without being worried about people saying it's TMI.
  • February 26: For female college students, this support group will discuss topics such as anxiety, depression, new roommates, relationships, stress, social pressures, and more.
  • March 3: This Women's History Day event at the DAR Museum is perfect for those of all ages and for Girl Scouts to earn the "Celebrating Community" Brownie badge.
  • March 3: Join the Women's Leaders Circle in order to learn how to change the trajectory of one's life and career.
  • March 4: In this panel, local female founders, investors, launchers, and scalers will talk about their personal experiences with following their passions in male-dominated fields.

Michelle Goldchain and Kim Stiens contributed to this newsletter.