I put in my resignation today. In a month, I start a new position as a “Regional Account Manager,” i.e., a business development rep with a new company. It is very exciting, but as with any big change, it’s been a bit odd getting used to the idea of leaving.
So now that my time at my current job is coming to an end, I feel like I can finally talk a little about how it unraveled. I didn’t want to discuss it while I was still working there and I’ve frankly debated talking about it all. What’s done is done, after all, and I don’t want to wallow in negativity. But because I was so afraid of retaliation, there’s a lot I never spoke about, and I kind of want to, at least for myself.
It was in the summer of 2008 that Bram, our son, died. I didn’t go to full term, his life ended when I was 5 months pregnant. It was a sad thing, but Leif and I got through it, and I’m not really going to go into it now, except to say that it started a downward spiral at my job.
It was a strange time for me. After Leif and I accepted what had happened, I felt an incredible peace come over me. I realized much of my life was lived in complacency. I was plodding along in a corporate job, not so much because I wanted to, but because it was the path of least resistance. I actually enjoyed my job to a certain extent, the way you might enjoy cleaning the kitchen, feeling a bit of satisfaction in getting it all squared away, even though it will get messy again. But it did not challenge me or appeal to my higher instincts. And worse, I started questioning why I was in this job.
Now, I enjoyed technical writing. I enjoyed making things pretty and understandable by a lay person. What I did not enjoy was being a widget maker, expected to do more and more ad infinitum. I was also made a supervisor, a position I had pursued because naive me, I thought it would be fun to mentor someone. I soon found out that my boss had different ideas.
It may have been my fault, it may have been her fault, but I did not understand what she expected of me. She expected me to be Big Brother, spy and keep tabs on people, while increasing the number of documents I processed, all for no change in pay. She had lots of lovely tidbits of advice, such as, “When you’re a supervisor, you can’t have friends, because you can’t trust people.” “When you’re a supervisor, I expect you to be the first one here and the last one to leave.” (that one’s pretty typical, I know) “When you’re a supervisor, you have to check people’s timesheets against what you logged as their time, to make sure there’s no cheats.” What a small opinion of people she had.
After about a month, to no surprise, I was not performing to her expectations of what a supervisor should be. And when she told me that at this rate I would have a negative review, I told her she should just put me back in my old position. I don’t think she expected that.
So I went back to doing what I was used to doing and found out it was no longer good enough. Whereas I had liked my job because my natural instinct was the right one, now my natural instinct was the wrong one. Everything I did seemed to piss her off. I wasn’t doing a good job at technical review, then I wasn’t processing enough documents, I didn’t listen at meetings, ideas I had were worse than useless, and I ate at my desk (eating at your desk is another way to cheat the system because you can’t possibly work at 100% and eat at the same time). And she really, really hated that I worked out during lunch twice a week and that I was the onsite wellness coordinator.
You get the idea. There is more, but this is long enough as it is. I slowly racked up quite the sheet, a verbal warning, a negative review, probationary action. In the end, she told me that by rights I should be demoted two levels– my technical ability was so questionable–but the company would not allow her to do that. She told me there was no recourse but to fire me, except that at last minute her boss stepped in and offered to switch me to a different group (although it was still under her).
I will be honest, I used to fantasize about blowing my brains out in the parking lot. How good it would feel to have all this pain spread out on asphalt. I started having panic attacks every time she called me into her office, which was often at least once a week. I was looking for jobs, but how was I to convince anyone to hire me when I felt like I must be one of the worst employees out there? And then I found out I was pregnant.
So I did everything in my power to be the good little employee in my switched position. I told my friends not to visit me at my cubicle (I was talked to about that), not to call me (I was talked to about using the telephone too), and I did not leave for lunches. I did ask to be able to make appointments with a shrink–this pleased her, perhaps it seemed like an admission of guilt. I tried to never be seen making idle chitchat.
But as much as I was angry with her, she taught me a valuable lesson. Always trust your gut.
See, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. She kept telling me that she was trying to help, get me to focus, get me back to the level I was at before. That she didn’t want me to think that she was out to get me, she wanted to help me. And we had been friends. So of course, my head couldn’t make sense of the behavior if we were friends.
It was when I let go of trying to explain it and just let myself feel it that I realized, She just doesn’t like me. That’s it, so simple. Because at the end of my probationary period, I gave it my all, and it still wasn’t good enough. And that was the last proof I needed, because I do good work. I may not be uber-fast all the time (though when a major deadline comes up I am quite capable of hauling ass) but I take pride in doing a good job. And she snowballed me into thinking that I was an incompetent hack.
But the funny thing is, I feel like she is the loser in all this. She pitted herself against me, and pretty much won. But she no longer has me. See, I have my faults and all, but I know, deep within me, that I am a unique and interesting person. There is no one out there quite like me. And I will be civil and cordial and I will forgive her, because I have already decided that I am that kind of person. After all, the universe uses the hard lessons to teach us the most.
But the consequence for her is that I will not trust her again. We will never be close again.
And that is her loss.