Blow-up at work – nice

Sprang a leak…

I’m being facetious here. There was nothing “nice” about it. Basically, my boss’es boss, who has been riding all our asses for weeks, if not months on end, pushed a little too hard yesterday, and I lost it. I blew up. Compared to how I felt, my outburst was relatively minor. But compared to the standards I hold myself to, it was way out of line.

This has been the culmination of weeks of hounding, innuendo, passive-aggressive comments, hints, tests, and general picking at me and the work I do. I’m not sure what precipitated it — no, I know what precipitated it: the Boss (capital B) has been running around the company making all sorts of statements that they can’t back up, in order to impress people or create the right impression. Meanwhile, they don’t have a very good handle on what exactly is going on, and when you tell them, they’re obviously thinking about other things. So, they don’t have the right information to base their statements on.

At times, they know they don’t have the right information, and then they think that they can press their department into making it happen the way they described it to others. The only problem is (it’s actually not the only problem, but it’s a big one) — the rest of us who do the work are so over-taxed trying to keep up with making good on the other promises they made, once upon a time, that we just don’t have the extra bandwidth to make it happen.

And then it all comes down on us.

Which is a pretty rotten way to run things. It’s called running your people into the ground.

Anyway, over the past year — especially since the move to the new building and its god-awful configuration which seems designed to prevent you from getting any real work done — things have gone steadily downhill. I’ve tried to keep up, but I have not succeeded at it. I’ve told my immediate boss that I’ve been having trouble keeping up with everything, and they know it, but that doesn’t fly well. I really don’t think it’s all me. I really don’t think it’s the TBI. I think it’s the way things have been run. I could probably have done a better job of communicating what’s been happening over time, and all the things that need to be fixed. I think I’ve tried to some extent, but it’s tended to fall on deaf ears. The reason I haven’t bent over backwards to communicate these things, is because the “solution” always seems to be to get rid of some really key projects that are critical to the business — but which are “competition” with the Boss’es own agenda. So, I’ve settled for having things 3/4-baked, instead of 100% perfect.

Plus, admitting that I need help with my workload puts me in a compromised position — not that my position is all that fantastic, anyway. This Boss has made it abundantly clear that they’re not comfortable with me, that they would rather avoid me, and that they think the projects I’m working on are just not “strategically significant”. So there you go.

Anyway, the bottom line is, yesterday they pushed just a little bit too hard in a meeting we had about this work that needs help, complaining about my work to someone else who is being brought on to help. They just kept poking and poking and pushing and pushing and going on and on about how these projects are in terrible condition and it makes us look bad, and we’re going to get “killed” by our critics.

I could feel myself getting really hot under the collar, and I wanted to just get the hell out of that meeting and get on with just taking care of things. I kept talking myself down, trying to get myself to settle and chill and not lose it. But they wouldn’t let up.

After the meeting was over, I gathered my things and got ready to go. I wasn’t making eye contact and I wasn’t saying much. Then the Boss asks me “…What?”

I sat back down and told them that I had seen this coming, and that I knew this was going to happen – that for two years I’ve been fighting to keep these projects going, despite being told explicitly to not do as much on them as needed to be done. I was told a number of times by two different bosses (including the Boss I was addressing) that I shouldn’t spend so much time on those projects — even though the people at the top had them at the top of their priorities list. And so I had to pick and choose what didn’t get done. I also said that the way things were done is not at all smart, that shit just gets thrown together and then we have to spend all our time fixing shit that’s broken. I also had some choice words — laced with profanity — about what f’ing bullshit it is to be told one thing, to fight (in vain) to make it different and make it work, then have the very people who created the mess come around and bitch and complain about how things are fucked up and why isn’t it fixed?

It’s the same thing as when I had been working overtime on a major project last year, and this Boss told me I should take Friday off, since I’d been putting in so many hours. I did take Friday off, and everyone was running around looking for me… and then I get back on Monday and this boss asks me why I took Friday off… and how everyone was pissed off that I was out.

I didn’t go into that, but when I leave, that will be one of the instances I’ll cite. They just keep doing this — telling me/us to do one thing, and then when that doesn’t work out, they come down on me/us like a ton of bricks.

Meanwhile, on Friday, one of my coworkers who sits near me and does the same sort of work that I do, had to leave work because they went blind from a migraine. All of a sudden, they lost vision in one eye. And then the other started to go. They had to be driven home from work.

Nice.

So, anyway, back to my debacle. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the biggest monumental deal of the century, and there are plenty of people who have gone off as bad — or worse. And my coworkers have had their own share of meltdowns and bitch sessions with this Boss. But I never do that. It’s not my thing. At least, I make a concerted effort to have it never be my thing. I can do better than that, and the whole experience left me feeling nauseated and shaky.

