Friday, May 24, 2013

Not alone

I'm here, at the coffee shop--a coffee shop--with all my devices around me. My smart phone, new camera (it arrived!!!), typing on the iPad with the external keyboard. I know that many think it's wasteful to go to coffee shops. Mom gives me a pass because she says it's my social life. Is that sad? I deny it's social because I never talk to anyone except the staff, and even then, it's only transactional. I worry that trying to make friends with the staff is an imposition. So, while I occasionally have a chat with the cashier or barista that's longer than strictly necessary, I try to keep it short.

Today is our first furlough day. I have it packed with plans. Things that can only be done during working hours--eyeglass shopping, a haircut, a quick doctor visit. A test bike ride! So, a little bit of fun. I rode my bike to the first errand and saw this little coffee shop on the way I haven't been to before, so I stopped in. The haircut isn't until noon so I'm not in a big hurry. Yes, it's only 8:30 now. Somehow, I've turned into an early riser.

Work. Work is a disaster. The detail, well, I guess it may happen but there are conditions. There are actions being taking against me, maybe instigated by my supervisor, or maybe by her bosses--but aided and abetted by her. And these things have to happen at the same time as the detail. It's terribly upsetting and unfair. They're making an issue of something that happened two weeks ago that is now being called an "incident" but no one, literally not a single person, has spoken a word to me about it until TR mentioned it two days ago. He called it an incident and said that I was going to be asked to get counseling and there would be a letter about it in my file (whatever that means) before the detail would be granted. Yikes.

So at the very end of the day yesterday, my supervisor calls me in for a "short meeting" that ended up lasting over two hours. Where she presents me with this letter, packed full of falsehoods and distortions, describing my "unacceptable" behavior at the meeting in question. What she didn't know is that I was aware of the impression I made and as soon as the meeting--technically a training--came to a break, I went to the speakers and said I hoped they understood it wasn't personal and I apologized. One of them, at least, acknowledge my apology, and I've been working very well over the last two weeks.

Am I really some kind of monster? I spoke up when no one else would. Many people felt just as I did and thanked me later for saying something that needed to be said. I wish I hadn't been agitated when I spoke, but I only said things that were true. I'm being disciplined (?) because of my tone. Clearly, I have a problem. Fine. But they have a problem too if they think that what went down at that training was ok. I don't know. Ultimately, what it says to me is that I don't have a choice anymore. Maybe I do have the problem they think I have. I am a loose cannon, a trouble maker, etc. The problem is that even if I never, not once, ever express myself with one smidgen of emotion ever again, I will never be able to free myself of this impression. Time to go.

I told TR that I had an interview for a job that I would take if it were offered. I hoped he would give me a good reference. He said of course. I also apologized for putting him in this terrible spot and thanked him for doing what he could. I'm pretty sure this letter never would have happened if he hadn't started the discussion about giving me a detail to work for him. They--my supervisor and her chain of command--want to put me in my place. She doesn't think she's a micro manager (telling me how to do my job isn't micro managing! who knew?) and her bosses think that if I'm unhappy, I should get another job and leave. Well, I guess I'll make everyone except TR happy. I'm sure they'll find someone competent to take over my projects and I would just like to stay long enough to get everything in a place where they won't need much steering to get to success.

Terrible supervisor seemed shocked at two things. One was that I said I was afraid she'd give me a low rating. She was stunned that I thought she would do that, "this isn't a performance issue!" While I couldn't believe her disbelief, it was heartening. I don't think she's a bad person and she doesn't think she's being punitive--though the letter sitting on the table spoke otherwise. The second thing was when I said that I had no ambitions to rise in our organization and that all I wanted was to do the work. She said she didn't realize that (though I don't know how many times I've told her I don't want her job). I said I had other options and maybe it was time to leave. She said that I was wrong if I though my unacceptable behavior would be tolerated in the private sector. Oh whatever!

