Work Talk Etc

January 20, 2022

WOW – SO MANY amazing book recs! I will work on finalizing my own 2022 Reading Inspiration List (less prescriptive than a TBR, but lots of ideas to draw from). I greatly appreciate so many of you sharing your favorites.

Some Work Talk + Reflection

I am rather tired today. My current work schedule has two back-to-back clinic days Monday + Tuesday (plus some Fridays), and apparently I am just not used to that. Weds + Thursday are GME days (lots of meetings and typically catchup from what has built up over the week). Fridays are either clinical or GME depending on the week. Plus there’s call, but that’s not too terribly frequent (THANK GOD).

We just finished with residency interview season, which is a good thing because that takes up a huge volume of time and energy. AND it sucks up almost all of my Fridays, which means no good time for a weekly wrap up and things just . . . accumulate.

I don’t know. I actually really like the balance of work that I have most of the time in theory, but in practice it’s exhausting, especially when combined with the rest of life (kids’ homework! bedtime! etc!). There are a lot of 7:30 meetings all the sudden, which I really do not love. I also am at this weird level of leadership where I often feel squeezed from the top and the bottom, and feel like I often fail to make either side happy. It’s a constant push-pull. I’m also finding that all the sudden, I am often the one running meetings . . . which comes with pressure to prepare + perform. And yet I still often get spoken over / interrupted a lot (particularly by those with Y chromosomes . . . just saying . . . ) at said meetings. At other times, I don’t really feel listened to when I try to contribute.

I don’t know. Maybe I need a therapist or an executive coach. Or just an actual 2 week NON WORKING freaking vacation. (I had 5 days off between Christmas + New Years’, but they ended up being fairly stressful and very much polluted by work stress because we were in COVID surge crisis mode.)

(Which . . . in theory, I could take. I have 150 hours of accumulated PL time! But in practice, with patients already scheduled it is not so simple. Also, my partners are working like crazy too. We are hiring, which is exciting! But that takes time. I do have some short stretches of time off coming up, including 2 days next week and a week during the kids’ spring break in April.)

I don’t talk about work much here, because I obviously cannot share patient specifics or office politics. But the above is just how I’m feeling today. Maybe once I catch up a bit, it will feel different.

long jump attempt

C will be in his first track meet this weekend! He is on the school team (it was open to grades 2 – 5, and they took everyone who wanted to join). They had a practice yesterday at a local track and I could not go, but I got to see the videos. He is a total beginner but watching him persevere through 400m just about melted my heart.


  • Reply Caitlin January 20, 2022 at 6:10 am

    I always feel like therapy is a good idea, and I think the executive coach option is worth looking into as well. (A vacation/break would be lovely and make you feel better, but it’s not going to solve those underlying issues.) It is really frustrating to get interrupted and spoken over. Maybe an executive coach could help you establish some meeting norms so that happens less often. If you’re running them, you could also always make sure there is an agenda. It’s easy to point to when people start going off on a tangent–you can say “Thanks for bringing that up–I’ll make a note of it, but let’s get back to the agenda item at hand.” Meetings can be tough.

    I feel you on the middle leadership stuff–I feel like a big chunk of my job (assistant director at a public library) is mediating between the director and other department heads and making sure everyone is on the same page. I’m not having the same issue as you at the moment but there are definitely times when it feels that way.

    • Reply Cat G January 20, 2022 at 11:43 pm

      You do need vacation real vacation so you don’t end up with a sabbatical or career change you may not want? Try vacation first! Or a leave first? Why not, less permanent

  • Reply Amanda January 20, 2022 at 6:16 am

    Academic medicine can be so all-consuming. And I hear you with the early morning meetings- I hate them!!! Makes the day so long. I also hate call. I’m sorry it’s been so busy lately, congrats on finishing interviews!!! I’ve actually been wanting to send in a question to you about how you feel since you moved back up to 1.0 FTE from 0.9 (and I think you were at 0.8 before that?). I’ll be re-signing my first contract post-training this spring and am considering dropping to 0.9 (peds neurology). I’m all clinical which comes with one admin/educational day per week as well as an extra 1/2 day of clinical admin some weeks which is nice and for the most part allows me to stay caught up with my work, but I feel like I’d enjoy a day off every other week to hang out with my 3 year old and new baby who is due at the beginning of March. I would use this time strictly for personal stuff, don’t really have any side-hustle desires like you right now so there would be no income generated. I’m a little hesitant due to finances because I still have student loans, but honestly we’d have no problem from a cash-flow or savings standpoint for me to take a very small salary hit (with our marginal tax rate I’m not sure we’d even see much of a difference honestly). I’m also hesitant, however, because I worry that I’d still end up doing work on those days anyway, and just get paid less. I run a sub specialty clinic and do some procedures so have some leadership titles related to those things, but am not really interested in taking on other major leadership roles such as a formal role in the residency program right that might give me less clinical responsibilities because I don’t want to have to be so available to the residents in time off, etc (my perception from my PD who was amazing was that she was always available to deal with our problems haha). Anyway would love to hear any thoughts or advice on this!

