The New Personality Self-Portrait 25 - John M. Oldham, M.D., M.S., Lois B. Morris, Alok Madan, M.P.H. Ph.D.


It was the best night of her life, the party the office threw her to celebrate Kirsten’s promotion to manager of her department. There were champagne toasts all around, led by the company executive v-p, her new boss, who extolled her remarkable  rise at the company and predicted that someday she would take his place.  Kirsten reveled in the attention and praise from management and from colleagues who might be jealous of her corner office, the first in her career.  She’d worked three years at this internet entertainment-streaming outfit, four years before that at a music-licensing agency. Even her colleague, Jonah, seemed okay with her new role, not that he ever seemed to show any emotion. He’d wanted this job, she knew, and he’d been at the company a lot longer than she had.  He was a nose-to-the-grindstone guy, awash in the minutiae of every project, but he was dry as a bone in a desert when it came to ingenuity.

Her first job out of college was at a Fortune 500 company, where she’d been hired for their in-house PR department–and where she’d been “talked to” about her clothes after only four days on the job.  They told her literally to “button up.”  Her blouses, it seemed to them, were too revealing.  What??  Button them all the way up to her chin?  So she started dressing a little more conservatively, which didn’t make things better. They just didn’t seem to like her, which really got her down.  Then one day before work she took a look at herself in the mirror and, damn, she liked her style.  She wore a clingy dress to work the day she quit. She wasn’t the corporate type, she concluded.

Music people were more like her, and at her next job she excelled in the promotion department, both in her colorful personal and writing style.  She was recruited to the present company, where they extolled her creativity.  She got along great with the other people and was always appreciated for her ability to inject enthusiasm into every effort. Still, this new promotion was a stunning surprise.  They wanted a youthful “idea person” to head the P-R division, they’d told her. Well, she had ideas, all right, and she wasn’t yet thirty, not quite (she did worry about that big birthday coming up).

So why was she sitting in that lovely office with the door closed wanting to cry?  She cried easily and ordinarily would have gone into the ladies’ room and had a sniffle in a booth, not caring who heard her.  But she was the boss now, and on top of everything else that was going wrong, waterworks would not be a good thing. The reality was she couldn’t handle this job. The creative part was no problem, if she could ever get to it.  Instead she found herself completely bogged down in the administrative part. Reports to fill out, budgets to create.  She didn’t get along with numbers or details or computer programs that required entries that would throw everything off if they weren’t perfect. She could manage story board after story board when creating a video, but not all these god-awful reports.  They made her so anxious she’d make stupid mistakes and had to redo them again and again.

She’d asked her dad’s advice over the weekend.  He’d always applauded her accomplishments and encouraged her to be her wild and crazy self.

“You’ll figure it out,” he said.  “You’re the idea person, right?” 

Yeah, right.

Kirsten called a meeting of her department, ostensibly to  see how they were faring on the upcoming fall campaign, although she knew she was the only one who was falling behind.  Jonah entered loaded with his usual piles of materials and lists, dour as always.  At the end of the short meeting, in which everyone assured her they were on schedule, which of course she already knew, as everyone got up to leave, she suddenly asked Jonah to stay behind for a moment.  

His expression darkened when she told him she didn’t think he was happy with his job.  He nervously shifted his papers as she invited him to sit down.  And weren’t they both surprised–why hadn’t she thought of this before?-when she told him she wanted to give him some new responsibilities. How would like to become her administrative assistant and participate in budget preparation and report management?

The guy almost actually smiled! 

She ran the idea past her boss, saying she could be much more productive with Jonah assisting her in that capacity. He told her he had complete faith in her.  They found a private office for Jonah, where he’s been churning out reports and crunching numbers as if this was his own private heaven.

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