Last night, my friend Audrey did a mock interview with me. She is a recruiter in the IT sector and she's been doing it for years. She was really, really helpful. Not only have I never interviewed anyone (wait--not true! I've had three interns over the years--yes!), but I haven't been interviewed very many times. So, not only was it good practice, but Audrey gave me direct feedback on how to hone my answers. I think she could have a second career as a job/career coach. She's just too self-effacing for that...but that's a different story. But, in this context, she knew exactly how to advise me on the generic, "what's a big mistake you've made?" and other questions about my experience supervising and managing people. I forgot about my interns, but I did come up with a story about a student from back when I was teaching, which would also work. She told me the stories were good--even great--but I need to polish them and make them clearer and to the point. She said, "write it down and practice." That's the plan for my free time today and this weekend. I'll be sitting in coffee shops writing stories of my working life. I may use the blog for it...but at least one is much too identifying to share. The others are more generic. I'm not saying it will be interesting, but it's what I need to do.

I also want to thank those of you still reading and leaving encouraging words, JCD and Anon11 in particular. I am so grateful for your support and the support of my real life friends. Without Nancy, I wouldn't have applied for the job. Without ER, my cover letter would have been much weaker--and she's also encouraged me to be confident that I'll get the job. Without Audrey, I wouldn't know how to go about preparing for the interview. Without my favorite blog-commenters, I wouldn't have reached out to the guy leaving the job. When my crazy boss says I'm not collaborative, this is how I know she's got a distorted view of me. Maybe I don't like to collaborate with HER--but my whole life, though solitary in many ways, is a collaborative affair. It's touching that I have friends who are willing to extend themselves to help me when I need it. It makes me less afraid of the solitariness of my existence (you start to think about this a lot with aging parents). I'm not really alone. If I call out, they will answer. And even when I don't ask, they are still thinking of me. Thank you.

Grateful for: a supportive community.


  1. Your blog has been one of my favorites pretty much forever. You're very lucky to have a personal interview coach, and to have the clear sign that you're better off moving on than continuing to deal with your supervisor or jumping through hoops for a detail that may only be temporary. Good luck with your prep! And enjoy your 4-day weekend!

    1. Thank you for sticking around--and thanks for the nice complients. I do enjoy your comments and perspective. I know it's time to move on, but it's not going to be easy.

  2. Arggh. Micromanagers never think they are micromanagers. I'm so glad you are finding other options out there. In an environment where you were being appreciated, IF anyone even took exception with your tone, it would be communicated in a much more balanced way, instead of making a federal case about it. Sounds like your supervisor is panicking that she will end up looking bad if you get the detail, so she wants to make you look bad.

    1. First, you should have been on the list of supportive friends--sorry about that!

      And, you should have heard her description of what it would REALLY mean to be micro-managed--basically, she'd just do my job for me. Oh sigh.

      She made it sound like she was compelled to write the letter by higher-ups who also disapproved of my behavior--but she often presents distorted versions of what other people say. I wonder if she interpreted it this order to do just as you suggest, to cover herself by making me look bad.

      Last, a federal case--yes, literally! Heh.

  3. I forget exactly how I started reading your blog, some years ago--I think it may have been linked to on dcblogs. You write well, and I'm also glad to have gotten to know you and even to help in a small way. Whether or not you stay at your current job, it's probably not a good idea to have a letter like the one you desribed in your file. Can you talk to someone in HR? If so, I'd raise your concerns about the facts raised in the letter that you don't agree with and the lack of process by which this was implemented. You may still end up with a letter, but at least it might be written in a way you disagree with less, and perhaps the counseling might also be removed.

    1. Thank--I'm glad you like my writing--that never gets old. :)

      It's not clear to me that the letter is actually in my file--she said it's in her file. I don't know what that means. I will certainly try and keep it out of my file and change the content if that's possible.

      But this is how it goes--I'm quoted in the letter as saying "nobody has ever asked us to do it this way before." I was referring to a new requirement that was being conveyed to us during the meeting in question. I was, obviously, referring to the office that has created this new requirement--no one from their office has required us to do it in this new way (something that everyone would agree on--it's evident that it's brand new because they can't produce a single example! We just have to guess as to what they want). However, my supervisor, a few years ago, suggested that I do it this way (she also has never produced an example, something I asked for at the time). So...she says that it's not true that "nobody" ever asked me to do it that way--because one time, two years ago, she suggested it. How do you argue with that?


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