Or, what to do when you’re triggered by your mansplaining colleague.
So, of the 34 menopause-related symptoms a woman can have, raging bouts of anger and hostility (I’m paraphrasing) are a regular part of my perimenopause experience. It’s getting increasingly harder to manage at work, and I can’t tell if the late September heat (and humidity) is exacerbating the feelings or WHAT, but MAN ARE THEY INTENSE! While it’s not an everyday thing (yet), these intense periods are increasing at work —
which, if you’re like me and depend on that particular stream of income to support your existence, is a scary and very dangerous thing. Because of this, I’ve begun to develop strategies for surviving the “hostility hijack” at work. You know what I’m talking about! Now sometimes, you’ll recognize that you’ve been triggered and you’ll have the command of self to talk yourself down. In these instances, it’s best to have some reinforcing mantras you can use to channel your rage (think Drew Barrymore as the Firestarter, — “Back off! Just BACK OFF!”). One of my personal faves is, “NOT TODAY SATAN!”
Now, those of us who are living this mind/body freak show in real time, know that sometimes talking yourself down is not a practical option. This is when you have to just get up and walk away. Admittedly, this may seem awkward — to you and everyone around you. But I assure you, it’s a lot less awkward than actually punching your insufferable, mansplaining colleague in the throat or searing invisible death laser rays into his skull with a crazy lady stare that, let’s be honest, EVERYONE CAN SEE. If you’re the type that feels compelled to explain yourself (increasingly, I find that I am not), you can always pretend that you received an urgent email that requires your immediate attention. This will require mediocre acting skills that leave your colleagues feeling a mixture of concern, curiosity and possibly, resentment (but this will likely be because they, themselves are envious that you get to leave this dumb meeting early). Note, this tactic is most appropriate for peer-based meetings.
Another tactic (at which I’ve become expert – a topic we may discuss in a future post), is to develop a deep bronchial cough that gets worse the longer the meeting goes on. Now for this one, you’ll want to come to the meeting with a bottle of water and take tiny sips here and there to appear as if you’re really trying to clear up the cough. After about 10 or 15 minutes of this, you’re going to erupt into a furious coughing fit that will be UNCONTROLLABLE. One or two “cough tears” are helpful for effect IF you’re able to muster. This will elicit genuine feelings of concern and mild irritation amongst those in the room, and the narcissistic hypochondriacs will be replaying scenes from “Contagion” in their heads, imagining themselves to be the adulterous Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s at this point when it will be pretty clear that you have unspoken permission to gather your things and leave – quick, fast and in a hurry! Now, you’ll want to take care with this one. While it’s appropriate for use with your peers and above, it should be used sparingly and only if the alternative is an unbridled “hostility hijack” that you KNOW will result in a stability check, i.e., “gift of feedback” session with your boss, if not something worse…
Of course, “working from home” or taking a personal or sick day is ALWAYS the best option if and when, you can swing it. Because sometimes, IT’S JUST NOT WORTH THE RISK! Especially on those days when you wake up with the gnawing feeling that if you go in to the office today, you just might lose your job. THIS is called intuition, and she is a wise friend to whom we should all listen.