Invisibility Wears You Down

Invisibility, it feels awful. Some staff feel like a thing — not a person — by people who order them around. People who have positions where they talk to strangers are especially prone to getting drained by this. People who canvas, or are tour guides, or do phone or internet support, or work in factories or assembly jobs, or are laborers, or work at receptions desks, or as cashiers are subject to this kind of invisibility. Sometimes it is the public who don’t see employees as people, sometimes it is supervisors or others up the hierarchy.

  • Advice: Staff people need to remind themselves that their employment role fosters that kind of invisibility. Remind yourself that you are liked and loved by your friends and family.
  • Advice: Managers would benefit from staying aware that people will do a better job when they feel like people with something to offer. Supervision that supports that will benefit your team.

A customer who comments on a worker’s appearance may be trying to be nice. They are noticing how nice you look. But some are saying instead, “you are remarkable, and not in a good way.” Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. Some customers may be directly critical of your appearance.

  • Advice: The staff person is not there to call attention to their own looks; they are there to do a job. I advise staff to get back to the job; ignore the comment, and focus on the job you are there to do. Say something like:
  • “When is your appointment? Let me log you in” for a receptionist.
  • “Are you registered to vote?” for a canvasser.
  • Remind yourself that you want to be attractive, but that you do it for yourself and your friends and family. You are not there to be judged by this stranger.

There is subtle — and not-so-subtle — racism/sexism in assumptions that all the supervisors are white and male. Same for the assumption that people of Asian or other non-western-European descent are recent immigrants.

  • Advice: Being unrecognized for your position as supervisor or being considered not-really-part of America is demeaning. We all want to be proud of what we accomplish and who we are. What to do? Acknowledge that you didn’t earn the slight. Remind yourself that you are accomplished. You are worthy of more respect than you are getting. Remind yourself that the person who made the wrong assumption is just wrong.
  • The more you proceed through the conversation with authority, the more that you show the person how wrong they are!
  • When the interaction is over, dishing on the ignorant person — in a safe place with your friends — might be therapeutic.

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