Again with this job, like the last retail one, I started off at a small store, moved to a big one. I always make the mistake of wanting to believe that my work friendships are more than they are, that they’ll last my leaving a place. I’m usually wrong. I thought that this time, it might be different because of all the hippie-dippie values and the bonding experience (war trauma?) of opening a store and becoming one big retail family. Turns out, not so much. Continue reading
I went back to work on Monday.
By Wednesday, I’d come down with some cold/flu from hell. Psychosomatic sign that I am sick of this place and it’s time to get out? I think so. Continue reading
I am frequently asked if I have children– I don’t ask people why they ask me that question. Is it because I am a woman of a certain age and it’s a “natural” assumption to believe that women over 25 should have children? Is it because I’m not obviously a hyper-masculine bull-dyke and I wear Mary-Janes with quirky socks that coordinate with my clothes that are straight out of an L.L. Bean catalogue? Is it because my behavior codes as maternal, in my brusque & busybody kind of way? Is it because I work in a “helping” job and am usually the one with the common sense and resources/information to untangle people’s messes for them? How do these qualities come to be associated with maternal/”do you have kids?” rather than just “oh my God, you people are idiots, step aside and let me fix this,” which is sometimes what my inner narrator feels like a lot of the time? I try not to let that uncharitable & condescending sentiment show outside my head if I can. Is it just that we live in a society where asking about children is part of trying to get to know who someone is? (Why is that?) Continue reading
Today, I said no. That was something I did right, because setting boundaries and holding them is something I have a huge problem with. In addition, telling them no was the right thing to do because I wasn’t really competent to say yes, in the professional sense of giving answers to questions presented.
Today, I told someone at work who came to me for help that what they wanted (immigration and green card assistance for their wife, specifically, logging in to create an online account and then paying for things) was something that I wasn’t comfortable with, and that they needed to either do it themselves or use one of these (*insert montage of me googling & printing*) several immigration-specific resources outside the store who know all about this kind of thing.
And then I said no, again, and again, and again, because he was arguing with me about why I wouldn’t do it even when I said “I’m sorry, this isn’t something I’m trained to do, here are some places that have people who are, I could really mess something up and I am not going to do this for you.” He was really unhappy with me, but I’m an HR manager– not a social worker– and one of the larger systemic problems at this store is kind of a nanny-state issue where people wander in to my office and ask me to wipe their noses for them. The pushback when I refuse is really amazing. Petulant, too.
(I also managed not to laugh in the face of the person who said– “Someone told me I have to file taxes? Is that really true?” When I assured him that indeed, he did have that obligation, and that he could in fact pay a sizeable fine if he did not, and that this was why, in fact, I had chased him to file new withholding certificates, he was in awe of the idea that he had, you know, duties as a citizen and an adult. I think I was too baffled in the moment by “where does he think the money goes if not into returns?” to laugh, but still. I am counting it as a thing I did right.)
My therapy homework this week is– every day– to write down something that I did right, at work or at home.
Just like when I was sitting in my therapist’s office and he said that to me, all kind intention and just brimming with empathy– this man is good in the essential sense of that word– I’m leaking and choked because I can’t hear it, can’t think it.
Medication changes and more severe than usual spring mood swing aside, I don’t get enough thanks or praise, and when I do get it, it’s often laden, conditioned. “You’re the best,” because I did something so ridiculously, outrageously pampering of a grown-ass adult, just to get the work off both of our desks, even though it means it pushes the boundary back toward me though it’s not my job. “It’s nice that you work late & weekends,” (because the other guy didn’t.) These aren’t words that mean they see me– it only means that I exist as a contrast, an outline against some other condition/behavior/thing they want to avoid and make their life easier as a response. And I feel like it’s insincere when I hear it most of the time, because people just want things from me that make their lives easier. They don’t care about me except as a delivery vehicle.
