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Ladies, It's Time for a Reckoning...

boundaries coaching exhaustion gender Nov 27, 2021
A woman walks to a crossroads in a field with multiple pathways by Pixourse of Pixabay
I was walking with a friend today, discussing her leadership role, and she shared how much of her time is spent listening to men complain. During meetings where she had an agenda, needing their input on projects, projects that they had tasked her to do, which were not being discussed. Because the men wanted someone to listen to them, someone to unload on. She laughed through her exasperation, “I’m not their therapist!”
Which brings me to a burden many women face…emotional labor. Specifically, unpaid or underpaid emotional labor.
This woman is a Physician. She works with top leaders throughout the organization, and like most, has too much on her plate at work (and at home, that’s a different issue). And because she’s a woman, she’s seen as an empathic listener, and as her friend, I know this to be true. AND YET, she is not their therapist. These meetings are carved out time to discuss the projects at hand, next steps, etc. Not for them to air their troubles.
So she leaves these meetings not only with her questions unanswered, but also with too much information, and carrying the emotional baggage of these men. Men who can afford therapists. Men who have coaches. Men who can afford not to dump on their (female) reports.
The trouble is, women Physicians and other Professionals continue to fight an uphill battle. We are socialized to do emotional labor, to put other’s needs first. Add Physician or other Helping Professional training? Nightmare. And if there is a power differential?
And, what happens when you don’t listen compassionately???
It’s time for women to speak up. To find kind but firm words to communicate that yes, we empathize, but we aren’t the right one to solve the problem (unless that is in your job description and you are being paid to do so). Emotional labor is literally work, and it comes at a cost. Taking it on leads to exhaustion, blurred boundaries, and ongoing people-pleasing (generally because the hierarchy demands women to be accommodating and empathetic); not taking it on makes you a “problem,” “not a team player,” “difficult.” While many of us may come to grips with these labels, they come with a steep cost as well. Not being liked/respected/seen as a team player means inequitable opportunities and expectations.
A sentence I recommend, next time you are asked for free emotional labor? “I see that this is really difficult for you. Do you know what helped when I’ve had similar problems? A Therapist/Coach/Professional Mentor. Here’s their info.” Mic drop.
PS, I use gender here as a lens, based on my own experience as a white woman in a (still) traditionally white male field. AND, I expect that others may add different lenses of their own, including race and ableism, which may further magnify the complexity of the situation.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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