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(I Always Feel Like) Somebody’s Watching Me April 6, 2014

Posted by Kimmothy in Uncategorized.

More work-related stuff.

It’s coming up on a year since I was approached and accepted a different position within my department. I’m not sure that it can be considered a “promotion,” in the most basic sense of the word, but it came with a pay raise so that’s what I considered it to be. Titles don’t mean much to me in the office world: when “Secretary” was replaced by “Administrative Assistant,” I wasn’t impressed, as I was still the one making copies and three-hole-punching large piles of paper and didn’t feel any different. It’s especially laughable when you have a government job, as they take it even further, adding “Specialist” or Specialist II” to somehow differentiate between pay grades. 

Basically I went from general secretary to secretary who does slightly more specialized things involving edits to law review articles. I’m not trying to downplay it though; I’ve had to learn quite a few new things, specifically about legal writing. I still have a ways to go before I’m completely comfortable, but it’s rare (for me) to look over the past year of work and realize how much more satisfied I am – with myself and what I’ve accomplished.

Unfortunately, the reason I was offered the position in the first place was because the woman who had held it before me had failed. Spectacularly. While she was overly qualified for the job (her entire long career has been in editing and publishing), she has no grasp of basic people skills and how to get by in an office that’s inhabited by a group of people with a wide range of personality quirks. This lady is very intelligent, extremely well traveled and has forty years of work experience. I feel though that because she is not American born and raised, she doesn’t seem personable (especially to the younger law review students, who are infants in comparison to us – early to mid 20’s) and has no time for the humor, sarcasm and pop culture references that come along with most office jobs. While she may be way more technically advanced than I am, I KILL with these kids. I might be old enough to be their mother (shudder) but my sense of humor is on par with theirs and I enjoy both working with them and the small talk. I don’t mean for this to sound braggy by any means – I’m still terrified almost every day that I’m not measuring up to her level of work.

She moved out of our office under protest, even retaining a lawyer because she felt she was being treated unfairly to the point of harassment. She was never treated unprofessionally, her pay rate didn’t change; she was simply asked to step out of the position and (by her choice) be moved one floor away so as to not have anymore contact with her current editor. She stayed out of work as long as her leave allowed, was told by her lawyer she had no case and came back to work – grudgingly, but she ended up settling back in. 

Until a week ago, when she got moved back into our office to a desk about four feet away from mine and directly in front of our boss’s office. There were a few reasons for this, not worth talking about, but the end result kind of sucks for both she and me. If I make a mistake now, I can feel her silently gloating (hell, *I* would be!). If I do something good, get a compliment, whatever, I can feel her silently seething (I’d be doing that too). My therapist would say, “Kim, you’re just projecting.” because my therapist can be an asshole sometimes. That doesn’t change the fact that office geography, while seemingly just a logistical fact, has all kinds of subtle but powerful ramifications. 



1. Swistle - April 6, 2014

I’m with you: sometimes I think “projecting” is a valid thing, and other times I think it means “You’ve successfully used empathy to understand how someone else feels, and while that is the goal of many, many psychiatric paths, in this case we’re calling it wrong. For some unknown reason.”

This sounds sucky, and I wish it were different.

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