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Proof That [Team Lead #2] Has A Heart

, , , , , , | Working | August 3, 2022

I took an internship with a major government department in one of their IT areas. I was placed under the director, who ran a single team with two team leads (effectively each of them was responsible for different sorts of activities we did). The team lead I answered to was nice, but he kept referring me over to the other team lead when I needed help, had questions, or needed to learn new activities.

The second team lead wasn’t NOT nice, but she was very intimidating, especially for an intern with anxiety issues. She was super busy (the whole team was over capacity, but she got more than everyone else), so I was always afraid of bothering her.

When I asked questions, [Team Lead #2] wouldn’t just give me a straight answer; she’d ask me questions back about what I’d already checked or done. She was fantastic at the work she did, but it was also complicated. I think she tried to break it down into smaller chunks, but it was still overwhelming and I had trouble remembering the specifics from one part to the next, so when she asked me to give a task a try, I was terrified of messing up. Then she’d ask me how much I remembered about something she’d told me a few weeks ago.

Technically, [Team Lead #2] never did anything wrong; she always worked very hard to explain and teach, she was kind and nice with her words, she was patient, and her body language was fine, but she just sort of radiated a “Boss” aura.

Then came The Meeting.

I had ended up alone in a meeting with a project where they’d failed to get their design and gear together and so weren’t going to be able to go live when they’d intended.

IT projects do not like missing their release windows. It leads to timeframe slippage. Project managers DO NOT like slippage.

This particular project manager decided it was my fault and that if he yelled at me loud enough, he would get his release window back.

No one should be yelled at in the workplace, but we sadly expect insane clients in public-facing roles. You don’t expect them in an office. I froze up completely.

Then, [Team Lead #2] appeared at my desk. With the care normally reserved for the tiniest kittens, she took my headphones and shoved her own wallet into my hands.

Team Lead #2: “Take a break. [Team Lead] is going to go get coffee with you.”

Team Lead: “I am?”

My team lead spoke from his own desk, hearing the conversation around him for the first time.

Team Lead #2: “Yes, you are.”

Then, she put my headset on her head, walked away into one of the smaller meeting rooms around our office, and closed the door.

She accidentally did not close it all the way. The entire office had suddenly gone dead quiet, as a dozen people tried to hear a pin drop.

[Team Lead #2] did not yell. [Team Lead #2] in fact spoke very quietly, and very calmly, and skipped right past the “mom voice,” bypassed “boss voice,” and jumped straight into the stratosphere of “angels on high bring the word of God and that word is BEGONE” voices.

Team Lead #2: “I do not care if you are on fire; you do not ever speak to anyone in this office like that—”

This is when the shock sunk in and I started crying.

When I got back from that coffee, [Team Lead #2] came to my desk, looked me over, and simply asked with all the same directness and intensity she seemed to radiate every day:

Team Leader #2: “[Project Manager] has an apology for you. Do you want to hear it now or wait until [Director] is also free to be in the meeting, or would you like him to give a written apology instead?”

I worked for her for three years.

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