It could be Donald Trump is about the only one these days who's getting away with saying ridiculous things. Just about everyone else in a social setting has to keep language above board. And even more so in the workplace.
Except that's not always the case. Some of the craziest things I've heard uttered from people's mouths happened right in the office. I jokingly call those the "fifth-dimension moments"-you suddenly see a side of a person you thought you'd never see or even knew existed until you do and from that time on, you can't unsee or unhear it. Your life may even change after that.
I recently heard two fifth dimension stories that sent chills up my spine. It happened on a panel I hosted for my podcast, Radiate, which took place at the retail store of a new clothing company, Of Mercer. Susan Lyne, the founder and CEO of BBG Ventures, the investing arm of AOL, and Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of Baublebar, were there to speak about how to build the next generation of women leaders.
In the course of our conversation, Lyne recalled a time thirty years ago when she became pregnant with her daughter while starting a new magazine.
"I hid the fact that I was pregnant, because I was the Editor-in-Chief and I was afraid they were going shut down my magazine if I told them I was pregnant," she told the audience. After working up the courage to tell her boss, Lyne said his response was "are you going to keep it?"
The crowd gasped. I did too. Lyne went on to describe how she shrugged off this question. "It was one of those things where, if you were working, it was just water off the duck's back...the world has in fact shifted dramatically in those almost 30 years...there are still industries however and this is what staggers me, that feel like that world years back." She pointed to the very one she's in now: venture capital.
Similarly, Yacobovsky said one of the worst comments ever said to her came from someone on her management team. The senior managers were deciding whether to let someone go for poor performance.
"We sat with [the manager] and said, `Okay, we've had multiple check-ins, we've had multiple requests and we haven't seen a change. Do you think that now would be the appropriate time to make the hard decision to let this individual go?' And he got very flustered and literally sitting in a room with me, my female co-founder, our head of HR...he said `well, I don't want it to seem like we were just a bunch of women in the room making a fast decision.' First of all, my jaw hit the floor, because I'm your boss and are you kidding???"
I asked her if his comment made her sad. "It made me sad more from the perspective that, how sad for you that, that is the viewpoint with which you go through life," she replied. "And that there are so many people out there who are doing interesting things who are women and you will never really appropriately see that for what it is."
So what's the lesson when you encounter something incredible like this? The best thing to do is shrug it off. Focusing on any of those crazy, destructive or negative comments can lead you down a dark unnecessary hole.
But remember this too: those moments serve a purpose. However shocked you may be, it's always better to get honest, unfiltered data than data meant only to make you feel better. The more aware you are, the sharper your instincts and the more seasoned you'll be the next time around.
If you like this article, you'll love my new podcast, Radiate, featuring interviews with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. You can click on new episodes on iTunes, SoundCloud or on my website. www.betty-liu.com. Here is the RSS feed too. And please don't forget to REVIEW the podcast or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.