Dear Mr. Boss,
Let me open my letter by asserting that I have appreciated your reliable support and kindhearted mentorship over the last few months. I thank you for challenging the boundaries of my comfort zone, and trusting in my decision making in a field that is, in most ways, very new to me. Navigating the turbulent tides of a social enterprise start up in Kenya can be tricky; thoughtful management is a principal key to success for our staff and our business.
Disappointingly, Mr. Boss, your actions as a manager are not always thoughtful, which is why I am writing. I fear that by maintaining the sunny disposition that I am prone to as an eager-to-please young professional, I serve to perpetuate a system that values men above women by the virtue that they are men. I’m not down with that.
I am inspired to write because of an offhand comment that you made during one of our twice-weekly phone chats last week. You mentioned that you’d be happy to visit the coast – my geographic domain as Regional Sales Manager – to see how our efforts are faring and participate in one of our sales events. You then added, evidently to seem supportive and encouraging, that if I am to encounter any deals “too hard to close” on my own, that I should feel welcome to call upon you, “a mzungu1 man,” to help me get the job done.
I do not seek to delve into the racial implications of your offer in this letter. The racial context in which you and I work is relatively unique, and I don’t have a good enough grasp on the complicated racial hierarchy of urban Kenya to speak confidently or articulately of our (inarguably privileged) place as white people.
Since “mzungu” is an attribute that we share – we are both white outsiders from the tri-state area working in East Africa – let’s focus on the “man” element of the business expertise that you so valiantly offered to lend to me in the face of a tough sale.
I feel comfortable admitting that there are factors beyond our control that I believe to be at play:
- Sexism in sales, as in almost every profession under the sun, is prevalent, and comes in many forms. You wish to combat this unfortunate trend by helping out a female colleague.
- Your offers are well intended, and you hope that I thrive at work, both for my own professional development as well as the success of the company.
- Being born a man in modern America, you’ve been granted a special brand of self-esteem akin to a superpower, which you believe able to make the impossible possible.
But, I fear that you are overlooking a number of less obvious, but equally important factors concurrently at play:
- I work tirelessly and consciously, each and every day, to overcome systemic sexism in the workplace, whether that means “keeping up with the boys” in the office and in sales meetings, or dealing with endless bullshit like this:
- You won’t help me or the company succeed if you run to my aid at the first sign of adversity. Instead, you will stifle my capacity to solve problems and think on my feet, and limit your time for important work beyond my pay grade because you’ll be spending too much time professionally-Supermanning your professional-Lois Lane.
- Being born a woman in modern America, I’ve been granted a special brand of determination, akin to stubbornness, to succeed by my own merit in a world that tells me that I shouldn’t be able or allowed to do so.
Mr. Boss, I know you are only trying to be helpful, but you are a cog in a destructive machine. I will not fuel your machine.
Ms. Anna Hess
Regional Sales Manager; Bullshit Refuter
- mzungu: foreigner; usually used to describe white people in Kenya
It’s Tuesday morning, and I find myself staring directly in the ugly face of an emotional phenomenon that professionals of all creed and color are bound to face during the span of a career: the Post-Vacation Blues (PVBs).
Sitting under fluorescent office lights after a dreamlike Kenyan safari holiday with my dad, step mom, sister, and soon-to-be brother-in-law inspires a certain, very particular brand of self-pity. Ridiculous and entitled negative thoughts fight for room in my stream of consciousness. My real life sucks! Happiness is only real when shared, at a hotel pool, with gin and tonics in hand! Work is a prison, and I’m fit for a jailbreak!
As I try to drown out the external sounds of factory machinery and the internal sounds of my woes with my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, I wonder to myself: is there a better way? Can the collective we defeat the PVBs? Is misery inevitable? Will I ever be happy again?
In keeping with the Vacationland theme, I’ve created a beginners’ Guide to Overcoming the Post-Vacation Slump using collated research from relevant clinical studies and statistically significant psychological data. See below.
Step 1: Snapback to Reality
It’s important to remember that vacations are special, and shouldn’t be all-the-time-real-life. If they were, we would all be eternally fat, sunburnt, tipsy and poor. In order to maintain optimal fitness, dermal health, liver function and finances, ease gently back into your normal routine. Make achievable, realistic to-do lists for both work and personal items. Sample:
- Log sales data
- Approach grotesque pile of laundry in corner of room
- Answer emails
- Limit gazing longingly at vacation pictures to >60 minutes per day
- 2pm meeting
- Eat normal meals at normal times
- Revise project proposal
- Watch latest Broad City episode
- Buy ice cream for unscheduled emotional eating
The sooner you dive into your every day schedule, the sooner you’ll re-realize that your life, in fact, does not totally blow.
