So you know about that whole Lena Dunham thing, right? She went public with a social media rant on NFL player Odell Beckham Jr. after he allegedly snubbed her at the 2016 Met Gala. Lena analyzed the hell out of the situation and went so far as to dive into his rationale and thought processes. It was wrong on so many levels. She later apologized amidst all the Twitter backlash and blamed her insecurities. Others have written and talked about the situation from many perspectives, and I wholeheartedly agree with many of those viewpoints. To say this "attempted" takedown backfired is an understatement and rightfully so - it should have backfired. It was rude, crude, racist, and totally off-base.
So, why is Your Office Mom chiming in and writing about it? How is this scenario relevant to you as a young professional? Well, during your career, people are going to frustrate you, slight you, piss you off, overlook your achievements, you name it, they are going to do it. How you choose to handle those situations* will say a great deal about your maturity and professionalism. There are some significant career takeaways from this proverbial takedown.
Don’t go off
Your initial response may be to react with a vengeance. Don’t. Don’t text. Don’t email. Don’t talk. Don’t do anything. If you need to talk, go for it with a close confidante or have a little heart-to-heart with yourself. Or, write it all down in a doc that no one else can see, and you can’t accidentally send to anyone else. It’s amazing how a little time and distance can clarify what was so baffling and infuriating a few hours before. Often, you'll recognize another person's motivations, their behaviors and sometimes how you played a part. Or, not. Regardless, a cool head is always better than going off on someone and regretting it. So, always sleep on it, even if it's a power nap.
Don't jump to conclusions
It’s impossible to know what another person is thinking or feeling, so why jump to conclusions or make assumptions about their feelings or their thoughts? It's ludicrous. Don't do it. When you are surprised or baffled by someone’s behavior, your first step after the initial and silent WTF? should be one of reflection. What might be driving someone’s behavior or actions, besides what you think or feel it is? Look at it from different viewpoints. Your emotional self may tell you one thing initially, but after your logical, rational self has a chance to process it, you may have a different take on things. Not always, but you want to consider the possibility.
Talk about it (if you choose to)
Tempting as it may be, if and when you decide to approach a given situation, don’t use social media as your outlet. Opt instead for a short conversation. It's much better than texts or emails which can be misconstrued or taken out of context and shared with others. Tempting as it may be, keep any convos with your co-workers to a minimum. You don't want to throw gasoline on the fire. And, you know what happens when one person tells another person, who tells another person, who tells another person, right? Yeah, it get’s real messed up, real distorted, real fast.
Before you talk, take a few minutes to collect and organize your thoughts. A few moments of prep can set the right tone, create a logical flow and increase your confidence. Know your expected outcome. It's likely to explain your perception and ask for theirs with an eye on working together going forward. Be prepared for the f-you or the I don't know what you are talking about response. People often don't want to own up to their shit. That's okay. If it happens, respond with a calm “Thank you for your time. If you change your mind and want to talk let me know” and make your exit without slamming doors or breaking anything (even if you feel like it).
Apologize (if you need to)
If you were not gracious during a situation, or if you acted like a brat or you were a dick, own up to your behavior. Everybody knows you did it, and so do you. Might as well admit it. It's really pretty simple. Often a sincere, "I didn't handle that situation well. I apologize" is enough. Don't be afraid to say it. And, don't make excuses for your behavior. Don't justify your behavior. It only diminishes the sincerity of your apology, and no one wants to hear your excuses anyway. When it gets uncomfortable, change the subject by offering to buy drinks. Works almost every time, based on my independent research spanning over two plus (okay three) decades. :)
If you missed the debacle, here's a recap from Page Six Lena Dunham Slams the Met Gala - and Odell Beckham Jr.. And, a little about Odell from this NY Times article Odell Beckham Jr. Responds to the Lena Dunham Dust-Up: ‘I Have to Learn More About the Situation’,
What's your take on this situation and how it relates to work? Please share your comments.
*This post does not pertain to how to address situations of harassment.