One TikToker has a tip for those who want to talk like a boss.
On Jan. 9, Kristen Mahon, 28 — who goes by @drowningabovewater94 on the platform — shared a video recounting an email exchange with her new boss that quickly went viral. At the top of the video, the Sudbury, Ontario, resident working in real estate says that her boss’s surprising response to a minor complaint left her “shaking” in her boots.
“I wrote an email to her very professionally, very courteously, just stating, ‘Hey, while I do appreciate you commenting those things to the clients ... I do feel that you were undermining me, and it could damage my relationship with these clients,’” Mahon explained.
Speaking to TODAY.com, Mahon says that email is a method of communication she prefers in order to better express her feelings.
“I’m an emotional person. And I’ve learned that I communicate best via email when I can collect my thoughts and organize myself and write everything out, and (can) be articulate,” she explains. “You tend to forget things when you’re in person because the person interrupts you or you feel the need to defend yourself, and you don’t say everything that you want to say.”
In her TikTok video, Mahon pauses to take a deep breath before reading her boss’s reply to her email. Still visibly rocked by the response, she takes a moment to press her fingers to her mouth before continuing.
“This is her email in response,” Mahon says. “‘I see your point, and I apologize. I apologize for the way I approached that. I did not mean to undermine you in any way. For future emails that I’m (carbon copied) in, I won’t reply unless I’m addressed to or asked a direct question. I apologize for the way that I approach that, and I have 100% trust in you in the way that you are handling this file. The clients have been great clients for me, and I may be a little too attached because of it. I definitely need to learn to let go and trust. I also appreciate your email, and I appreciate you writing to address the way you felt right away instead of keeping it inside.’”
By the end of her video, Mahon is firm in her assessment.
“This is a boss,” she remarks. “This is how you communicate with your employees. This is how you take accountability. I was gobsmacked at this email of the professional courtesy, the acknowledgment of wrong, and the respecting of my boundaries, like this, should be the norm. This should be how work communication goes.”
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As of Jan. 31, Mahon’s video has more than 347,000 likes and 9,169 comments, plenty of which are laying the praise on Mahon’s broker.
“That’s not a boss honey,” one wrote.” That is a LEADER.”
“I was a millennial boss, and my whole thing was to break the cycle of toxic management. I had to lay off some employees and cried while doing it.”
Many users chiming into the conversation have been quick to note that Mahon’s video does more than point out generational differences. Instead, some say her post underlines a need for an emphasis on respect and understanding in the workplace in general.
“When I was a manager, all of my employees loved me bc they said I was their first boss who treated them like humans. The bar is on the floor,” one person said.
“They told us ‘be the change you want to see in the world, and we took that literally,’” another wrote with the hashtag #eldermillenial.
Mahon tells TODAY.com that after experiencing a slew of harsh managers and bosses, she started her current job with a new broker of record in November 2022, feeling optimistic.
“When I made the video, I was thinking of a specific someone, but I have had more than one (boss) that I’ve had negative experiences with,” she says.
Mahon recalls a series of bosses who she says often became defensive before listening when she brought up an issue and, in some cases, chastised her until she was brought to tears.
“(One) decided to take me out for lunch with a co-worker and berate me in public about the phone that I chose to purchase for myself,” she says. “My co-worker who is sitting there silently watching this whole thing happen goes, ‘I didn’t know she would react like this.’ (My boss) goes, ‘I did.’”
“A big part of it is I was young — arguably I’m still young — but when you’re really young, and an authoritative person tells you to do something, you just do it. You’re like, ‘Thank you for this opportunity,’” she says now. “And then, as the years went on, I was just being taken advantage of more and more. And I had multiple conversations with them. And not a whole lot changed.”
Mahon says she believes that users on TikTok reacted positively to her video because younger generations are learning that open communication is essential.
“That can’t be pressed enough,” she explains. “It’s not personal. I think a lot of aggression and anger is from self-defense. (People) are on defense all the time. And it’s like, just calm down. It isn’t about you. This is work.”
“I’ve seen this joke: ‘Pizza parties don’t cut it,’” she adds. “We don’t want that. We don’t want a pizza party. We want your respect. Employees aren’t expendable.”