To my fellow Tech’s – I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation where we’ve passed by a co-worker at the coffee machine and gave off a smile or friendly gesture, only to be left with a blank stare and no response. “Having a bad day i see…” is usually what’s going through my head at that point but I usually pay it no nevermind and keep it pushing throughout my busy day. The fact that busy people have bad days but deal with them in different ways came even more apparent when I joined a large team as a Lead UX Developer and was coined as “too happy”. There is no way that I don’t get frustrated and want to toss my laptop out the window but I’m not the one to display that anger to the rest of my coworkers. It’s not my nature. There are times I’ve been pushed to the point I had to step out of the “too happy” and into the “fairly pissed” zone. But how do you keep your composure while networking with not so nice people?
I begin to approach my situations differently. Being a female developer, I battled for years to not appear too aggressive in fear of being coined combative or angry. Nothing worse than being an angry Black woman on top of all of that and in tech if you get titled that in the minds of others, it’s a wrap. Did I stop smiling at people at work? No… being a Lead in tech, your looked up to and somewhat expected to have a sort of stance. For that fact, I smiled even more. I wanted my team to know they could rely on me, even though I was going through hell at home and no one knew it. But smiling at everyone doesn’t mean you’re happy! This statement is true and I had to understand that it wasn’t my job to piss others off because I’m pissed off. I realized it was easier to fake a smile than have my bad attitude reflect off on everyone around me, especially my team.
Socially, my understanding of how workplace culture works helped me contribute to its improvement in many of the organizations I’ve worked at. I begin to initiate and participate in networking events that brought togetherness. On a social standpoint, I even begin to attend events out of office which created interest from those internally. They got to see who I was on a social standpoint and I didn’t hide it and still don’t. I’m one to believe that if you can smile your stress off, you can create a more constructive environment which ultimately changes (or doesn’t). Thus my need to network and be around others who are completely different than me became my focus early into my 20’s.
It’s true, tech can be stressful at times, but it is an industry we can learn a lot socially from. Full of unique individuals with a ton of different stories. I remember I met a woman at the cafeteria in one of my old positions who said, “people who smile all the time are annoying”. I laughed and cried at the same time. In some cases, you just can’t brighten the day of someone who is already miserable, it’s impossible. Those type of people I smile at anyways. Not to be annoying, only to share that I am aware that you are pitiful and I refuse to partake in your pity party in any case. Carry on!
I attended an after work social at a bar and grill and everyone was smiling. Perhaps these are the people who are just like me, who found the missing link to happiness at work and are capable of managing stress with a smile [and a drink].
If you find yourself not able to be happy when you walk into your workplace, jump out of your norm and join a new professional organization or afterwork social that will remove you out of the norm. You can’t please everyone but being friendly and networking is a mediocrity ice breaker in my book. Socially, the more you surround yourself with people who are different, the more delighted you are to find peace and substance in new situations thus making being happy everything to smile about!