    • Reply Coree January 20, 2022 at 6:26 am

      Not in medicine but an academic and 80% stinks. 100% of the pay with a pay cut. I’m in the UK and have loads of holiday though, so that might skew my perspective, if I wanted a day off every 2-3 weeks, I could probably swing it.

      • Reply Irene January 20, 2022 at 11:24 am

        I’m not in medicine or in academia but I do have a 75 percent role that works well for me. The key is not looking for promotion/advancement *now* because if you are trying to impress someone to move up it’s much harder to say no and you have to be the one to defend your boundaries. I’ve been able to plateau for a while and am very firm about what work I take on so it has been very good for me. That said I’m experienced and efficient at this point so I suspect I do more actual work than some new people who are full time. Works for me though so I’m happy with it.

    • Reply Marthe January 22, 2022 at 1:23 am

      What’s been said; for me a 0.9 did not work (same work, less pay), but 0.75 did! That seems to be more visible, and more of a difference with people who work 100% and arrange or sneak out to do some of it at home.

  • Reply Coree January 20, 2022 at 6:17 am

    Oof, that’s stressful. Is it worth it to spend a few weekend hours just crossing a bunch of little niggly things off your list? I’ve been working in the evening which I don’t love doing but it has helped – I just save all the email replies and respond from the couch, using the delay send so I don’t stress anyone else out. I started a open-ended lectureship in October (a few weeks into term) and am just feeling like I am playing catch-up. I finalized grades for last term on Wednesday and immediately had to start preparation for the term which starts on Monday, alongside a bunch of research and academic service stuff. I made myself a big list for the first 5 weeks of term, and started panicking, but I realised that March is much quieter teaching wise so I just need to keep things ticking over until then.

  • Reply Amanda January 20, 2022 at 6:23 am

    Oh also – I am in no position to give anyone advice since I’m a newbie attending but lots of older attendings have told me the importance of saying “no.” Would suggest considering whether people are asking you to do more and more because you excel at what you do (!) and you are not saying no to enough stuff? Or at least negotiating so that when you take something else on like running a new meeting something else gets taken off of your plate.

  • Reply Gillian January 20, 2022 at 6:53 am

    Could you rearrange your clinic schedule (I know this would have a long lead time but knowing it was coming might help). I am 100% clinical so very different work flow, but could clinic be Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday so admin stuff isn’t getting left for more than a day. I also work in the evenings most of the time to keep the decks clear.

    I do think an executive coach might be helpful at this stage even just for a meeting or two.

  • Reply Katherine January 20, 2022 at 7:53 am

    Oh, I hear you. You aren’t alone. I’m at a similar level of leadership in a majority-male STEM institution. The things you talk about are known issues for women. Here are some things that helped me.

    There are some people who will never be happy with leadership (above or below us) and there isn’t a way to make them happy. It’s hard to accept for type-A folks, especially those of us with perfectionist or people-pleasing tendencies, but accepting this is liberating. When I’ll be criticized no matter what I do, that gives me the freedom to do what I believe is right.

    In regards to being interrupted in meetings, are they just interrupting you, or do they interrupt others as well? There are different strategies based on what is happening. Do you have a work friend in those meetings? It helps to have someone who can say, “Let’s circle back and hear what Sarah was saying,” and you can do the same for her when she is interrupted. You can also reinforce each other’s ideas to make sure that you are heard: “I really like what Sarah was saying – let’s circle back to that.” If you don’t have a buddy like that, it helps to wait until the interrupter stops talking and then say, “As I was saying …” and pick up where you left off. I also had to spend some time learning about communication and how to speak more directly – by nature, I’m a soft-spoken introvert who tends to be indirect (“Maybe we should think about …”). I hate that I had to change how I speak and present myself in meetings, but I found a balance between being more authoritative while still being me. It can also help to set meeting norms – natural times to do this are when a new group forms or when new people join the meeting. Hiring a new partner or bringing in a new group of residents are natural times to revisit meeting norms. Working with residents seems like a chance to teach them good professional behaviors.