Probably just the adrenaline. But all the same, it felt like shit.

And I think I freaked out my boss and their Boss. ‘Cause I was really, really bullshit about the whole situation. I know they’ve never seen me like that. And they’ll never see me like that again. I’ve got like six weeks that I HAVE to be there. And I’m getting some good leads on what’s next for me. So, I’m not particularly worried about my job situation. Even if they do try to trash me, screw ’em. I can contract for the rest of my born days and make good money and not have to worry about living up to employers’/bosses’ skewed expectations about their “investment in my talent”.

Jesus, I hate corporate speak. I hate the organizational crap. And I hate how they paint you into a corner with a “permanent” full-time salaried job. Please. It just feels like a trap, half the time. And since I don’t have any kids and I don’t plan to retire and I don’t really give a damn about titles and prestige and power-brokering, why the hell should I get locked into that game? It’s so tiresome. The emperor has no clothes. It all just gets in the way.

Please, just put me in front of a computer in a quiet space, and let me do my work. Let me create code. Let me build things that haven’t been built before. Is that so hard?

Anyway, now I have to keep chill and buckle down and just get this crap done. I just want to put the finishing touches on the pieces that I’ve been responsible for, and call it a day. I cannot WAIT to move on. It’s been interesting and I’ve learned a lot, but when the Boss is jealous of your popularity (and after not wanting to think that for the past year or so, I’m suspecting it may be true) and they see your success as eclipsing their own — oh, and they steal your ideas and take major credit for them — there’s only so much you can do. I can keep succeeding and keep living as a target for a Boss who wants nothing more than to cut me down to size, or I can move on.

Hmmm… choices, choices… Not. This one is easy.

Now, of course no job is perfect, and where people are involved, there will always be elements of this. But I don’t have to put myself in a situation where my survival depends on it. I really need work where I can be measured not by people’s approval ratings and the number of things I tick off in my to-do list each day, but by the quality of the work I do. And that really comes with a more technical focus — a machine won’t play games with me. It’s very simple: I either get it right or not. It won’t use innuendo or backhanded compliments to steer me in one direction or another. It will simply say “yes” or “no” — and if it says “no” I can always try again.

So, that’s my exciting life, these days — a power-tripping Boss who is in over their head and is beating up on their minions when things don’t work out (which they often don’t), a bunch of work that I finally have the leeway to complete. And the hope of a new day… in about 6 weeks.

Well, it’s about time for me to get going. I got almost 7 hours of sleep last night — feel asleep on the couch while watching t.v., then headed to bed around midnight. I got about 5 hours continuous sleep, which could be better, but at least I got a couple of hours prior to that. It’s all a friggin’ process, I know. And it’s all experience that I’ll be able to use later. But right now, things kind of suck, I feel like a crappy failure, and all I can do is keep bailing, while trying to steer the boat in the right direction.

Oh, well. At least I’m still here. That’s something.

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Tired, but doing well

Like the sea and the tides… ebb and flow

Man, am I tired. I’ve said it before, but today I’m shaky and sick to my stomach. I didn’t get enough sleep last night, because I got all riled over my boss rattling my cage. I should know better than to check my email at 11:30 at night, but I did. And the resulting rage really threw me into a mind-bender that kept me up probably till about 12:30 or so – maybe later. I think I got about 5 hours of sleep, which is not helping.

Of course, not all the reasons for my lack of sleep were bad. The good stuff kept me up, too. I was going to take a long nap yesterday, but I was so jazzed about things that I could only sleep for half an hour. Oh, well. I’ll try again tonight. I don’t have any meetings or commitments or phone calls, so I can just chill with my spouse and then get to bed at a decent hour.

This weekend was very exciting for me. Especially yesterday, when I spent a whole lot of time working on my technical skills. I studied and experimented and worked at things. And I actually got a lot done. I didn’t exercise much — sat for nearly the whole day, and paid for it later, when I was not only in pain but also couldn’t sleep because I was physically out of balance — but mentally I felt great. The fantastic thing is, I’m back doing what I started out doing, nearly 20 years ago, and it feels amazing. Just to be able to sit down at a computer and code, rather than trying to get things done through a bunch of other people.

As much as people who want me to succeed would love to see me leading a team or doing some sort of consultative work, there’s nothing — absolutely nothing — like being able to sit down and hammer out some great web pages with some amazing functionality. Too cool. And I realize how much I’ve missed it. So very, very much.

