Earlier this month at work, members of my team were recognized for a sizeable piece of work which resulted in a multi billion dollar return for our company. Although I was a major contributor to this project, I was not recognized for my efforts.
I feel like I should start by telling you that I love the company I work for. If you were to search my name, it would take you no more than 2 seconds to find out that I work for Microsoft, and I have for eight years. I could tell you about all of the ways that Microsoft has positively impacted my life and the ways in which I am a better, stronger, more well rounded individual for having worked there. I am also incredibly proud of my teammates for rallying together in the Year of COVID to bring in historic results for our organization. Historic!
This "loss" was challenging enough to absorb last week. I called my mom crying - something I haven't done for many, many moons. What surprised me was the feeling of immense shame that I felt when my colleagues began reaching out. They felt that there had been an oversight.
"Why weren't you included in this award?"
"...I don't know."
This article is not a vendetta against the company I love, nor the individuals involved in this bizarre, dramatic affair. I simply wanted to share with the women out there a story of not winning, because it happens to all of us, doesn't it?
We get overlooked, removed, talked over, walked past, passed up. We get called "bitch" or "aggressive" or "difficult."
We're used until we're revered, but the path to reverence is long and narrow, rocky terrain that requires tenacity orders of magnitude larger than we might have expected.
And is it even worth it?
Two women in my organization who are highly respected for their leadership have announced their decision to move on from Microsoft. Do they know something I don't know about life as a woman at the top of your field? Is that the direction I'm headed in?
In spite of the hurt and the questions I've been asking, I've come to some conclusions this week that I wanted to share with any woman who has suffered a loss in her career, and I truly hope some of these lessons (or all) will resonate:
1. Your worth and your value have nothing to do with your wins and your losses. You are not more worthy when you win, and you are not less worthy when you lose. You are WORTHY of recognition for your contributions, a safe place to work, fair compensation and treatment - and nothing can change that. If your worth is tied directly to your work at all times, you'll struggle to find balance and be happy. Your worth is inherent. It stands on its own, apart from accolades and titles. Live in that truth through the ups and downs.
2. We won't always have the answers. We just won't. I'm not great with ambiguity. In fact, I hate it. It makes me feel like I'm about to get hurt. And you know what? Sometimes ambiguity does lead to hurt in my life, but it's not nearly as often as I think. I don't have answers as to why the powers-that-be made the choice to disassociate my name with the team and the project in question, and I probably never will. But I do know that I am committed to transparency in my own work life, and that's all I can control. Worrying about the grey areas of life all the time is an energy suck, and it will reduce the quality of my life dramatically.
3. There are helpers, if you just look for them. More than one person in my direct line of management has stepped in to help understand what happened and try to make it right. They've spent time on the phone with me reassuring me that my work is high quality and that this is not a performance issue. Not everybody has that kind of a team, but I do, and I'm so thankful for each of them. Find a team that values you and works to right the wrongs. BE a team that values people and works to right wrongs that others are enduring.
4. It's okay to get emotional. I know this is taboo and honestly I don't like to cry in front of other people - especially at work - but I definitely had some emotions over this. I was in my feelings, y'all. Honestly. And I kept thinking to myself that somehow I was a giant baby for feeling sad about it. But I love my work and I put a lot of energy into doing the best work that I can. When you give 40-60 hours a week to a place and a team, you grow emotional attachments. It's okay to feel sad when things are hard or when there has been an oversight. It doesn't make you weak - it makes you invested. You've invested parts of yourself in this job, this place, these people...and when you don't see a return on that investment in the way you thought you might (recognition, compensation, etc.) it can hurt. Let it hurt. Then come back more gracious and stronger than ever.
5. The power to make your career INCREDIBLE remains with you. This past week I thought, "This has done irreparable damage to my career." I can be dramatic at times, and that sentiment definitely feels true in this moment. But is this project the biggest thing I'll ever do in my career? I should hope not. I've got a lot of talent and big dreams. Does this suck? YES. But I still have the power in my hands to make my career what I want it to be. So I'm finishing my Masters degree, getting certifications, making connections, asking myself what I actually want to do long-term. Take the losses as an opportunity to pause and re-evaluate. It's good to do that periodically anyway.
I guess I've also learned this week is that I'm more resilient than I thought. I realized that I'm ready to look into different career directions, and this enlightenment might not have come had I not had this jolt. Wherever you are, just remember that the power is in your hands. You're the only one who has to live out your career, so if you need to move on, move on. If you need to stay, stay. If you need to take a course or try something intimidating or take a leap, do it. We're more resilient than we know, and this moment of loss is not the end.