I feel pretty invisible, most of the time– partly my role, partly my introversion, who knows what else– and when I’m visibly upset, most people don’t ask if I am okay or even let the pause be awkward before leaping in to the thing that they want– either because they’re oblivious, or selfish, or because there’s some perceived power dynamic and it’s better not to acknowledge that someone “above” you is having a shitty day in case they’ll get… what? I don’t know. I don’t understand the dynamic of it. I guess it’s mostly that it’s my job to be the one to deal with people’s feelings and people can’t deal with the idea that I might have some of my own.
At work, too, there’s a power dynamic between “just” the admin and the sales teams. It’s shitty. The sales leadership aren’t as well trained as they could be, and they’re allowed to get away with inconsistent & lacking behavior as long as the sales are on point, while the administrators run around mopping up after them. It’s the same any place, but the rhetoric here is that it’s supposed to be different and the divide from reality is stark, isolating, and disenheartening in the extreme. When you feel overworked, under-appreciated, overwhelmed with entitled stupid questions & never given a pause to train anyone in order to stop the stupid questions or any subset of of them, it’s– misery, pretty much, pure & simple, especially when you’re more or less suicidally depressed and no one seems to notice except your second assistant in a year and oh, yeah, guess what, she’s going to grad school so you’re going to have to start training somebody else by mid-summer.
There are smaller things that I did right this week. I admitted that I made a mistake about something that won’t be the end of the world. I helped someone qualify for housing benefits. I helped someone with a leave of absence and explained how short term disability worked. There is more. I can’t recall any of it in the constant onslaught of shit I deal with, day in & day out. Some of it’s firing people for stupid mistakes (the worst reason to fire someone, imho, at least be blatant about it), some of it’s wading through unqualified applications, some of it’s saying no for the 40th time and handing the person the explanatory form they’re too lazy too fill out themselves.
I can’t help feel, though, that the main thing I did right this week was admit that right now, I really do hate my job and I need to take some time off before I do something stupid like mess up something for someone or quit. (Like, you know, last time.) I don’t feel better about it, for managing to pull myself up short of my 2009 mistake and having admitted weakness, reached out for help, and asked for a leave of absence, without disclosing all the particulars of my diagnosis. I still feel stupid and paranoid and crazy and like there will be a negative impact on my job when and if I return, and who knows. Maybe there will be, but I suppose this all still buys me time.
I’m still really scared and anxious and depressed the moment I start thinking about it, in terms of– what will happen if I come back? Do I want to? What do I do while I’m off? What if the med change doesn’t help? I can’t fucking look for a new job in this state of mind. (You know, the usual crazy morass of anxious over-thinking.) I actually left early for the first time since I started work, after overreacting to something my two-weeks-brand-new boss said in– what I think were objectively understandable circumstances for context he didn’t have and didn’t bother to have before he set me off– and people are probably all gossiping about me at work by this point because I was clearly upset & in tears when I left and was shutting things down in my office. I idly looked at things I might theoretically otherwise want to do as job search queries (after isolating the parts of my job I like the most) and started to panic because it’s not that I hate the company or the job, really, it’s that I can’t draw a breath without 5 people shoving into my office– so I went right back to time-wasting internet shit– but it’s one thing at a time, I guess.
Things I did right this week. I didn’t stop showing up for work, because: crazy, and I went home early for a long weekend after a somewhat weepy but otherwise reasoned discussion.
I guess we’ll see how the rest plays out from here.
(burnt-sounding post ahead, and revised from original post)
At the risk of sounding like a privileged jerk, the employee population at my store has been underserved in years past. That’s not their fault, and I’ve been working to remedy that by making the information accessible in visible handouts, through training sessions, though visits to the departments, through my door being open, etc. My team members are from all over the world, with varying levels of English, writing, and computer literacy– I have found that in general terms, they don’t know a whole hell of a lot about things they should know (and should have been informed about), like their benefits, their discounts & perks, and how to move from one store to another, much less the basics of how payroll works. The overwhelming ignorance, coupled with information from more-informed colleagues, in-store and out-, that confirms that my predecessor just couldn’t be bothered to take the time, is something it’s going to take me a while to cure.
