Friday, January 11, 2008

another phone-in after the holidays...

So in my first real altercation between myself and my new boss, I learned a valuable lesson: Never assume anything. I thought I had this office diplomacy down pat after 5 years in retail construction. I have heard every ridiculous rant you can imagine, I have seen unprofessionalism at it's worst. But I should have worn a flak jacket to be in the room with this one. Both my sense of personal dignity (a nonsense idea in an office I know) and my bosses loud, carrying voice have caused mild friction from the beginning. Nevertheless my work is done well and correctly, so we deal with each other. The other day however, things took a bit of a turn.

I've been feeling lied to pretty much since I began. The job is not what it was advertised to be and the people I work for are pretty clique-y. This is fairly stressful for me and on this particular day I received an email from one of the developers that didn't look quite right. I forwarded it on to the person who normally handles changes of event dates and asked if I should be adjusting calendars. I continue my slow journey towards an early stroke brought on by flickering ancient screens attached to computer equipment that appears to have been made by Fisher-Price, when I see a mass of dyed, curly blond hair move hyena-like between cubicle walls with a voice calling low, Margaret! Is this date change confirmed? Why is Julia sending emails, what is going on? My reaction was immediately to say, no no, I sent one email, the developer in question sent many emails and cc'd me. I wanted confirmation. Given the sheer decibels and urgency in her voice, I couldn't understand why she wouldn't just come to me and ask why I sent the email or at least for more information. One of the clique girls who has an office nearby came out to look at me and say, whoa! As though I was in the midst of a hostage situation and she was the person who was going to restore order to the situation. The boss comes over and says she doesn't like that, she doesn't want to be spoken to this way etc. Immediately I apologize, it makes no sense to argue with the boss about who's right in a situation like this. She vented a little and went to deal with the urgent email situation. She came back to further expound on how inappropriate it is to defend yourself when you are being accused in front of everyone in the office. I asked to speak to her in her office alone.

I must say, I have had my fair share of uncomfortable situations. When I yelled at the VP of Finance in one of my old offices for being loudly homophobic near me, for the way he spoke to and about women, for the way I bitched out the director of product in my last office after a very stressful move, after another employee lied to the boss and our department had a meeting about it. All in all, I have learned how to diplomatically ease uncomfortable situations, take responsibility when responsibility is mine, apologize, graciously accept apologies and move forward. I figured this was a great opportunity to solidify my relationship with my new boss Gail, or as I call her, blondezilla. It sadly was not to be. In her office I apologized again and immediately did what I always do in big, corporate situations. I explained where I was coming from and what I had interpreted from her to lead up to what I said in the office. Big mistake.

Normally in offices of 200+ people, this type of approach makes sense because you have to deal with everyone all day. In this way, we respect each other, attempt to understand where they are coming from and openly communicate to avoid hostility. In teeny, tiny, sad, barely extant little offices like this, never ever ever talk about what you mean or where you are coming from. She immediately said the following, "Okay Julia. I'm going to explain what is going on with me. I don't have to explain anything to you, but I will."

I don't actually remember the rest of what she said because I was seeing vivid red in front of me and was (as usual) counting slowly in my mind. She doesn't need to explain anything to me? But I'm supposed to graciously accept this explanation that I don't deserve? Guess what lady, you do owe me an explanation. Your boss is an authority figure. This person has direct control over your salary, your hours of business, vacation days, what projects you will be working on. This directly affects your standard of living and indirectly that of your family and friends. I don't need my boss to think I'm right (though it helps) but I do need to know that someone isn't going to pull any nonsense with that authority. If I see some evidence that I am being treated inappropriately by someone with power over myself and my job, I'm going to say something. Your boss DOES in fact owe you an explanation when they don't appear to be acting in good faith. It is definitely okay to stand up for yourself and attempt to reconcile the situation as necessary.

It's been two months now, Blondezilla one, mermaid zero. But the other people like me. For now.

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