Ask Amy: Walking on Eggshells

Dear Amy,

I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around the employees in my family’s business. I tend to be a very direct person, so this is frustrating for me. I want to feel “at home” when I’m at work. I don’t want to feel so self-conscious all the time. Any suggestions?

– Ellie

Amy Katz Dear Ellie,

I may get some pushback on my answer to you, but here goes: walking on eggshells is a skill that I happen to think is important to develop and use throughout your career. You may be new to it, particularly if you’ve grown up in your family’s business and are used to feeling “at home” there. But now that you’re an adult, it’s time to hone that skill so carefully and thoughtfully that it becomes a part of how you work with people. Simply stated, learn to focus on how you come across to others and how they feel around you. I would suggest that to anyone, whether or not they work in a family business.

I know there’s a lot being written now about the importance of being “authentic” at work. But I get concerned that some people take that phrase too far. I want women to feel “comfortable in their skin”, not only so that they can feel great at work (and everywhere else!), but because when you feel great about yourself, you’re likely to be more generous, thoughtful, flexible, and patient with others.

You’ve said that you’re a direct person. Being direct is a different skill – one that’s also sorely needed in many workplaces. But as a daughter, everything you say is likely to be “charged” …to carry a particular force that you may or may not intend. So my advice to you is to keep the image of “walking on eggshells” in the forefront of your mind. Learn to get comfortable with it. It will allow you to develop even greater self consciousness – the kind that gives you a true appreciation of how you come across, an awareness of how people respond to you, and a few clues to how you can best connect with them.

Here’s the reality: good leaders are acutely aware of their impact on their employees. They adjust their styles when needed. They know the power and impact of their words and actions. You, too, can develop this skill. And then when it’s important for you to be direct with your employees (another vital leadership skill), you’ll have the credibility you need to influence and inspire them.

Tread lightly!





Ellie’s situation may be one that you’ve experienced, too. Please share any ways that you’ve found to move through it in the comments section below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *