Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fly in the Ointment

I’m deep in a big project at work that has high visibility and lots of pressure. I got brought in a month ago to “help” with the workload of a coworker. This guy quickly displayed some troublesome traits. He’s late to meetings and misses meetings. He’s late to work. He misses deadlines. He talks a good game but doesn’t deliver the goods. He is very interested in his own status and when he wants someone to take his side or help him out, he says he’s interested in their career, too. He gossips. He’s free with his negative criticism of other people’s work. His personal life is full of drama and excuses and lacking in boundaries. When something is “going on” in his world, he has to step out to take phone calls, expects everyone to work around his schedule, and “understand” that he has all these pressing problems. He’s also very talkative and charismatic, and flatters and manipulates people to get what he wants.

Before we were working together on this project, this guy had been nice to me and helped me get oriented in the new job, and I hadn’t seen any of this crap, so I had no reason to suspect he would be a problem, but a short time after I was brought in, I started to realize that I was doing the bulk of the work, and this guy was doing a song and dance, despite the assignments we’d been given. I got annoyed and talked casually to my boss about how I should resolve the work imbalance. My boss said I should just talk to him; that the guy was a good guy and we should be able to fix it. The guy made a big show of acting contrite and gave me a long speech about how his personal life had caused him problems, and he went on about how much he appreciated what I’d done and how much he liked working with me and so on. I thought “okay, we’ve got that straightened out, we should be good now.”

Turns out, he was just blowing smoke up my skirt.

Last week, we had three critical meetings. I had my stuff ready for the first two, but we still hadn’t seen anything from him for the third one. He’d missed two deadlines, but had promised he’d have his work done that week. We needed his stuff for the third meeting that was scheduled for Thursday morning and another piece that was supposed to follow. On Tuesday last week he and I started having heated discussions, because I was concerned that he didn’t have his stuff done and he was trying – again – to take up a lot of my time, and I had a full schedule. He left town – for our company – and promised he’d email his work later that afternoon. At least by this time the project manager was also concerned and was getting worried about the emails and voicemails – but no work – that was coming in from him and that the time was running out.

Thursday morning at 8, we got an email with his work for the meeting scheduled at 11. It was total crap. The project manager and I had to work until the meeting started to have something for the meeting (that couldn’t be rescheduled due to the tight project plan). We had to jam like crazy and it was not up to my usual standard. I was severely pissed off about that, plus having to work the rest of Thursday and all day Friday on his stuff, because now, he’d taken pre-arranged time off and was out of communication, and wasn’t slated to be back until today (Tuesday).

On Friday the project manager took me out to lunch and then we both talked to our boss together, letting him know what was going on and how we were dealing with it. All of our work was for a week-long huge project meeting that started yesterday. (I was still working on “his” work yesterday and this morning before the meetings started.)

The problem child came back today and was in our boss’s office at noon. We have a meeting scheduled for 9 am tomorrow with our boss – me, him, and the project manager.

I have a feeling that he did some more magic tricks and smoke and mirrors, and weaseled his way out of a large portion of the blame and responsibility. I suspect that tomorrow we are going to briefly witness him doing an impassioned mea culpa, and then I’m supposed to pretend that everything is fine and go on as if nothing happened.

I severely dislike being in a group of people where I’m responsible and hard working and other people aren’t. I don’t care if they want to be that way on their own, but don’t get it mixed up with my stuff. I don’t have any patience for it. I don’t have time for it. I have enough on my plate, thankyouverymuch, and I manage my time carefully so that I can get everything done. I take care of it myself if I don’t. I don’t pawn off my shortcomings on to other people and I sure as hell don’t want them doing it to me. This stupid guy at work has annoyed me no end, and I hate that I’m dealing with his inadequacy on top of everything else I’m trying to accomplish at the new job. I’m in a rotten mood.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Sow's Ear

I'm glad Father's Day is behind us for another year. It's a hard holiday for both me and my daughter.

She worked hard on making her father a 5 page card, all her own idea, complete with table of contents. All I did was help her staple it together, and mail it for her. After a few days, she asked me if he'd received it yet. So I sent him a short email, and he answered that he had. I heard nothing more from him. The way I see it, this was an opportunity - if he wished - to ask whether we were going to be around on Sunday so that he could talk to her. He didn't. Knowing him as well as I do, I believe that in his narcissistic little mind, he expected a call from her.

From the time she was a year old, he's only visited twice. Some time ago, we arranged for him to talk to her once a week on the webcam. This has worked out pretty well, I think, considering. Sunday is not his day. He has completely failed at respecting my time or my schedule in his requests for access to her, and I've had to change the night of the week once or twice, but for the most part, all the accomodation is on my part.

Sunday night at 7 o'clock my phone rang. She was upstairs. I let it ring to voicemail.

My daughter is pretty upfront about telling me what she wants and who she likes. She asks me about the people she cares about, and she has asked me to call her grandma (my mother) several times. She didn't ask about her father, and I am really over trying to help him make their relationship anything other than what it is. She's old enough now to have an opinion, and he's theoretically capable of making his desires known. When he visited in February he really pissed me off, completely disrespecting me and arguing in front of her, and the following month for her birthday he sent a pile of cheap crap after being explicitly asked not to. I decided I am through trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Tonight is webcam night. I suffered through Buster’s stilted verbal stumbling, trying to assist M with the computer while staying out of their call and tuning out their conversation (as much as one can with a six year old who expects me to be on top of everything and anticipate her questions).

His parents got on tonight and took up most of the time. They are actually pretty lovely to me these days, a 180 from when M was born and they bought the story Buster told them about me. Now that they see how I share her and make her accessible and that she’s so obviously thriving and wants to talk to them, they are much nicer to me than he is. So when they get on the call I do, too, when invited. They travel to Europe a lot and just sent M another present from Germany. Tonight’s call was a lot more pleasant than usual as a result.