Why did I get away from it? Well, because things were moving that way, about 10 years ago. All the work like what I do was going offshore to people who didn’t know how to do it in the first place, and the rates were dropping like rocks. I couldn’t make a living. It just wasn’t happening. Now, though, it’s coming around. I had a feeling that would happen in the space of 10 years, and sure enough – I was right.

Now the rates are going up, and the work is a whole lot more interesting than it was a decade ago. Now we can actually do things we always wanted to do — and the technology is mature enough that you can learn something and expect to be able to use it.

I’ve noticed something else that’s different now, from how it was about five years ago. Once upon a time, whenever I came across something that didn’t make any sense to me, I would “pop the hood” and take it apart and figure out how it worked. After I fell in 2004, I stopped being able to do that — I couldn’t figure out how to get the proverbial hood unlatched to begin with, and then I couldn’t figure out how to break things down and master them. Everything looked like a jumbled mess, and I couldn’t even begin to decipher it. That was when I learned the helplessness thing — and, from my workaday world to taking care of my house to keeping relationships going, I just couldn’t figure out HOW — and I slipped down into a pit of learned helplessness.

That agitation really messed with my attention and distractability, and I could not figure out how to even approach new challenges that weren’t immediately apparent to me. If I could do something right from the get-go, I was fine with it. But things I had to figure out, step by step? That was a no-go.

This has changed. It has changed dramatically. I noticed this yesterday, when I was looking at a piece of code that made no sense to me at all. I tried fiddling with it a little bit, but it wasn’t working. Then I tried something else. It still wasn’t working. In the past, I would have just bagged it and told myself it was too hard for me to handle. But it’s still in my mind, and I’m determined to figure it out. Surely, there must be a way. People who are a lot dumber than I am are able to figure this stuff out. It’s just a matter of technique. And persistence.

I still don’t understand how that thing works. But I am going to find out. There’s a lot of stuff to this piece of code that stumped me terribly before, and that stuff is exactly what I need to learn to handle. I can feel it – comprehension is so close. I’m so close to understanding it. There’s a fundamental concept that I’m missing, that once I have that in place, it’s going to springboard me forward, and then there’s no stopping me.

The only thing that can really stop me, is me. In the past, I have looked at these puzzles and chafed and gotten freaked out, and then just ran away to do something else. Something easier. Something that was less of a challenge. Something I had done before. Something I already knew how to do. And while it did comfort me to be back in a zone I recognized, and it took off the edge of the anxiety and agitation, it’s not where I need to be for the long term… especially if I’m going to earn a decent living.Especially if I want to be happy in my work.

What I’m doing now is just not fitting me well. I am able to do it, and I’m able to do it reasonably well. But it’s not where I am most comfortable. The place where I am most comfortable was taken from me, in 2004-2005. I thought it was gone for good. But it turns out, it’s not. I just had to relearn how to get back there… and trust that I’ll be able to rebuild the abilities that used to come so easily and fluidly to me.

I am a firm believer that if you truly love something, and if you are intently determined, and you don’t let the nay-sayers of the world stop you (including the one in your head), you can often find ways to restore the things you’ve “lost” to TBI. I know the brain changes, and there are sometimes fundamental differences that keep you from actually replicating the exact kinds of synaptic connections that once made your life so smooth and functional. At the same time, the brain is a pretty big place, and as long as we keep pushing, keep working, keep practicing, and keep resting and reviewing our progress, it is possible to build back functionality — sometimes in whole new ways that augment areas that needed augmenting to begin with.

This is not to say that everyone can magically {poof!} return to their formerly glorious state. Some can and some just can’t. And like a piece of metal that gets bent, no matter how you hammer and bend and coax it, you’ll never ever get it back to its original shape. You can get pretty damned close, but the change is made. There’s no going back 100%.  At the same time, the brain is built to rewire itself, and as such, there’s no reason on earth why new functionality cannot be discovered and explored and developed. There’s no reason at all. We have millions upon millions of synaptic connections, and a practically infinite number of different possible reconfigurations for those connections. If we get stuck trying to make ourselves into exactly what we were before, we lose the chance to make more of ourselves — and find out what else is possible.

So, that being said, I’m going to take another little crack at that puzzle. I find that if I spend maybe 15 minutes on it, then I step away and do something else, it’s easier for me, than if I muddle over it for hours on end. It’s easier on my brain, and it keeps me from getting discouraged.  And that’s important. Discouragement… that’s no good.

Oof

Oh, hell.

Man, am I wiped out. I’ve been working late and getting up early. Adjusting to this new job in this new locale. Longer drive isn’t that bad, actually. Gives me more time to listen to my music. It’s the work environment that’s tough — a vast sea of cubicles… no, not even cubicles, rather, work surfaces divided by low walls — full of constant distraction, noise, activity.

