“It’s okay, Mary. These things happen. We’re not performing open-heart surgery on teachers.” she said.
This was the response I received when I called my supervisor to tell her I was unable to present the webinar I had been scheduled for that afternoon. The problem was with the webinar host, not me or my computer, but at the time I didn’t know that. I simply felt the familiar burning sensation of shame coursing through my body.
I am not comfortable allowing myself to make mistakes. Failure to deliver is something ingrained in me as inherently bad. I tend to see each misstep or mishap as a high-level mistake that will be held against me. Immediately, my thoughts go to ugly places like They’ll think I’m incompetent. I just let everyone down. This is going to be a black mark against me.
When Everything is Urgent, Nothing is
My last employer had a habit of making everybody feel like everything was urgent and important. When all tasks or problems or projects are equally urgent, then nothing really is. Urgent loses its meaning when it’s widespread use is slapped across everything.
Expecting employees to work at a pace and level that assumes every task, every e-mail and every meeting is urgent and equally important is a recipe for burnout.
Burnout found me, or shall I say, I found it.
I was racing toward it at lightning speed, holding each task in my mind as something that I needed to do with exact precision and perfection — in an environment where the expectation was to do more with less and create champagne outcomes on a beer budget. It was not sustainable.
I’ve since moved on from that mindset and tend to mindfulness in work and life. But when I saw the “error” sign on the screen as I tried to launch the webinar, I felt the familiar panic in my throat. What did I do wrong, was my initial reaction. Old reactions die hard.
But to hear those words, “We’re not performing open-heart surgery on teachers,” put everything into perspective. The webinar could be rescheduled. The error was on the part of the tool, not the company or me. Technology sometimes lets us down, but it’s not the end of the world.
The Tyranny of Urgency Can be Tames
In our fast-paced society with lightning-speed connectivity, everything can seem urgent, but trust me it’s not. Multitasking and being productive for productivity’s sake are signs that you work for approval instead of meaning.
Meaningful work will be important but trusting in the larger purpose of what you do will never make it urgent — unless of course, you are performing open-heart surgery!