I try really hard not to be petty or at least not to let my deep resentment of him affect my daughter adversely. I do try.

I know, too, that my attitude is not helped by my relationship with my own father. I called him on Father’s Day, and he couldn’t get off the phone fast enough. He was apparently pleased that I called, though.

He never calls me. Ever. Unless someone has just died or been rushed to the ER, or something similarly life altering. Otherwise, it is radio silence. He used to write me notes and letters, but not for years.

I don’t have any male relatives that I ever had a close or healthy relationship with. It always made me feel such a loss. I wondered when I was a kid why my family was so different and why some people just don’t get the goodies that other people get in life and take so for granted.

I make a deliberate effort to get my daughter around the nice male friends that I have as much as I can, so at least she can know that such a creature exists. The other day I was talking to such a man about this, though, and we started laughing because we realized that it sounded like taking a kid to the zoo to see the exotic animals. “Look, honey! A nice man!”

*sigh* Sometimes in my dark moments I fear for what would happen to my precious daughter if something happened to me. Having lost the only anchor I had myself at the age of seven, it is a real and persistent fear of mine, one of my worst nightmares. But I push it down to the depths from which it comes, and carry on with my Master Plan: the belief that maybe I’ve been through enough and the Universe is satisfied, and that my daughter will be spared the hell I went through and get to have a normal life. Whatever that is.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sniffing out the new pack

In my head, I often compare people to dogs. While there are always exceptions, certain breeds tend to exhibit certain behaviors, and in general, dog behavior is simpler to observe and analyze than people’s behavior. But sometimes people aren’t as complex as they think they are.
Having started a new job, I have the opportunity to be thrust into a new pool of unfamiliar personalities, politics, and power structures. An Org chart won’t tell you who is insecure, who is widely believed to be incompetent, who is overly aggressive, or who will smile to your face and talk about you behind your back. You have to find out these things on your own. Observing behavior is useful and entertaining, but some of the behavior I’ve been witnessing is already starting to drive me nuts.
There is a woman here who has a job in documentation. She is older than me, childless, married, and very conservative. She is tall and slender, kind of dry and brittle looking. She likes to stop at my cubicle to say hello and ask me how I’m doing, and then launches into a narrative about something that paints her in a dismal light. None of the information she shares has been solicited in any way, and much of it is deeply personal and rather embarrassing. Without “testing the waters” to any degree, she lets people know that she’s deeply religious, follows Glenn Beck, and hates the current administration and recent legislation. I know details about her extremely troubled and dysfunctional marriage, her husband’s Internet activities – including his search for a Chinese bride – and their financial situation.
It is clear that this woman walks around most of the time with her tail between her legs. She is exhibiting a chronic submissive posture, hoping to elicit others to like her, to include and accept her, or to simply not attack her.
The problem, of course, is that we are not dogs.
 While I flatter myself that I am an Alpha Female, I am by no means in charge of our team at work or even of her. I want my peers to respect each other, and treat each other as equals, but the excessive groveling behavior is irritating. It makes me want to avoid her and not engage her in conversation, both of which I have to be careful with, so as not to be seen as unfriendly or “not a team player.”  (which in the kind of office setting like mine can be the kiss of death)
Is it wrong that I so want to bite the scruff of her neck and shake her til she pees herself?  Yeah, it probably is.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fear, Facebook, and Sarah Ferguson

I am eternally grateful that when I was a teenager and a young(er) adult that there was no such thing as digital recordings made with handheld devices carried about on a day to day basis.
I’ve done so many foolish, frivolous, and forgettable things. I have made a royal ass of myself and many occasions. I have far too many memories that I’d sooner forget. I am grateful that the evidence only lies in still photographs, a few video tapes, and the distant memories of the other participants that would probably also sooner forget.
I had a painful and troubled childhood and adolescence. Worse than most, not as bad as some. I went through one-on-one and group therapy for about ten years, so I’ve heard enough stories to make a solid comparison. Before and even after I began counseling, I acted out a great deal. I’m not proud of my behavior, but I try to be compassionate toward my younger self; it took a long time to acquire the skills to deal with the lousy hand that I was dealt, and a lot of work to slog through the debris of what my life had become by the time I was ready to confront it all.
Fear can manifest itself as other things. I was lucky, in a way. I was able to get angry at the gross injustice of my early experiences, and so as a result did not entirely turn inward and punish only myself. Compared to those who let the pain completely eat away at them from within, or twist every arrow so that it pointed at their own soul, I was able to direct some of the energy outward, even though it took years to direct it at the correct targets. They told me I was strong, and that being able to get mad saved me from the most destructive of the hurt.
So, although I was self-sabotaging and lacked confidence and self-esteem, most of my antics were simply stupid. Not earth-shaking, not news-making, and blessedly, not distributed on YouTube or Facebook or – yet – ending up on Oprah. Now that I have a daughter, I am especially grateful for that. As I flailed about in my misery and despair, only the people who actually witnessed it are aware that it happened.
I listened to Sarah Ferguson discuss her recent embarrassment on tv, and I thought again, how fortunate I am that so far nothing I’ve done has surfaced on the Internet. But if it did, I can say with confidence that I’ve only ever hurt myself, that I never caused damage that was not easily mended, and that nothing irrevocable ever occurred. That is a lot to be thankful for.
I’m a lot older now, and – I like to think – a lot wiser. I wish I could go talk to my younger self, but mostly I’d just want to hold her and tell her she was lovable, and ask her to trust herself more. I’m glad that I am in a position to have stupid, embarrassing things in my past that no one cares about but me. I’m glad I made it this far.