A recent promotion at work has me managing a few new employees, and I realize I’m uniquely qualified for this big task because I parent a toddler. These scenarios are interchangeable for me whether I’m in the office or at home.
- When you walk into a room, they go quiet. It’s that awful transition from colleague to manager that makes them all squirmy when you walk into a room. Like my toddler, who refuses to continue her pretend phone call with her stuffed animals as soon as I’m within earshot, employees get all kinds of quiet when you enter a room. It doesn’t matter if they were talking about how horrible you are or the unseasonably warm weather, it’s clear you are not welcome.
- You’re regularly met with a blank stare. Whether you’re asking your employee follow up questions about the quarterly financial report or inquiring about your toddler’s day at preschool, you’re generally met with a wide-eyed, blank stare followed by some incomprehensible mumbling.
- You’re tasked with entertaining them. I mean, seriously, WHEN do toddlers learn to self-entertain for more than five minutes at a time? I’d hold out hope that within a few years she’ll be keeping herself busy all day, but my employees need free pizza, coffee, and donuts and all kinds of engagement tactics to get through one work day.
- You frequently have to pull rank. Whether it’s convincing a toddler to take a bath or insisting your employee’s PowerPoint use fewer slides for the presentation, “because I said so” never feels like the right answer.
- You can’t leave for a few hours without a babysitter. I can’t leave my toddler home alone for the same reason I can’t leave my employees alone in the office: nothing will get done, something will break, someone will cry, and all the snacks will get eaten.
- You are responsible for their growth. Granted, the toddler relies on you for basic life-giving things like food, water, and shelter, but in both cases the pressure is on to help them grow to be their best, and it’s on you if they suck.
- Building trust is a constant battle. Even though you know they’ll screw up, you have to (at least pretend to) trust them so they learn on their own.
- Skill vs. Will. Figuring out whether they aren’t capable or they just “don’t wanna” is an art form. Finding out that it’s the former in either case is never good.
- You’re terrified of them. Despite clearly being the one in charge, you’re terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing, making them angry, or hearing from a colleague (or their big sister) that they hate you.
All joking aside, both parenting a toddler and managing employees is a big responsibility, and the key to surviving (and thriving) is an open mind, a constant desire to learn, grow, and adapt, and most of all, a sense of humor.