Journalism in the service of society

Have the tough conversation

‘Your mental health is very important to functioning well in the office environment. When you are disturbed, or you feel slighted, cheated, ignored, used, or insulted, the feelings will mar your day and your ability to function until you let it out. It is very good to have that important conversation with the person involved even if s/he is your boss or senior colleague’

IN the early days at Ogilvy, I had a boss who came from the client side with no agency experience. None. She knew and understood marketing like the back of her palms, she is really good at it, but with all her experience, marketing communication and its processes seem like abracadabra to her. This pretty and calm lady was managing Philips Morris with the help of the MD while I was managing other brands.

Truth is nobody knows it all and most of us had to learn and improve our expertise on the job, this means you must be able to own up to what you don’t know and be humble enough to learn. I learnt a lot from my junior colleagues like Abdul, Morolake, Chidera, Rita, and Taiwo and I was never ashamed to tell them to explain something to me.

Before I digress, this boss of mine was not ready to admit she didn’t know and won’t even make the effort to work late to do the extra work she couldn’t complete despite the timelines and deadlines. She picks up her bag at 5:30 pm on the dot, no matter what. I remember her asking me why I always wait till late in the night to leave the office. And my response was ‘because when I promise my client or team something, I try all my best to make it.’ That day she looked at me and said, ‘nothing can stop me from closing at 5:30 pm, max 6:00 pm” and she left.

After many missed deadlines and complaints from the client on a very important project, I was asked to be in the office on a Saturday to help her out. I felt that was totally unfair. Save me the lecture on teamwork and being there for your colleague. I am totally game with teamwork, and I would give my all to support any colleague that needs it even if it means staying in the office till midnight. But that will be a colleague who has already gone all the way out to do the task but still needs help.

The thought of me coming to work on a Saturday to assist someone who didn’t do her work when she was supposed to really got on my nerves. I was very depressed, felt used, and couldn’t sleep all through the night. I knew I had no choice but to come, but I was going to have that tough conversation with her despite being my senior colleague. And I did.

I told her how I felt and why I don’t think I should be in the office to do her work when I never left mine for her or anyone to do. I wasn’t disrespectful but very sincere. I would also love to leave the office early like she does and be in control of my time, but I chose to be responsible and lead by example. Even though she was my senior, I didn’t copy her work style by leaving the work undone just because other people would be made to do it if I drop the ball.

Having that conversation was a good relief and I had a quick emotional recovery that made the Saturday session an easy ride for me and everyone in the room, I guess.

Your mental health is very important to functioning well in the office environment. When you are disturbed, or you feel slighted, cheated, ignored, used, or insulted, the feelings will mar your day and your ability to function until you let it out. It is very good to have that important conversation with the person involved even if s/he is your boss or senior colleague.

There is always the right time and atmosphere to do it. It’s a choice.

*Olateju Ogunyomi is a Marcoms professional and behavioral analyst. She left Ogilvy Nigeria in 2020 to start her own agency. She is an APCON member and was a member of the AAAN women in Advertising committee, and the AAAN Event committee. She is currently the CEO of Aspora Nigeria Limited, a Digital Marketing, Strategy, and Consultancy agency.

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