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D*mned if you do...
Yesterday I had a speaking engagement I had been planning for and looking forward to. I had everything set up and ready to go. It started well.
And then the cat—the cat I had so carefully barricaded in another room so she WOULDN’T be on the call—escaped.
Not only did she escape, she figured out how to open the door to my office, the one I had so carefully closed in order to keep down the noise (yup—the velociraptor cat is a “clever girl” who now can open doors).
So, there I am, trying to give a professional presentation while wrangling a 7-month-old kitty who wants to PLAY.
I was able to put get her out of frame and focus back, but then she jumped—pounced!—on the ancient, invalid little dog who had been sleeping silently at my feet, and he started barking. Loudly. Repeatedly.
Now, I think the people on the call were largely understanding about the whole thing, and I was pretty much able to get everything back on track. But I really hate having anything happen in professional settings that people have to be understanding about.
If anyone who was in that meeting yesterday was annoyed by the interruption, I sincerely apologize.
But the challenge was this: that beloved little dog was there at my feet because he was terminally ill, and he was only able to really settle when he was cuddled up to me. I knew during that presentation that I only had a few hours left with him. But cuddling a dog while giving a professional presentation is considered, well, not really professional.
I was trying to “have it all,” and it got bungled.
This was a very specific example, of course, but it is probably a relatable one (especially for professional women). If we leave work early to see our kids in a holiday pageant, we are unprofessional. If we miss the pageant because we have to work, we are uncaring parents.
D*amned if we do; d*mned if we don’t. Kobayashi Maru.
Even if many people are more enlightened to the realities of work/life balance, there’s always the concern about the negative perception that someone might have of the choices we make.
As leaders, we can be transparent about the challenges of work/life balance we face, and we can help our people by being accommodating and understanding with their balancing acts. Make adjustments so people can deal with the limitations, and help them learn strategies to keep things in balance as much as possible.
And, next time, remember to put the cat in Hannibal-Lecter-type restraints before the Zoom call starts.