I am often struck by the people that I meet each day… There are so many different personality types and so many different ways people react to any given situation.
The other day I had a client walk into my office and I started with the usual question of “What can we do to help you today?” — within seconds the person was up, on their feet and out the door… I must admit that I did question whether I’d said or done something to offend the person but quickly realised that surely this initial question couldn’t offend that easily. I put it down to them not being ready to deal with their current issue and hope they will come back when they are.
This encounter got me thinking about some people that I met when I first started practising in this small country practice.
It is a given that country life is very different to living in the city but one thing that has been difficult to get used to is the views on gender roles that seem to be firmly entrenched (by some) out here…
There was the time when a gentleman stood at the door of our branch office (i.e. on the sidewalk) and motioned with his hand in my direction saying, “I’m not seeing her! When is the boss-man back?” (NB: this man had never met me before) The poor receptionist didn’t know what to do and just said “next week” to which the gentleman advised he would be back then!
Now, I confess to being a little offended when this happened but I guess — these are the people in my neighbourhood….
And then there was the time when a gentleman came to our main office reception asking to speak to the boss-man. I politely advised that he was not in the office and I may be able to help as I was a lawyer that worked with him. This gentlemen proceeded to pat me on the hand and say, “Girly, my issue is very legal and very confidential — so I will have to wait and see the boss-man”. Seriously?!?!
Again, I confess to being a little offended and I did resist the urge to reply “well, I’m just on the phone to a few of the girls so it will be a shame I didn’t get a chance to chat with you about your very legal and very confidential issue as I’m sure they would be very interested to know about it but we may find it difficult to comprehend what you are talking about!”. Hmmm – these are the people in my neighbourhood!
Needless to say I have had to adjust to the different ways people deal with a woman in a role that — in this location — is predominately held by males. Having come from a (almost overly) politically correct work environment, I can assure you, it has been a steep learning curve.
But the effort has been worth it…
It would seem that a brass plate on the front door and having some “locals” in your corner helps bridge the great divide of being a woman practising in a “mans world”.
This coupled with the people that pop in just to say thanks for the job you did, or make the effort to call and say “you really helped me through that tough time”… gives you the lift you need to keep on keeping on.
I am sure there will still be people who would prefer to see the ‘boss-man’ with their very legal and very confidential issues but all I can do is keep singing a favourite child-hood song -
“These are the people in your neighbourhood, the people that you meet each day!”