Trigger warning: Some people will probably think I’m an ungrateful whine-ass for posting this. I’m OK with that. The reason I think some people will hate this post is that it may come off sounding soaked in privileged complaining, and I can see that. Some people would love to have the job I currently have (wait until May or so and you can apply!). But try to keep in mind I’ve worked other jobs too: physical labor jobs. Jobs where I went home soaked in grease or covered in animal goop. Jobs where I had to smile when I really wanted to tell someone exactly how far to shove it up their…
Anyway. I guess what I’m trying to say is, misery isn’t a competition, as one of my best friends frequently reminds me.
I’m pretty sure the end is nigh at my current job, and I’m still caught between panic and elation. Leaning toward elation, but I’m sure when the cold hard hand of reality slaps the shit out of me and my savings starts to drain, the scales will tip toward panic.
My husband has been getting a lot of interest in his resume lately so we are very hopeful we can do the switcheroo soon that we’ve been wanting to do for over a year and a half now, when I realized I’d gone from the workplace frying pan into the workplace fire. He has had several interviews and one shaky offer we had to turn down, and I’m proud of him for the work he’s been putting in. Weekends, week nights, he’s up there on our computer filling out applications, taking lame-ass personality tests (WHY do people even use those?!…I digress).
After spending an awesome weekend with my kids and husband— celebrating our 18th anniversary, working as a team to get the chores done so we can hang out and have fun together—the contrast on Monday when I have to come back to work is depressing as usual. I leave all that to come to a place where nothing I do is appreciated. There is literally never any positive feedback. If I do something right there’s just silence. If I do something “wrong”—and wrong can mean anything from an actual mistake to a misplaced capital letter—it is presented as the end of the world. I can’t even tell the end of the world from a typo anymore because it’s all a blur of “YOU SUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK.”
At least I still have my sense of humor. My boss has absolutely none; I don’t know how people like that survive. My suspicion is they may feed on the souls they drain from unsuspecting employees.
It’s gotten to the point where some days I can’t get the work done. My brain just refuses to cooperate. I am supposed to be working on the 7th or 8th draft of a “work proposal” in which I take the existing documentation from 2003 or so, update it, and send it to my boss with an outline of who will do what when. Invariably, this gets picked apart like the reluctant chicken guest of honor at a pecking party. Not even just for factual errors: it “has to make sense” to the people who would be using it, who would be me and my assistants, but “sense” is strictly her definition of the word. My idea of “make sense” is invalid. There’s no way to win. I just nod, agree, jot down notes, and try to escape as quickly as possible.
I have to wonder how many other people are in the same situation. I know several. I also wonder how much more productive everyone would be if the rotten apples who make workplaces unbearable would just try a little harder to be kind to others. We even have larger staff meetings where well-meaning human resources professionals, and even consultants from outside the organization, stand up and tell everyone how they should treat each other. Give others the benefit of the doubt is a big one. Try not to be so hierarchical and appreciate the worker bees in the organization too. Problem-solve, don’t blame. Communicate clearly and respectfully. How much money do organizations throw at workshops, trainings, and consultants to make these same points over and over?
But somehow it goes in one ear and out the other for so many people. When I was a middle manager at my last job, I tried to do all of the above with the people I managed. It meant that I was constantly at odds with upper management. I would have someone come into my office and question a time sheet I approved, wanting to see proof. I would be told I was too soft or that I was making excuses for people. I was always under suspicion or arguing with someone over giving out too many “it’s OK to be human” cards.
“Be Transparent” is another catch-phrase that elicits a monumental eye-roll from me now that I’ve seen the seedy underbelly of what goes on behind closed doors. Transparent, my ass. What they really mean is be like a one-way mirror. They want to know everything the staff is doing. They want proof the staff isn’t taking too long pinching a loaf in the bathroom. But if you tell an average worker “Sorry, I need to get a copy of the program from that funeral you attended to prove your grandpa died because Jane the Director is a suspicious asshole when it comes to you, as far as I can tell,” upper management does not like that level of transparency.
As a middle manager you’re supposed to “spin” that sort of thing. It’s our new “policy.” There may not have been a policy for the last ten people who took bereavement days, but now that Jane the Director noticed this one person she thinks is under-performing might have gotten some free days off, we have a policy from this day forward. Oh goody for me, I get to spin it. I never was good at that.
It’s pretty ironic that I left my first management job because I didn’t like constantly being pushed to be an asshole to my employees…then I landed at one where I am treated the way I was pushed to treat my ex-employees. I sure know how to pick ’em.
Sometimes people ask me what I plan on doing next after I get out of here and I have gone from saying “I’m not sure” to “Not a g_ddamn thing.” I need a break. I’m never taking another management position so long as I live, though; I know that with 100% certainty.
I’ll be over here limping through Monday with the help of a few cat videos and a crap-ton of coffee. Hope yours is survivable.