I’m working through a situation at work— one that’s very familiar to me. I’m taking over a process with a male vendor from a male colleague. And the male vendor doesn’t feel like he has to talk to me, because he can just talk to my male colleague. If I ask a question, he answers my colleague. And I can see what’s coming— the colleague has gone out of his way to be very tolerant and understanding, but needs to leave the process and it’s my responsibility going forward. The vendor is not meeting commitments to us because he’s been hearing “oh, it’s okay if it’s late,” (and frankly, I think he’s been a jerk to my male colleague, blowing him off,) so I have instructions to crack down on him, and the contrast is going to make the vendor tune me out even more, because I’m going to come across as a harpy. Nothing I can’t handle— I’m not above ruling with an iron fist, if I can’t get results any other way, and I’m surprisingly good at it for someone who’s spent her whole life as the quiet, non-confrontational one— but it gets old quickly.
Usually what happens when I have to come in as bad cop is that my male colleagues (past-tense) have demanded that I take over a process but stayed in the situation and been good cop, letting the vendor (or outside party) vent to them about how mean I am, sometimes contradicting and undermining me, until I have to go to the colleague in bad-cop mode and tell them to either let me do my job or be prepared for me to refer all my calls to them, since my decisions won’t stand, anyway.
What’s happening this time, partly because my female boss can see the vendor choosing not to interact with me and partly because the male colleague can see that I’m not getting traction while he’s in the conversation, is that they’re proactively shutting down all avenues that don’t lead through me. I haven’t had to point out that I can’t do my job if the vendor won’t acknowledge my assistance, and I won’t successfully transform the relationship if the status quo remains an option.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this. It honestly would be enough to impress me that they get it, even if they didn’t proactively address it, but that they didn’t have to be told that I wasn’t going to succeed unless the vendor believed that he actually had to deal with me— it’s so much progress toward actual professional recognition that I don’t have to wrestle to the ground and take— I’m simply staggered.