    I’ve invested some of my continuing education time in learning about leadership techniques, communication, etc. This might mean reading a few books, going to a conference or workshop, or working with a coach or mentor. The tough part is balancing this with my scientific continuing ed, but there is a big payoff.

    • Reply Mrs. Candid January 20, 2022 at 8:47 am

      That’s a very good idea about having a work friend supporting during the meetings.

  • Reply omdg January 20, 2022 at 8:26 am

    IDK what the solution is, but I struggle with this too.

  • Reply Jessica January 20, 2022 at 8:48 am

    Pod guest idea for BOBW: Allison Green from Ask a Manager! She would have great advice for women in the workplace (reminded of it by the sexism comments, but other topics too) and it could be fun to ask listener questions or the most common questions/issues y’all hear from listeners.

    • Reply Katie January 20, 2022 at 9:11 pm

      Ooh, second this idea!

  • Reply Eva January 20, 2022 at 9:48 am

    I can’t speak for all fields, but when studying the impact of COVID-19 on academic parents, my colleagues and I found that the associate professors (i.e. mid-career) had the largest negative impacts. We did some further digging into it, and found other references to the “mid-career minefield”, the “mid-career squeeze” etc – so it does seem to be common (and perhaps something that requires further studying so that those of us who are mid-career and also raising kids don’t get squeezed between five walls at the same time).

    Ref to the article

  • Reply EmCallisto January 20, 2022 at 9:56 am

    Thank you so much for your blog – I’ve learned so much from your planning!

    Please don’t be disheartened! I’ve worked in financial departments for Wall Street firms and academic medicine (ivy league health system) and you are not alone in your experiences!

    1) You will never make everyone happy – if no one is happy that’s a good sign you are reaching a true compromise!

    2) If you are interrupted in meeting, don’t say “I’ll make a note of that,” as advised above as a default option. A better option, “What a great point, perhaps YOU can document that for follow-up and wider discussion”. 1) It’s not your responsibility to document everyone’s verbal vomit and 2) It brings the information into your world of planning and processes.

    Thank you so much for all you do and for keeping up with this blog at the same time!

  • Reply Teresa January 20, 2022 at 10:03 am

    I have felt very similarly to your situation, however, I’ve allowed those thoughts and feelings to keep me out of any significant leadership roles. Those who I have seen move up/ thrive in my same demographic definitely have benefited from a lot of coaching. I would recommend that as the secret sauce, particularly being female in a male dominated environment.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns January 20, 2022 at 10:55 am

    I think it sounds like you are in need of what I call a “shouldless” day! I used to take those quarterly but fell off the habit the last 2 years because I was preparing to go out on leave and then was out on leave for 5 months last year so I felt like I needed to take less vacation time to offset that (mostly because I took 4 extra weeks of leave, which was more than covered by my vacation balance… but still…). Anyways, a quarterly shouldless day can really help you feel refreshed. You only do things you want to do, nothing you SHOULD do. So I tend to get massages, go for walks, have lunch with a friend, or by myself (I especially enjoyed a meal alone after having kids! But I’m a hard core introvert). You could also use vacation time strategically to give yourself days to catch up on home tasks if that would help, too. And then maybe plan some long weekend getaways on as regular of a basis as you can with Josh? It seems like you can swing that with your nanny and a 3-day weekend w/ no kids would probably refresh you, but you wouldn’t come back to work feeling overwhelmed by everything that piled up?

    Running meetings is extra work but kudos to you for actually planning the meeting. That is sadly not the standard it seems, at least not for the meetings I attend. Being interrupted is really frustrating, though, but as others suggested, finding an ally to nip that in the bud is helpful. We had a series of diversity and inclusion training this fall and that is one thing that my team talked about being more intentional about going forward. It’s hard for the person who is being interrupted or mistreated to speak up for themselves as times, but if the team can watch for that and advocate on their behalf, change might happen.

    Hang in there, Sarah!!

  • Reply Ashley G. January 20, 2022 at 12:56 pm

    So this is probably an unpopular and slightly rude approach to the being talked-over problem, but I also work in a very male-dominated industry and I’ve found the most effective way to stop this is just keep talking and slightly louder. I’m sure my mother would be horrified, but it really gets the point across and I don’t have this happen very often anymore (I still do some because who are we kidding?). I don’t get too loud and I stay very calm, but they usually stop.

