I’m close to a coworker who is about to be fired. Management has warned her that her work is not up to par. Instead of leveling up, she criticizes our boss. I’ve hinted that she doesn’t have what it takes to do the work but she’s in complete denial. It’s weird because on Instagram she posts like she’s a fierce feminist but at work during staff meetings and in the field, she behaves like a little girl. She even talks in a little girl voice! I’m writing because I think she’s going to be fired this week and will want to vent. I don’t have the bandwidth. Should I tell her what I really think or let her vent?
Both, please. When your friend calls, let her vent for two or three minutes. Then bring the conversation into balance (and honor that limited bandwidth) by saying: “I’d like to add something now.” If she protests because she wants to finish her rant, tell her that you have listened often to her complaints. Explain that you can’t handle listening to her speak in that way anymore. Admit that venting offers an emotional release for her, but creates stress for you and doesn’t ignite necessary change. Explain that in previous conversations you have tried to hint she must take more responsibility for difficulties at work. Apologize for not being direct and honest with her in the past. Tell her you want her talent and skills to be honored and valued in her next job. Be clear that you believe she can create a better work experience for herself. Add that she may need therapy or life coaching for support in her career.
Let’s put you in the hot seat. You’re sharp enough to notice that your friend doesn’t know who she is. On social media, she appears to be a warrior for women. In person, she whines, deflects and blames. She even manipulates her voice so she sounds like a wounded child. She is probably unaware of the split. As long as it remains unconscious, she can’t mature into the fierce feminist self she admires. The same is true for you. You portray yourself as a close friend. We rely on our good friends to help us see what we cannot see about ourselves and to guide us into our best lives. If you are afraid to speak the truth because doing so may spark a reaction or confrontation, level up. Your co-worker might speak with a child’s voice, but you’re not using your voice at all. A therapist or coach only knows what a client chooses to share. If your co-worker is unaware that she regresses and if she doesn’t speak that way in the presence of the therapist or coach, she might not receive what she needs from her sessions. That would be such a waste.
It’s also essential for you to speak up because your perspective shifts workplace power dynamics. You understand intuitively that for women to be heard, they must speak up as adults in the workplace. Start by raising your own voice and invite others to rise with you.