As a result, I feel guilty shoving them off and telling them no, I don’t have the time to help them at any given moment, even though the fact is, yes. I am ALWAYS busy. Especially when the problem is complex (insurance choices? labyrinthine, but I still have to look at the state health connector on their own time, I’m can only tell them what ours is about and if they do the research and bring it in to me, highlight to contrasts) and I do feel like there is a lot of caretaking and trustbuilding I still want to make sure is on a firmer foundation– but man, it’s exhausting. Six months in to this location, I’m feeling more than a little bit burnt.
There are also a bunch of special flowers who are capable of doing things on their own, but don’t want to and just want attention, and those I need to find a firm and not unkind way of saying they need to prove that they’ve failed, first, because it’s all about being a grownup. My position isn’t called Adult Resources, but it should be. Prove you’re an adult, then we’ll look at resources.
Coming into the store & trying to be a resource & open, available, has been like unleashing the floodgates on myself, because I do want to help– but at the same time, because too many of them are really ignorant, it’s hard to sort out the lazy from the in-need-of-education, and when there are 300 of them, it’s, shall we say, a bit fucking much. Especially since a lot of them signed disclosures and can read and are adults and yet they’re now complaining they didn’t know. (On my crankiest days, my inner monologue keeps saying “Tough fucking shit”, but I can’t say that, and won’t.) Instead, I try to just repeat in a less all caps voice, that I’m sorry, but they need to READ THE STUFF THEY’RE SIGNING. GOOD DAY.
So– before I snap at someone and say something that takes the humane out of human resources, I’ve got to take the rampaging whiny needy bulls by the horns and start doing classes, because it’s the only defensible way to start refusing to give the objectively capable people very time consuming & in the end, pretty ridiculous 1:1 help. It’s one thing if the person is special needs or is really ESL, and I do have about 3 dozen or so of those folks in my store– it’s another if they’re just being clingy because they want some attention.
Orientations into how to log on to various benefits’ providers websites’ make sense. Links and shortcuts on public access computers in the store do as well, but I have to publicize those. I don’t have a half hour to drop what I’m working on every time someone can’t be fucked to read their damned medical bill (once I’ve taught them what our company’s Explanations of Benefits mean), or because they don’t want to learn how to navigate the 401(k) website. Sorry, kids, it’s 2014. Basic computer literacy is a job requirement, period.
Open office hours in the conference rooms a few times a month make sense as well– drop in hours to ask whatever you want– and then otherwise, you need an appointment, because sorry– I’ve got people to hire, acute problems for real issues to fix rather than people avoiding adulthood a while longer by trying to dump their outside-of-work problem in my lap (nope, doing your income taxes is not my job, sorry, here’s the list of free local tax volunteers, no, really, sorry, it’s not my job, here’s the list of free local tax volunteers, now excuse me, I have someone coming in for an appointment, why yes, I do take appointments, it says so right on my door along with my posted hours, why yes, I’ve posted my hours since I started working here six months ago, see you later, have a great afternoon. *Cue internal screaming as I close the door behind them.*).
I’ve got to teach my team members to fish, so my temptation to just go & cut bait settles down.
I don’t remember when I bought those old PJ bottoms– sometime before Victoria’s Secret stopped making things in simple, pretty, feminine, flannel– so, at least a decade, because they’re also sized extra-large.
Suffice it to say, as I was hauling the vacuum around the house at 8 or so this morning, cleaning up the pine needles from the tree I finally had time to take down, something about some way I bent was too much– not the girth, because I’d kept hiking them up– but the mere fact of the motion, and they gave way at the seam.
Really gave way, too, flapping in the breeze and all that metaphorical jive.
I finished what I was doing, first, because I had a robe on, over, and my dad was studiously ignoring the fact that I was doing all the hard work downstairs by pretending to be engrossed in the paper online, upstairs, but then, eventually, I made it upstairs and took a look at the rent.
They weren’t really reparable, and the only thing to do was ball them up and throw them away. The house is already eaves-deep in dust rags. (Every time I throw out more unearthed piles, I find even more, even more vintage ones.)
