ASK MYRNA: WORK PERSONAS
Our resident advice columnist, Myrna Joy, offers the Heauxs' perspective on all your nagging problems. Send her your questions—large or small, inane or petty, or inane and petty—to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk to me about boundaries, please. I work in a very take-your-whole-self to work type place, which is great I suppose. Well, to be honest it's kind of terrifying. All my other previous jobs have been places where the right choice was to have a Work Persona that was nothing-but-business. That was simple: At work I was a work-person whose only interests were working.
But here it's expected that I will be real. My boss (just so you can picture us, he’s a guy, and I’m a woman) is also my buddy. And that's great. He's great! It's truly very nice that there is someone I genuinely like at out-of-town meetings and whatever. We can debrief in a casual, "I can't believe Joe Doe just said that!" way over beers. And now my husband and I are becoming real-life friends with my boss and his wife … and it’s a lot because I have to show up with both my personal and my work self on display.
OK, so here’s the problem I’m facing. I recently got a raise, and my first reaction was, “Celebrate with margaritas!” My second reaction was to realize I don’t have a ton of local friends, which led to my third reaction: “Invite [boss’s cool wife]!” In the end, I did not invite her because isn’t that crossing a line? I mean, I want it not to be because like I said she’s cool. But can I really say, "Omg omg I got a raise, come get a margarita with me!" to my boss’s wife?
Dear Boundarita Ora,
If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past year, it’s that women need to stop worrying that we are crossing boundaries, and start noting—and avoiding, and speaking out against—men who are pushing boundaries.
In fact, I would argue that the only dynamic that matters in the workplace is power, and you are not the one with the power. Your boss is. Your CEO is. Your CFO is. Probably that dude in the office next door who technically is the same level as you but actually he has a country club membership and a seat on some old boys’ network is. Even your boss’s wife is. So, go ahead and text your boss’s wife to see if she wants to meet for margaritas to celebrate how awesome you are in your job—at no point are you using your power to manipulate someone else. Your boss’s wife can say no, and you—a kind, thoughtful, slightly lower in the food chain, badass, budding career woman—will hear that no. In fact, you don’t have the power to override that no even if you wanted to, something that everyone in each of these situations knows to be true. And it’s that knowledge, and your apparent thoughtfulness, that means you are in safe territory.
In your worries, I hear my own thought process. I hear a person whose own boundaries have been pushed time and time again. I hear Salma Hayek speaking about her monster of a boss (whose name I don’t even need to tell you), echoing the many times we’ve all said no:
No to opening the door to him at all hours of the night, hotel after hotel, location after location, where he would show up unexpectedly, including one location where I was doing a movie he wasn’t even involved with ….
No, no, no, no, no …
I don’t think he hated anything more than the word “no.”
You’ve said no so many times—and probably enough of those nos haven’t been heard—that you are now hypersensitive to others’ boundaries. That’s a good place to be in. It’s a thoughtful, considerate place. But you’re not the person who pushes boundaries. You’re the person who has a big heart, a desire for more friends, an openness to deeper connections, a boundless enthusiasm for margaritas (and we all know how I love a good margarita). You’re the person who just wants to be friends with her boss, and his wife.
The short answer to your question? Be friends. Stop worrying. Watch Frida. Let the men worry for once.
Margaritas 4 lyfe,