Don’t Take it Personally

“Bodacious” means to be bold, outstanding, and remarkable. Take those attributes to work and you’re on your way to building a fulfilling, bodacious career. Does having a bodacious career sound exciting to you? It is! After starting as an $8 an hour customer service rep, I rose through the ranks of AOL, accepting four promotions and surviving over six layoffs to become the head of corporate training for 12,000 employees. Along the way I learned I needed to be bodacious to achieve the career I wanted. Out of that experience I created my “cheat sheet” of ten essential Bodacious Career Builders. Here’s the first one: Don’t Take it Personally.

“Don’t take it personally” is my absolute number one favorite Bodacious Way because it comes in handy all the time. We can all remember a time when we took it personally, right? We spent all this time, energy, and emotion on processing how we felt when someone slighted us, what we wished we’d said, and what, if anything, we were going to do about it. And most of the time when it was over and we were slumped in out chair feeling exhausted, needing to face a long list of things still to get done, we wish we’d spent our time on something else, something we cared more about, something more productive.

Amazingly, my own experience has shown me that throughout my work day people aren’t going around thinking about MY feelings! They’re not saying, “Gee, when I call Mary on the phone, when I send her an e-mail, when I see her in today’s meeting, how is she going to feel about what I say or do?” Nooooo, they’re just doing their thing! Still, how often have I reacted to something a co-worker has said or done when it was delivered in anything less than a positive tone?

At one point in my AOL career I decided to make big internal move from hard-earned position at the call center manager of 250 people to join the human resources team to head up the company’s first ever corporate training group. I remember a few months after making the move the company held a big party where I ran into a customer service rep who used to work for me. We started chatting and he remarked, “Mary, I don’t understand why you took this new job. I mean you were doing so well in the call center and you could have gone up and up. It doesn’t make sense.” At first I was shocked and started to take it personally.

Then, somehow I caught myself and thought “How come this guy thinks he knows more about what’s best for me than I do?” In that moment I decided that instead of justifying my career move, I’d simply make a statement. So, I replied, “You know, I think it was the best move for me”, exited myself from the conversation, and moved on.

This is what Bodacious Women do. When someone says or does something that sparks an internal reaction, when you start to take it personally, you hesitate and create a few seconds of delay to ask yourself simple questions like “Is this something I ought to pay attention to? Does it really have merit?” It’s amazing when we create a few seconds of delay and ask such questions we often answer ourselves with “No, not enough” and let it go.

Certainly, there are those times when we think, “Well, I may not take this personally, but I need to say something, I need to do something to speak my mind and set the record straight.” Bodacious Women recognize this need and make the phone call, write the e-mail, go see the person, or do whatever they believe is appropriate. And, then, when that’s done, they still let it go.

Let’s face it. Creating the habit of not taking it personally isn’t easy. But it’s so worth it. Because if you do, you will save yourself a lot of time, a lot of frustration, and maybe even a little heartache.

BODACIOUS CAREER BUILDER #1: Create a few seconds of delay in responding to others so that what they say or do doesn’t immediately affect your self-worth.

Copyright (c) 2007 Mary Foley