Friday, September 07, 2012

Welcome to the Machine

I’ve been thinking a lot about my little hissy fit over my job.

Seriously, I have a job. I should be thankful.
That said, my family will not be in a bread line if I don’t work (or if my husband didn’t work). One of the adults in our family needs to work obviously, but which one it is is immaterial. I make marginally more money per hour worked, but he works more hours and gets shift differential, Sunday premium, and occasionally, they actually pay his overtime. So six of mommy, half-dozen of daddy, as it were.

I really enjoy my current job. Leaving my kids in excellent care every day and going to a job I like is not difficult. Leaving my kids every day to go to a job I don’t like and don’t need…that would be… harder.

Through some creative network usage (you know, my network of inside informants), I’ve discovered that my job reassignment (aka, demotion) is not personal. At least not personally directed at me. I’m going to tell you a story.

I work for a very nice man named “Tim”. Tim has been at the company his entire career since he got out of college. The company has been bought, merged, bankrupted, rebirthed from the ashes, bought again, merged again, etc. It’s a dynamic industry. I am pretty sure I worked for the same company three times in three separate jobs for seemingly different companies that are all one big happy family now thanks to the power of Mergers and Acquisitions.

Tim’s boss is “Timothy”. (Seriously, they have the same name…for the sake of simplicity, I could have changed their names to something different, but I think it adds to the realism to keep their names the same…plus there is often confusion about who said what. “Your Tim? Or my Tim?” “Do you mean Big Tim?” “Wait, Tim Who?”).

Timothy has also been at his company since he got out of college, but it was a different company than the one at which Tim worked. Same company now. Lots of animosity among and between the different factions. When K-Mart and Sears merged or Daimler and Benz did, I’m sure there was a lot of the same thing going on. Or heck, when AFL and CIO merged.

So, Tim works for Timothy, and they do not particularly get along. Several other people not named Tim also work for Timothy. There are greater and lesser amounts of animosity between them depending upon which predecessor company is involved. Fun aside, one predecessor company dominates the managerial/VP ranks. Neither Tim nor Timothy came from that company. Timothy hopes one day to move up the ranks and needs to ingratiate himself with those in power. Tim has no desires to move up. He is happy as a mid-level manager (or functionary as I joke with him…Tim and I get along well).

I’ve been at this company for 5 years (and two weeks…I just had my service anniversary).  Hitting 5 years means I should get another week of vacation, but I won’t because of some accounting shenanigans, which mean I’ve been getting the extra week all along. Score! If you don’t work for a giant, faceless corporation, this might not seem like a big deal to you, but trust me, vacation allowance is better than gold. It’s like ammo after the break down of civilization).

During the 5 years, I have held two jobs. I have had positively glowing performance reviews for 5 years. We get rated on a scale of 1 to 5 which is forced onto a bell curve during a several hours-long managerial meeting of backstabbing and jockeying (I took a 2 in my department last year, it’s your turn. You can’t give him a 4, he got it before…if you give it again, he’ll expect a raise, or a promotion!). 1 is “you’re on a performance improvement plan and on your way out the door” and 5 is “walks on water/turns water into wine”. You will rarely see a 1 or a 5. Out of the 5,000 or so people in our little department, I think we only give out 5 of each (I'm sure the distribution is set by 6 sigma or whatever trendy thing is in fashion now). I have gotten 3 or 4 every year. In fact, I have gotten a 4 more than once. It’s almost unprecedented. Many people go their entire careers as a 3 every year.   I tell you this not to brag but to set the scene for the next part.

Timothy has been trying to wrest me away from Tim. I make Tim look good. Since Tim works for Timothy, you might think I also make Timothy look good, but apparently not, since I sit in a remote office location far away from him. Timothy thinks he needs to make his subordinates looks bad so that he can look like someone who manages people and gets them to improve. Or he wants to look like a much-beleaguered manager just doing his best with what he has. Timothy wants me under his roof making him look good, and he’s been waiting for an opportunity to bring me into the fold, so to speak. As there is now an opening in his building closer to him and there is a trained person who can immediately take over my job**, he got his wish. Poof. So, off I go to the other side of the factory and more importantly, away from Tim, where my loyalties lay (or is it lie, I never know and explorer keeps crashing on the GrammarGirl website…I know, I know, use Safari, but the deniers of Information Technology won’t let that happen).

