I love telling people that I work from home. I love telling them about the fact that I don’t have to take a long (and frustrating) commute to work and that I don’t have to be in corporate clothes all the time (except for conference calls, and even so, I don’t have to wear heels!) I tell them that I feel very supported and that I am given all the tools to excel at my job. I’m very comfortable telling people that I work from home now. But it was a different story a few years back when working from home or remote work wasn’t (as I like to call it) “the new normal”.
Back in the days when remote work was a new thing, a friend had told me to be very careful about explaining what I did for a living. She said, most people don’t take you seriously once they learn that you don’t work at a corporate office. They have this feeling that if you work from home, you’re hunched over a laptop set on the kitchen table. And that, somehow, is far less acceptable than being hunched over a computer inside an office.
I didn’t understand where this hesitancy came from. She told me her story. Like me, she works from home. Her sister was in between nannies and asked her to “look after their kid for a few hours because you work from home anyway”, implying that she had nothing important to do. They got into a squabble. And that’s how she came to give me that advice.
I felt bad for her. Maybe because I felt a kindred spirit, being both remote workers. Why was she being made to feel guilty about her career choice? Isn’t our job not as important as theirs?
What my friend was talking about is a thing called “social undermining”. You’ve probably experienced something similar to this. It may not be a work from home job. It could be that you’re trying to make healthier lifestyle choices by going vegetarian. It could be that you’re trying to cut back on expenses and so you decline suggestions to spend on an expensive group vacation and instead offer more frugal options. It could be that someone from work failed to include you in that email invite to discuss an integral project. Whatever it is, you’ve experienced being knocked down by a friend, or even a family member.
What is the best way to get over this? The best way is to be upfront without being combative. They might get riled up and tell you that you’re reading too much into their comment. That there is no sinister motive behind it and that you’re just overly sensitive. Be firm and hold your ground. You are not being sensitive. You are calling them out on undermining you and your capabilities. If you let this continue, they will think it is ok to carry on with this behavior. After all, you teach people how to treat you. Tell them how flippant remarks like that affect you. Let them know that it makes you feel dismissed and that you would rather have them support you instead (in whatever that endeavor is, career, lifestyle change, etc).
How about you? How do you deal with underminers? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments. Remember to stay humble and hustle hard.
Written by: Jaie O. – The Help