AND BE GLAD THAT YOU DID
The phone message was full of foul language and vile sentiments…and I sent it to my boss!
It was possibly one of the best things I have ever done.
A common enough mistake
Chances are, most of us have done something like this – written a few snide comments about someone in a group email then pressed “reply all” or sent a gossipy phone message to the person it was about rather than our bitching partner.
It is not nice, it adds to office tensions as gossip and cliques make everyone nervous about whether they are in the popular crowd. I have honestly always tried to avoid being part of such groups.
So why did I do it?
Let me explain:
I was on the last day of my holiday. I was in a restaurant and I had turned my phone off. A lovely relaxing end to my break.
The cage door had been opened.
Without thinking much about it, I switched the phone on to several messages – family, friends and one from a colleague. She was bemoaning customers at work…so I snapped off a sarcastic, rather filthy, response aimed at making her laugh and releasing the tension I knew she was feeling.
I put the phone back into my bag but immediately felt it vibrate with a call. Even before picking it up, I realised what I had done…I had seen my colleague’s name but not noticed that it was from our management group, not her personal account.
What do you do…think think!!
I didn’t think!
In a blind panic, I selected “delete for ME” rather than “delete for EVERYONE”…there was nothing I could do now. The phone message was there, for everyone to see.
And I could not delete it.
I was desperately embarrassed. I do not show that side of my personality to many…certainly not those I regard as “people I work with” rather than friends in the workplace.
I’m a closed book, private person who is professional at work and totally different at home.
OK, I could have handed the phone to someone on the next table and persuaded them to say they had replied to the message as a joke. I could have said that the phone had been stolen.
One, I didn’t think that quickly. Two, I tend not to lie.
So I apologised.
The big boss had something to say about it, so I apologised again.
Then I turned my phone off.
And only turned it on when I wanted to use it. That was quite liberating.
And I made a point of no longer pressurising myself to respond to every message I receive immediately.
I still have a job.
The “big boss” had a chat about it – she accepted that this was my humour, although she does not share, nor like, my style.
She listened as I explained how my colleague and I deal with the substantial stresses of the workplace with gallows humour. And to how we have to keep our personal phones turned on when we are on call for work.
She also asked why I received phone messages whilst I was on holiday – we spoke about how the messenger system is difficult to temporarily opt out of. Group texts between colleagues had been popping onto my phone during my time off. It made it very hard to switch off from work. But with family and elderly parents, I did not want to cut myself off by turning off my phone.
It was good to be listened to.
The embarrassment died, the learning remained
Although I am still cringing over the message I sent, I am glad I sent it. It gave me the kick up the backside I needed – be more mindful of tapping and zapping.
Thoughtlessness can cause untold damage.
More importantly to my own mental health though was the realisation that I was trying to talk to friends, chat to my adult children AND BE AT WORK whilst sitting in a restaurant with my husband.
None of the people in that list were getting my full attention.
So I have made a vow not to allow the smartphone to be smarter than I am. It will not dominate my time until I decide it can. Nor will it add to my stress levels. It will serve ME.
Boundaries have been set – work stays at work, messages are responded to when I can give the person the respect they deserve. The alerts and bleeps no longer induce a rush to check who, or what, is talking to me.
I now own my phone rather than the other way around. I have SO much more time in my life!
A couple of years later and I no longer have a job.
Did I do it again? Did I get sacked?
No, the stresses of the job became greater than ever in the pandemic and I left. No forward plan really, I just suddenly realised that life was passing me by and all I did was work.
Even when I wasn’t at work, the pressure was still there. Like an unwanted presence in the room. I was waiting for the phone to ring, begging it not to. Dreading a work related phone message. On days off, I was usually at work the next. Unwinding was very hard.
I was on edge, weepy, touchy. My family got fed up with my never having time for them. My husband must have wondered who he married. I would walk in – burst in sometimes – after a long day, either speechless or talking incessantly, making little sense.
Enough was enough!
I had always wanted to write. Who knew how much time I had left…so I left the financial security behind to write.
I can do that when I want, see family, go out, write until midnight…it works! And I am ME again; I had lost touch with that person!
Naturally money is tight, I worry about it. But I have faith that life will work out. Rather than waiting for a stress related stroke or heart attack, I am alive.
For the first few months, I jumped every time that phone made a noise. A message, a call – my heart rate soared. Then someone casually asked “WHY HAVEN’T YOU CHANGED THE RING TONE?”
And the writing? See it here on my poetry site. It’s not all hearts and flowers…it’s poetry about LIFE, the good, the bad and the ugly!
And HERE too….the motorhome played a major part in calming me during some emotional storms. Now I reach her already chilled and ready for an adventure.