Mary was at the pinnacle of her career. She had worked her way up in the cosmetic industry, building strong teams and learning all there was about marketing along the way.
As a result of her dedication to growing as a leader, she became a marketing director in a prominent cosmetic company. The pressure of both that position and being a mom to two young children began to mount and Mary found alcohol as a great stress release. She started turning to wine the minute she got home and could easily consume a bottle a night. Soon, there was a downturn in sales at work and Mary was laid off from that position just as summer started. Mary was excited to be home with her family for the summer as she had spent so much time away from them while growing into the marketing director position. However, her drinking started earlier and earlier as her days often were unplanned and she wasn’t thriving.
A vice president of marketing position in a large, direct-sales company soon came open. Mary expressed to me that she is a strong proponent of leading with strengths, meaning she likes to know what the innate talents are of herself and her team to help them leverage those at work. For her, belief is her number one strength, so she is passionate and uncompromising about her core values, such as genuineness and transparency. Leaning into her belief strength gave her confidence about the right way forward. As she explored whether this vice president position was right for her, Mary discovered that she knew one of the co-founders of the company and believed that her personal values aligned with those of the company. She was excited to land the position just as school was starting again for her kids.
Maintaining a long-term vision in a short-sighted culture
Shortly after Mary arrived, she learned that there was insurmountable stress on her and her staff. Mary strived to keep the long-term company goals in mind as she navigated the daily stress; however, she felt like upper management was caught up in short-term wins, which wasn’t productive. In fact, this short-term approach of pressures to out-market and out-sell the month before resulted in members of Mary’s staff suffering from heart-attack-like symptoms and nervous breakdowns. Mary continuously worked to drive everyone, including her staff and leadership, toward long-term sustainable goals. As the pressure of being at odds with leadership’s goals mounted, Mary continued to find herself turning to alcohol immediately after work.
Uncompromising values and beliefs
Despite her best efforts to look at the long-term, the leaders around her remained fixated on the next month’s goals. Still, Mary remained true to her beliefs. Not one to shy away from hard conversations, Mary believed that being transparent about the pitfalls of the short-term focus was the best thing to do. She began to realize her position was at odds with those around her. She started to be labeled as “uncollaborative” and “inflexible”. At home, she started drinking heavily again, which made it difficult for her to remain completely mindful about her actions while at work. Although she tried her best to change the perceptions that others had of her, she wasn’t able to do so and found herself facing a demotion.
Making the difficult decision
Mary shared what it was like to weigh her options during that time. “Stress is the primary thing that hinders us as women,” Mary began. “Whether it’s self-imposed pressure or externally imposed has everything to do with how women respond in the workplace and whether they become more meek or aggressive. A lot of company cultures want stuff done immediately, so they pile on the pressure, increasing the stress at a time when women already have so much responsibility in every part of their lives already.” Ultimately, the stress of a culture focused on short-term goals and the realization that she wasn’t truly aligned with the values of the co-founder led Mary to resign from her position.
Mary has spent the last two years uncovering who she is. She recently celebrated two years of sobriety. Her new career path in women’s ministry at her church allows her to lead with her belief strength. Through coaching, Mary no longer allows the negative labels to define her and works to constantly improve who she is and how she shows up in her workplace.
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