Working with the Single Ladies
I have put in several observation and reflection hours trying to understand the differences between women that are blissfully partnered and those of us that are not. I am of the “not partnered” category and feel this issue is swept under the rug in most women’s gatherings for fear of judgment and ridicule. The awkward, obvious question that people always ask, “Are you seeing anyone?” My response is always quite humorous, since I’ve learned no one wants to hear a hum drum tale of the most recent break-up story. That usually leads to a quite funny whimsical conversation of just how he wasn’t the right one, and chin up, you are going to find Mr. Perfect, and so on and so on and so on. If I were the hulk, I’d grow seven times my size and start smashing all the glass in the room at the ridiculousness and repetitiveness of this conversation. Thus, I thought I would give a simple perspective of a person that has spent most of her adult life not hitched and some words of encouragement to the many wonderful people in my company as well as tips for those of you that are baffled with what to talk with us about.
1) Single women can have a lack of genuine support system
In my experience, single women tend to rely heavily on their friends for needed support. This can at times strain the relationship with the friend if they push too hard to hang out too often or they can end up in a kind of strange relationship. Some of my closest friendships were colleagues when I was living on campus. We worked together, had similar concerns, and similar schedules thus proximity made it impossible for us not to be friends. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their encouragement and support, but when we pushed too hard on the relationship it could blow up and effect the working environment around us.
When a friendship ends for a single person, it almost feels as if we’ve lost a family member because the bond has become closer than perhaps it would have if there were other structures in place for support. Not saying that single ladies don’t have families, but at times because of the pressures from family, they often tend to back away from certain topics with their loved ones and keep that information for their friends. My advice to single women is to look for that support in and out of the workplace. I think the balance is key as it is so important to be able to leave the work environment every once in a while to find yourself. Find who you are and focus on you at least 10 hours a week, which may not seem like a lot, but it can be if you are used to being submersed in an on-campus living position. This might save those vital work relationships from blowing up and help you find more about who you are as an individual.
If you are supervising those single individuals ask about their relationships with co-workers, especially if you’ve sensed a strain. They might need to get the problem off their chest in a confidential environment; however, don’t pry if they aren’t willing to engage in that conversation. I’ve learned that some supervisory relationships are going to be deeper and more connected than others. You might just be the ear that person needs to make amends and move forward. However, be empathetic without playing sides as you don’t want the ladies to think you are playing favorites. Instead of saying things, “she is just crazy” use phrases like, “that is interesting, how did that impact your feeling of self worth?”. Remember there is more than one angle in every triangle.
2) Low Energy Levels can plague single women as well
This is just an observation, but us single ladies tend to be a little run down, more so than you would think. Obviously, I am generalizing. However, think about the topic of keeping your vase full or filling your bucket. There aren’t a whole lot of people filling that single person’s bucket. They are filling it themselves with yoga or therapy or Zumba, but it wouldn’t hurt if you told them how amazing you thought they were every once in a while or gave them a random, out of the blue card acknowledging their efforts. Trust me, they aren’t getting too much of that. And… if you are that single person, please go out and explore that community you are living in. Not necessarily just the University community, but also the surrounding community. It can be a great deal of fun to join a community choir or do some yoga on a SUP board. You just gotta get out there and try it.
3) Single women have difference in interests
Single ladies haven’t had kids or marriages to worry about recently, so your single friends have created their own unique universe full of different and interesting things. Since all of us are different, I can’t clue you into the latest greatest thing all the single people are doing, but I guarantee you that if we are out of our 20’s we stopped going to the clubs a long time ago (maybe not all of us). Stop and listen. If you can identify one genuine interest that your single friend has in life, remember it and ask about it next time they stop to talk with you. Make a lunch date and ask to see some of the pictures they’ve taken recently, or ask about their latest blog post. I’m sure they have something that they are passionate about sharing. When they make eye contact with you, you know you’ve struck gold.
4) Single women need to have a life too
Let’s stop guilt tripping the single ladies in the office to work over the holidays when you are in a pinch and need someone to answer the phones. Guilt trips are very subtle, but every single woman knows exactly what these look like. Single during the holidays can be drab so when the thought of, “What in the hell am I going to do with myself for 15 days while the university is shut down and there are no students knocking on the door”, it becomes overwhelming. When you are single, it’s easy to raise the hand and say, “Yes I can take the duty phone”, but for once, why don’t you remind them politely that they took the duty phone last holiday and you are certain there is another person that can join in the wealth. Encourage single people to use the holiday time to rejuvenate in whatever way works for them. If they need help coming up with something to do, listen to them and help offer suggestions, but for goodness sake don’t invite them to your holiday party. That is going to feel like an obligation, not an invitation.
Some simple last words which ring true to recognizing any person you are working with. Try to recognize the work they did, not necessarily the number of other tasks they accomplished while doing it. Honestly, a simple, good job, is always much appreciated.