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

Posted by Kimmothy in Uncategorized.
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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. 

You’re Not the Boss, er, Friend of Me March 17, 2014

Posted by Kimmothy in Uncategorized.
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It’s been a long time since I’ve felt strongly enough about something to post here (apparently the last time, it was when I was feeling particularly frisky – not embarrassing at all). 

Unfortunately this is one of those things that shouldn’t be written about in a public forum, but that’s never stopped me before (see above). As Dooce taught us many years ago, blogging about work, in particular when it’s a complaint about work, isn’t always the best idea. Although it obviously worked out well for her, I don’t see my blog career following her trajectory. But that’s what the delete button is for, so away I go.

Women bosses. A strange yet very common occurrence in these modern times. I’ve had my share of them, which has left me with the impression that most of them are insane. In their defense, in most fields of work, women in power have more to prove professionally than a male counterpart and this can, I’d imagine, be a little crazy-making at times. The three ex-bosses I’m thinking of in particular were a student activities coordinator, a lawyer and a telecommunications business owner. All were extremely ambitious, hard working and also hard-assed, drunk-with-power bitches. One almost caused me to walk out at the beginning of my interview when she started with, “So. Tell me all about KIM.” Another, while in the middle of firing me, asked me how old I was, then said, “I’d accomplished so much more than you have by the time I was your age.” And the third thought nothing of literally staying at work all night and forcing her employees to stay with her in order to get things done last-minute because she was a terrible procrastinator. 

My current boss, luckily, isn’t nearly as psychotic. But. Obviously there’s something up since I’m foreshadowing like a blatant hussy. 

Before my time there, she’d once been a supervisor. Very talented in her field and full of institutional knowledge, she’s a definite asset to the department. Ninety-five percent of her working life has been spent there and it is from there she’ll retire. However, because of certain personality conflicts (as in, she made people cry, walk away from the job without looking back or giving notice and reveled in her backing from important people) she was asked to step down from her supervisory role. When I started there three years ago, she was merely an imposing office mate; then through a series of office politics and drama, she became supervisor once again. With a caveat, to not please repeat her past mistakes. 

I guess a combination of maturity and a new crop of employees to make an impression on, she’s taken some stock and has become a better boss. In the past, where she would be inflexible about timeliness and time off, taking the strong arm approach and micro managing, she’s mellowed and now would much rather be the popular girl boss. She’s still no pushover though, and demands a high quality of work, which I respect. She was an invaluable source for helping me make the transfer into my current position; a good trainer, always available for questions or helping me meet deadlines – I thought how thankful I was to work under this new and improved boss version of her. People who worked under her before agree that the transformation is nothing short of shocking. 

However. 

As good as her work life is – the inverted ratio of that is the not-goodness of her home life. I won’t go into the details here, but that’s not for lack of her telling the office at large all of the cringe-worthy details. You see, she thinks we’re her friends. Friends that she controls the workplace lives of, yes, but friends all the same. The office friendship and the personal friendship: for most people there’s a very distinctive difference. For her, none. And the more time that passes, the more friend-like plans she has started bringing up and out into the open. A team-building meeting exercise on a Thursday morning; annoying but acceptable. A casual mention of “having all of us to my house for dinner and wine” that afternoon? Alarming. 

I’m not the first person who’s encountered this. And as I spend my much-needed mental health day home alone, I’m searching the internet for answers on how to deal with when your boss thinks your her friend. 

Help me, internet; you’re my only hope.