Step 2: Don’t be an Asshole
The PVB experience is a very distinct and singular one. It’s hard to sympathize with a PVBer* when you yourself have not been on vacation recently. Your coworkers, who presumably did not join you on your ~unreal~ getaway, won’t recognize that you’re only being a total doucher because uhhh helloooooo, you just had the best week of your life and now your job makes you want to pierce your eyeballs with a salad fork. They will simply think you are a bad person.
Be kind to others. Their reciprocity may help you out of your selfish pit of anguish.
*One suffering from PVBs
Step 3: Plan Fun
Put something on the calendar that you can look forward to. All rote office life and no weekend plans makes Anna a glum gal.
While you’re up to planning fun shit, go ahead and think about your next trip too. Even if your schedule/budget doesn’t allow it to happen for a while, start thinking about what kind of trip would make you happy, excited, enlightened or relaxed.
It’s crucial to remember that you are, and will continue to be, an interesting person that does interesting things, even if at the current juncture you are just another cog in the in Kenyan clean cookstove industrial complex.
Step 4: Gratuitous Gratitude
Above all else, take a moment or five to remember how #blessed you are. You went on a dream vacation! That’s great. You spent time with people that you love and that love you! Even better. You have a job to return to, and plans to look forward to! What’s better than that? Your life rocks hard, take stock of the good stuff.
Step 5: Write a Cathartic Blog Post About Your Feelings
Happy days and happy travels!
Lil’ Anna in the big savannah
This is my confession: I’m not working so hard these days. I’m transitioning roles within my company, and no one is quite sure what they want to do with me, so I’ve been working a do-anything-and everything-but-also-there’s-not-that-much-for-you-to-do-at-the-current-juncture kind of job. Things have been s l o w.
Upon learning of my professional predicament, friends, family, coworkers and strangers alike prompt me to think long and hard about “my perfect job.”
“What would you do each day if you had your druthers?”
“What ways can you add value given your skill set?”
“If you could design a role for yourself, what would it look like?”
With my newfound free time, I’ve taken it upon myself to do just that: design my perfect job. Please see job description below.
Talking and Writing Coordinator, Global Issues Program
Here at the Center for Environmentalism, Women’s Empowerment, Public Health and Liberal Arts Buzzwords (CEWEPHLAB), we mobilize resources to solve important problems on community, national and global scales. With programs from New York to Nairobi, we focus on implementing climate friendly, female-centric poverty alleviation innovations that never fail, and attract extensive praise from various renowned industry experts and strategists, as well as political and celebrity personalities from around the world.
CEWEPHLAB is seeking a young professional with 1-2 years of scattered work experience in intern and fellow positions within the non-profit and social enterprise sectors to support the Talking and Writing Team. Main goals include: maintaining good lively banter (both internal and external), writing and collecting newsletter fodder, and liaising with other department coordinators to encourage healthy and effective organization-wide communication. The TaW Coordinator will work with and answer to the Director of TaW, who at this time it a 28 year old woman who loves to mentor recent to mid-recent college grads, advocates heavily for work life balance, and gossips often about that latest trending Netflix shows (“Just WAIT til you get to episode 4 of Making a Murderer. It was UNREAL,” she can often be found saying throughout the office.).
We are the kind of organization that has a foosball table and a fridge full of beer. We also have beanbag chairs, and encourage remote working when appropriate. We hire employees from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, so there will almost definitely be someone just like you already working here for you to bond with.
Key responsibilities include (but are not limited to):
- Write pieces for the monthly CEWEPHLAB newsletter, which functions like a blog shared between friends, and benefits from creative works as well as purely factual ones.
- Hold regular team meetings to talk about effecting significant change in the world.
- Coordinate rotating projects. Since you’ll be working in different fields all the time, you will never get bored, and you will be constantly intellectually stimulated.
- Write kind and personal letters to donors. Maintain relationships with them and take the cool ones out to dinner on the company’s dime.
- Attend conferences and workshops designed to unite the sector and disseminate new ideas.
- Get to know your coworkers. Become best friends that still have vibrant social lives outside the office.
- Bachelor’s degree in environmental policy from a small liberal arts college in Maine
- At least 1 year of work experience at 3 fellowships at 3 different organizations in both the US and abroad
- Excellent written and oral communication skills
- Demonstrated ability to take the full hour for lunch. Breaks are important to keep a nimble mind!
- Proficiency with social media tools including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, but excluding Google+; basic, millennial understanding of Microsoft Office a plus
- Great delegation skills
- Interest in equality, conservation, and world peace preferred
This position will be located in New York City, with frequent extended travel to our offices in San Francisco, Paris, Nairobi, Cape Town, Bombay, Melbourne, Bangkok, Patagonia, and other relevant geographic locations.
More than commensurate with experience, because this job is based in New York, which is an expensive place. Complete health and savings package included, because we realize that these arenas of the adult world are confusing for you.
Give us a call and tell us about yourself. Feel free to email your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org because we know you’ve worked hard on it.
If anyone should come across a position with the above parameters, please email me as soon as possible at email@example.com.