By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
One of the most popular entertainment mediums throughout Latin America is the telenovela. They are the penultimate of dramatic themes: power, betrayal, jealousy and lust. No me gusta pero me entretiene — It’s awful, but thoroughly entertaining.
All kinds of explanations exist about why Latin Americans can get so engrossed in a series that—seriously—cause traffic patterns to change, water levels to drop as toilets flush in unison, or divorce rates go up because of the popularity of a telenovela.
What about you?
Does your life feel like a telenovela at work? Do you get obsessed about what you want to say to a co-worker or your boss? Do you go into the office planning a fight of good versus evil?
Latinas are often stereotyped as being overly emotional or dramatic and part of that comes from being deeply in touch with our feelings and the importance we assign to our personal relationships. This is our cultura.
Early in my career when someone said, “Don’t take it personally, it’s just business,” I would walk away feeling even more offended. If you just turned down my project or rejected my contribution — that IS about me! Unfortunately, if you are prone to react quickly, use choice words, or — gasp — make a vengeful post on Facebook. Be careful.
It really can hurt your career.
So mujeres, here are a few steps for keeping it real and not losing your credibility at work and still sleep soundly at night.
The first step is — no surprise — wait. Don’t send the e-mail. Don’t stop by the person’s office to give them a piece of your mind. Go home. Take a walk. Think carefully about the scope of the actions that upset you. Put it into some context.
Is this going to be important a week from now or a year from now? Does this person have real influence over your career or are they just an annoying co-worker. Anything that shows a hint of discrimination does need to be tackled immediately but a difference of opinion is not a reason to march over to your human resource director or write off the entire relationship!
Next, look carefully at the consequences of each action you might take. Business leader Max DePree once said, “Leaders manage the meaning people assign to events and circumstances around them”. Your actions in the face of conflict will become part of your reputation. Fly off the handle and you’ll definitely be seen as someone governed by emotions versus what’s best for the team, your project or the business.
Find a trusted friend who will provide a realistic assessment of you and your situation. And, be ready to listen and think through your response.
Last, yes, you do need to respond. Your reputation in the workplace can also be damaged if you just never engage in resolving conflict. If it is at all possible to work through the differences, then do it. There are no perfect relationships and learning to get through differences or repair a wounded one is usually in your best interests.
Leadership requires tenacity, business acumen, and interpersonal skills that allow for professional relationships to evolve and grow. While some do get away with being ego-centric, controlling, or arrogant — all of that takes its toll on them and their company. You can manage the drama in your career, keep your cool, and yes–live with integrity!
(Featured Photo: Scene from telenovela Porque El Amor Manda)
Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™ on Facebook or on Twitter @SavvyLatinaInfo.