Since I am kind of a go-along-to-get-along, albeit sarcastic, type, I think Timothy thinks I will actually go along with this. What Timothy doesn’t realize is I will quit my job, if I want to. How does it look when a manager loses a good employee due to his random acts of management? How does it look when he forces a productive employee out just so he can even some score? Would his bosses ever get the true story as to why I left? Or would it be presented as something like “personal reasons”?

So, I’m cruising our internal job postings board. I’m calling my contacts out in the wider industry. I’m calling people I know in the company to see if there are jobs that are open but aren’t posted. I’m tuning up my resume. I’m not really prepared to take on any new role right now. I sleep in 2 hour increments. It’s a heck of a time to try and learn new things. I wouldn’t want any new job at all, even if it was a great promotion and opportunity for me. I would not voluntarily seek out a new job during the infant-parenting red zone. I don’t want to go job interviewing with a breast pump slung over my shoulder. But here I am contemplating doing just that.

So, I might sound like someone who wants to be static and have no professional development at all since I just want to be left alone. But it’s not true. As I have gotten better at my job, I’ve written some programs to do some functions automatically for me. This has freed up time for me to improve other areas and work on projects I find interesting or vexing. Mostly, I like to be left alone to make things better.

** Apparently, this is not some kind of retaliation for maternity leave, but more a by-product of there being a body who can fill my current job and there not being a body to fill the new job. We’re just interchangeable cogs or bodies to them. If I need to take it to HR and have a little hearing of my case, though, you better believe I will play it up like retaliation for my maternity leave.

I showed this to Tim.  He thought it was funny (but also sad).  I didn't show it to Timothy because I am seething and I don't think he would appreciate my sense of humor.


I am shy. Painfully shy. When I was a kid, my mom and sister used to tease that I had telephonophobia, or fear of someone other than the person you are trying to reach answer the phone….and then you have to ask them for the person you want. I die. So awkward. I still feel this way. Cell phones have helped a lot since most people answer their own phones. And nowadays, you rarely need to talk through a secretary to get the person you want at work. But still, calling someone on the phone seems like such an imposition. Here I am ringing at you to drop whatever you are doing and pay attention to me. Clearly, I think I am more important than whatever you are doing.

So, I overthink every phone call I make. I wonder whether it is highly likely the other person is doing something important, and then I don’t call because, of course, they are doing something important. I don’t call the nanny if I think the kids are eating or awake or getting ready for school or about to come home or probably going potty because I wouldn’t want her to have to take her attention away to talk to me. I won’t call the doctor’s office first thing in the morning because I am sure they are busy getting caught up on the messages from overnight or lots of people are trying to call and I’ll have to wait on hold or they will hustle me off the phone quickly to get to the next person. But then I won’t call at lunch because they might be eating, and I won’t call after lunch because that’s when they return their calls and I don’t want to call at the end of the day because they want to go home. And on and on with every phone call I make. Wouldn’t want to bother anyone.

This has not held me back as much as you might think. I still make phone calls. I inhale deeply, feel the pit in my stomach, and dial 9 for an outside line. Since I rehearse the call in my head over and over before I dial, when someone finally answers, it usually tumbles out as “HithisisSarcastiCarrieIamcallingbecauseChucklesLong-Sufferingneedsproofofshotsforsecondgrade. Couldyoupleasefaxthemtohisschoolthenumberis fivefivefiveoh123.” I’m sure people love that.

However, I volunteered at Chuckles’s school to be the corporate liaison to beg ask for donations that we can auction or raffle off to raise money for literacy initiatives. I face constant rejection. Some people say no. I make cold calls. I try to get a connection with people via small talk. I am growing as a person. And the growth hurts. But I am doing it. Trying to improve myself and my skills. I pointed this out to Chuckles. He had no idea I was shy. I guess I put on a good game face. I told him I was doing something hard for me because I thought it was important and I was doing it to help him. As he is ridiculously painfully shy himself, I think this meant a lot to him. I think he knows how much I am sacrificing to do this. He has great empathy. I think it’s also good role-modeling at how I am doing something difficult, and with practice, I might get better at it (not bloody likely, but he doesn’t need to know that). Just sitting here, thinking about the phone calls, my stomach is going all wonky tense nervous.


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