The whole time I was untrimming the tree and dragging it out to the back for hacking apart to lay on the beds, I was fuming– maybe the steam contributed to the seams’ loosening. Because how can you not hear someone taking a tree through two rooms and the front door?
I don’t handle my anger well, and humiliatingly, I’m an angry crier. I hate it. I have been so stressed out with the nonstop at work and a few petty things that aren’t anything to get worked up about except that I’m feeling amplified by all my personal stuff– and my personal stuff looms large right now, because my father is being a fucking toddler about the fact that he has to follow rules about food and take care of himself. Every time my back’s turned, he’s trying to eat himself into his grave with something sugar or salt– or being a bully about my taking the T and then yelling at ME about the damned traffic when I try to pacify him by letting him drive.
I can’t get in a word edgewise about work, can’t vent about something or share something about my day, either, without getting a lecture: the fact that I work for a hippie-dippie Fortune 100 company with an entirely different business culture where, by and large, I can say what I think and share what I feel does not compute. Therefore, I must be wrong, and I must be lectured.
It’s made me be more and more silent at “home”, because the temptation to say “You know, I’m starting to think the only time I’ll get a word in edgewise is after you’re dead” is awfully strong. Add to that the fact that he doesn’t listen, can’t fucking hear, and isn’t paying attention more than half the damned time, and I want to move out even though he needs me more than he has. And is being as gracious about my presence here as a velociraptor.
I’d planned on taking a vacation this week– a little mid week trip to the Berkshires for some slow-poke art museum and craft shop poking around, some writing, lots of sleeping in, and lots of cheap eats– and then things slammed back into high gear at the same time that my backup decided she’d had enough of the job, and where I’d had a hiring freeze now I had 18 people to hire and NO ONE WAS DOING THEIR JOB INTERVIEWING THE PEOPLE I’D SCREENED.
Enter, pants ripping. Cue me deciding, all teary eyed and ready to crawl back into bed (yes, I am on my meds) that maybe I’d better not go on my vacation at all, a feeling of creeping dread I’d been having all day yesterday, too, during the extra work I put in to get more screenings done because left to their own devices, bless them, my team leaders are horrible judges of candidates and everyone they hired during my last stint out of the store have ALL, to a one, been fired for sucking.
I actually went so far as to call in to talk to one of my nominal bosses about not going because there was too much to do– I’ve been feeling like (warranted or not) I’m behind the eight ball and that I just don’t jive with anyone there, and he didn’t precisely sing kumbaya but he did at least give lipservice to my vacation being deserved and to sitting down tomorrow to put together a specific task list of what had to get done while I was away so that things didn’t slip. The fact that I’m feeling isolated and stressed of course has NOTHING to do with the fact that I’m overworked. The fact that I work with adults who don’t do my particular job as well as I do doesn’t change the fact that– they are adults, and if they screw it up by hiring someone I said was iffy, or not waiting until I come back (because goddamn, they’ve been sitting on their thumbs all this time, anyway), well, it’s not like I haven’t been working my ass off and it’s not like I haven’t been trying.
I think that when I come back I need to sit down and ask for feedback and see if there are places I need to refocus– with 300 team members, I’m always spinning my wheels and sometimes I just need to say no and put things off some, delegate more, and remember– I hit the ground running in August and haven’t stopped since. I need to stop taking care of everyone else, even if it’s only for three fucking days. Because I’m ready to rip, too, and I am not in a place to accept feedback and refocus, because I’m strained at the seams on my own.
Now I just need to find a way to tell my dad I’m leaving town for three days without him losing his shit. Or not crying when he does, anyway.
He taught me to cook; if he wants to eat crap while I’m gone and then not understand why he feels like shit, I need to let him. Because he does not want to learn, and I’m exhausted of beating my head bloody on the wall of his stupid self-disconnect.
I don’t want to work myself into that disconnect, myself, ever again. I need to go, before I can’t ever come back. I need to go, so I want to come back.