    I also do what Katherine mentioned above and help support others that are being talked-over. If someone is talking over them (normally a male, but not always) I make sure that once they’re done speaking I go back and say “Hey Sarah–what were you saying?”. This has seemed to really improve over time, depending on the stress-levels in the meeting. I think its a real blow to those with any sort of self-awareness that they just got called out. I’m sure your mileage may vary depending on the culture you’re in, but I’ve had it work well enough that I figured it might be worth mentioning.

    • Reply Anon in Chicago January 20, 2022 at 1:03 pm

      I’d like to second Ashley’s suggestion. I currently have one particular coworker who will interrupt me and I finally just took her approach. The first couple of times, it was incredibly awkward because he wouldn’t stop talking and we were talking over each other. But, I didn’t stop either… and he eventually relented. I will say I think it’s important to not get angry about it, just simply keep talking and get a little louder.

      In a previous job (male dominated engineering), when someone would interrupt me I would loudly say, “excuse me, I am not done speaking” right over the interrupter. That usually shocked people and I continued my thought. When I was done, I would say “now dan, what did you want to share?”

      It’s hella awkward, but I just didn’t care.

      • Reply Erica Sparky January 21, 2022 at 1:29 pm

        Interrupters need to be made to feel awkward! It is rude and needs to be pointed out :).

    • Reply Alyce January 20, 2022 at 9:59 pm

      I agree with simply not ceding the floor to someone who tries to interrupt and speak over you. I do a lot of work with Indian tribes where culturally it’s unforgivably rude to interrupt someone, so I’ve developed the habit of simply waiting until the speaker has stopped talking before I start. But it’s also trained me to expect others to do the same. When people try to interrupt, I simply continue talking until I’ve finished my thought. If just continue in the same normal voice that I was speaking in before, and when done so matter of factly and with unquestioned certainty that the floor was in fact yours, it actually just makes the other person look like an ass, not you.

      Another thing – a management training I took soon after becoming a supervisor included to tip to develop a mission statement that would guide me as a manager. I thought it was a distinctly corny exercise, but since they made us do it, my mission statement was that I was there to protect and challenge my team. I have been shocked to find how often it has guided my decision making precisely in those moments when I’m in a difficult position between my staff and higher levels of management. It makes it clear when I should push back on unreasonable requests from higher ups. And although in my mission statement, I err on my staff’s side, I will note that most people in my training picked mission statements that were focused on accomplishing the assigned task, not on people. Although I don’t have that orientation, my immediate supervisers (who are wonderful to work with and for and are a major part of why I don’t quite my job whenever I get tired of it) certainly are more oriented towards prioritizing getting the job done. With my pushing to protect my staff, and them pushing to get the work done, we actually wind up in a much more moderate position than if we were all pushing everyone towards thse same goal.

  • Reply Anna M January 21, 2022 at 9:15 am

    I think it’s not well documented but very real how much those in the middle management roles are continually squeezed. It’s not at all ideal and it’s completely exhausting. I won’t try to problem solve but I’ll say overall it’s a problem not just exclusive to you or one field and so you can do YOUR best but it’ll always be hard systemic-wise! 🙁

  • Reply Ali January 21, 2022 at 9:36 am

    As a mid-career scientist in a male dominated field, I’ve just given up. Depressing, but dealing with that type of BS is exhausing and endless. I decided to focus on the parts of my job that don’t require so much endless BS and negotiating with sexist colleagues: research, students, teaching.

    • Reply Erica Sparky January 21, 2022 at 1:25 pm

      That stinks! I’m a junior faculty in a biological science group within a school of medicine and I feel really supported and listened to – perhaps my university or field is ahead on the equity training.

  • Reply Erica Sparky January 21, 2022 at 1:19 pm

    I started therapy last fall and it really really helps with what you are struggling with. I totally relate to that pressure from both top and bottom. Now that I’m an independent researcher and have my own lab, I have more mentoring to do but also faculty responsibilities, and just never enough time. For the most part, I do feel listened to, even by the Y chromosomes, but I think it’s because a lot of my peers are my age or younger and they have learned about equity 🙂
    I am at a crossroads, dreaming of a bigger career (tenure track vs research track is my next choice) and I’m trying to decide if that fits into my other values and goals, such as being present with my kids and husband, having a social life, reading books, and being a runner.

    And I know I struggle with feeling this pressure right now too, because I know everyone is squeezed and I have a really relatively easy privileged life, but it’s still hard.

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