Work Friendships: Not the Perfect Blendship

Well, I’ve been back in Turkey for 5 days now. Being reunited with Canim has breathed some life back into me. It’s fantastic and we have some SUPER exciting things coming up in the next week (a post about that will follow). 

I have been back at work for 3 days. It’s a little surreal and it’s definitely taking some time to get myself back into full Workey (work in Turkey) mode. I have been “promoted” to team leader for my department. Awesome right? 

No. Not awesome. I mean, I’m thrilled that my boss believes in me enough to have given me the position, and it will be a great learning experience and of course it will look great on my resume. That said, I am also now managing people who: 

1. Are older than me by at least 10 years (some 20).
2. Have been in this line of work longer than I have been. 
3. Have been working with this specific company longer than I have been. 

I think I was a bit of a dark horse during the application process in June (for reasons listed above). Last year was my first year with the company, but it was my second year in Turkey (Workey). I arrived later than the other foreigners because of work visa drama, but I hit the ground running and held my own for the entire year. I didn’t go through the typical culture shock that was expected of many first-year employees because I had already done that in a far less nurturing environment the year before. 

To make it worse, some colleagues had suggested that we have a department vote to choose the new team leader. I pride myself on being a practical person, and I figure out the way things work rather quickly. My boss is a powerful, driven woman. She has clear vision for our company, and if you are not with her, you’re gonna get left in the dust. If you aren’t picking up what she’s putting down, then it’s best to relocate. Basically: if you can’t work with her, move on, because you aren’t gonna change her or the system. That said, I KNEW that a vote would be a complete waste of time, energy, and petty drama because in the end, Boss would pick whoever she wanted anyway. So why bother? 

Well, they had the vote when I was already back in NY. I didn’t even bother to vote. Somehow, I won. 

Two months later, I’m trying to manage people who bring “resistant” to a new level. In Workey, meetings are abundant. That’s just the way it is. So, we have had two team meetings in the last two days. Each time I communicated exactly what Boss said she wants, I was met with resistance, objections, and a 50-year-old woman who was acting more like a 12-year-old girl whose mom bought her a black iPhone instead of a white one and she hated her for it. 

Twice today I overheard colleagues snickering about work they had submitted to me and whether or not I would deign to approve it (but is it my fault if people don’t proofread and catch their mistakes?). Then, in a weekly wrap-up email I had reminded colleagues that we will be doing something that is as natural and obvious as a teacher giving homework, and behind a closed door, after hearing the email receipt chime, I heard,”OMG look at the list of what she expects! Who does she think she is? Who makes these decisions? She didn’t mention this in the meeting – she has to ask us before she makes these choices.” 

 It’s no coincidence that the most resistant person is one who applied for the position, interrupted my interview for the position, and when I was announced as the new leader, sent me a message that said:

“Congratulations 🙂 I wish you well with your new responsibilities. It’s going to be a lot and you will have a very full, if not overloaded, plate. Congrats again!” 

I cannot quit this position, nor do I plan to or think I should, because I am willing to prove myself and I truly do care about the company and I want to do everything in my power to help it thrive. I believe my boss chose me for many reasons, and one of them is definitely my relationship with colleagues. I have a good rapport with them without actually being their friends. It’s hard in Workey because when you meet other foreigners, you may feel temptation/pressure to become “fast friends” with them simply because you have a language or culture or foreignness in common. But that’s not always the best idea, especially when that person is your co-worker. My philosophy is that it’s best to treat my Workey co-workers as I would my co-workers in America. Be kind, friendly, thoughtful, respectful, socialize/fraternize from time to time, but keep the professional boundaries clearly marked. The distance I maintained last year will help me this year, because it is already clear that I am friendly but I am not their homegirl and I can’t be pushed/pressured/bribed into helping people get away with slacking and lacking. 

Still, it is only day 3 and I’m wiped. I’ve got a long year ahead of me! 


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