One of the most interesting facilitators that we had during our Newman’s Own Foundation retreats was Mary Abbajay. This woman was dynamic, charismatic, and very funny, but she also insisted that she was an introvert. For example, although she might tell someone to contact her, she never means to do so through a call: “strictly email”. I could tell this was a woman who knew her stuff and could help me turn into the professional goddess I had always aspired to be. So it was no surprise that one of Mary’s first lessons featured a fact I knew all too well: poor managers remain the #1 cause of employee unhappiness & turnover. Before my Fellowship year, all of my experiences with my managers fit into the tropes that Ms. Abbajay described as “difficult”. The micromanager. The ghost boss. The narcissist. My managers could single-handedly make or break my day, and I believed that it would be impossible to EVER have a respectful (and fun) working relationship. Maybe it was? Maybe not? But either way, I was not optimistic. With this apprehension, I began my Fellowship at The Resolution Project.
The Resolution Project is an organization that supports young entrepreneurs by partnering with youth conferences and scholar programs to host social venture challenges where undergraduate students can pitch their ventures that are focused on social impact within their communities. Resolution awards these young leaders with a lifelong fellowship that comes with seed funding, hands-on mentorship, access to pro bono resources, opportunities, and a community of like-minded peers. The mission of The Resolution Project is to develop socially responsible young leaders and empower them to make a positive impact today. This was a mission that I connected with, and I knew that I would find value in my work. I was excited to interview with the organization, and they thankfully offered me the position! But with the memories from my previous positions of unhealthy relationships I had had with managers, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to fully immerse myself in my work.
My manager was Mrs. Carly Gallo. Carly has worked for Resolution for over three years. She was well-versed in the organization and worked directly with Fellows. She looked good on paper, but would we have chemistry? Would she understand my work style? Could we communicate effectively? I had a whole speech prepared for our first check-in meeting. To my surprise, Carly had one of her own. Turns out, the organization encourages managers and managees to learn about one another through Clifton strength quizzes, leadership style discussions, and other fun methods. Carly and I spent the first few days learning about one another in this way, and she even left room for more personal metrics (she’s a Gemini and I’m a Libra: good match). This was the first time that any manager had ever taken the time to get to know me so personally from the beginning of our working relationship. I was beginning to realize that the advice that Mary Abbajay gave us could actually work! Having a healthy working relationship with your manager was possible and it all begins with you.
For the rest of my Fellowship year, Carly and I continued to learn more about one another and adapt to each other. Because she leaves so much room for open discussion and is always available for questions, I have been able to get a concrete idea about what I need in a manager, and I’ve learned more about myself. While it is true that a manager/boss can negatively affect a personal relationship with work, it doesn’t have to. I learned that staying grounded in a mission and taking pride in knowing the type of working environment I need to flourish can take me far.
I got lucky to be chosen to be a part of such a dynamic Fellowship with NOF. I got even luckier to be able to work for an organization that took the time to learn about my work style and matched me with a manager who they believed fit. Thank you, NOF for bringing amazing facilitators into my life such as Mary who taught me so much. Thank you, Caitlin and Diana, for also being amazing guides/mentors and believing in my ability to work at such an amazing organization Throughout my NOF Fellowship, Carly, Caitlin and Diana have advocated for me in unimaginable ways and have all truly been my cheerleaders. Carly and I have been able to continue the organization’s mission, and I have learned so many skills from her and my team that I can take with me wherever my journey takes me. Thankfully, the work will not end just yet. I am proud to say that I will be staying on with The Resolution Project past my end date. The fantastic working relationship and guidance from my manager have pushed forward so many initiatives, and I’m happy to continue it. The “dream team” lives on!
By Antonette White, 2019-2020 NOF Fellow, The Resolution Project, New York, NY