It’s pretty rough going. For me as well as others. At odd moments of the day, it feels like all-out hell.

I’m not sure how long I’m going to last there. We’ve effectively been “gobbled up” by the parent corporation that clearly doesn’t much care about our ability to work in peace. Somehow they seem to think that “dynamic” environments help people focus and produce.

Hm. How ’bout that…

Anyway, it’s a job, and so far it’s a good job with people I like and enjoy working with. Who knows how it will be in another year, but for now, I’ll just say,

I

am

so

tired.

Getting back to the real world

'Humidly Hot', United States, New York, New York City, Flat Iron Building
What else is out there to discover?

Yesterday started out slow, then it picked up, and by the end of the day I was feeling pretty great – about most things. Then I got a little bent out of shape about some stupid sh*t in the evening, and the fur flew. Oh, well. We sorted it out by the time I went to bed (too late, by the way).

Come to think of it, the week started out slow. But it’s starting to pick up. I’m getting my head around the office move, as well as the personnel changes at work. I’m also adjusting to the different ways that my company is going to be structured in the future. Parent Company is getting more pro-active. No more leaving us to our own designs. Not anymore. We can’t keep operating in our own little hermetically sealed, private environment. We don’t belong to ourselves — we belong to them. And they’re making that abundantly clear.

Well, it was really just a matter of time before this shift happened. I’ve known it was coming, all along, and I don’t know why I suddenly am NOT ready for it. I’ve been ready… or so I thought. But change is always hard. And getting to a point where it’s truly real, instead of just an abstraction, is another thing entirely.

I think I’m going to just have fun with this. Enjoy the good things about this change — and there are many — and not get caught up in too much grieving and loss over what’s going away. In many ways, what is going away has been a real problem for me — disjointed, separated, “silos” of people doing a poor job of working together, and not having a really clear idea of what else is going on in the world. The new configuration will make that all but impossible.

Time to let the world in… It’s about danged time.

Speaking of letting the rest of the world in, I have been noticing a lot, lately, how hard it is for me to get started with things that need to get done. Especially when I am switching gears from another activity. My work is varied at the office – I do a wide variety of things. But I often get stuck in a rut, when I have been doing something for a while. And I stay there. It’s comfortable. I’m not nervous or in pain or concerned. I’m just there. It feels good, in the midst of a world that tends to be nerve-wracking and anxiety-producing. Why switch gears, when things are going so well the way they are (or they feel like they are)?

Of course, it’s no good for my various projects, if I don’t switch gears. It’s a problem. I’m behind schedule on a number of things at work, and the one thing that is saving my a** is that my group is down a person (my old terrible boss left last Friday), so they can’t afford to lose any more people. I really need to get these things squared away by year end, and while that seems like long way off, let’s do a quick reality check — it’s October. Nearly midway through. That means I’ve got, oh, about 10 weeks, to sort things out.

Not a lot of time, actually.

Thinking about how to get myself back on track… There are some pretty critical things I’ve been needing to do, but I haven’t done them. Week after week has passed without me doing these things, and it’s getting ridiculous. Again, I think I’m giving myself too much time to get them done. If I give myself half an hour, instead of two hours, it can force me to focus in and just get things done. Or at least get started. When I have all the time in the world, there’s less urgency, and I start later. And don’t finish when I should.

The other thing that’s been getting in my way has been getting all kinds of scattershot demands from a variety of people who don’t go through any particular sort of process. The whole company where I work is pretty much devoid of process, which is very exciting and energizing — up to a point. After a certain point, it just becomes chaos … a slowly drifting cloud of catch-as-catch-can initiatives that may or may not get done. Everybody falling all over each other, trying to move forward. Kind of like a start-up, with 100 times as many people all in the running.

So, how to fix this? I can’t do a lot about others’ awful time management, but I can take steps to tend my own garden, so to speak. And if I do a good job of managing my own time, then that may rub off on others. Yeah – be a model for them. Show them what works, then let them draw their own conclusions.  Hmmmm… what to do?

First off, I need to stop giving myself so much time. Seriously. I have been giving myself way too much time to complete different tasks, telling myself I need the extra hours/days/weeks to “think things through”. Ridiculous. I’m not thinking anything through. I’m thinking in circles. And the more I think in circles, the more tied up I get in muck.

I think part of my problem is also my level of wakefulness. When I’m not sharp, not “on”, I tend to get mired. I also tend to isolate, which will be all but impossible in the new building. That’s good – we’re going to be in much more open space, which I am hoping will help me to not get so distracted by all the internal crap that keeps me from engaging with others. Sure, it’s going to be a lot harder to find quiet space to work and have calls with colleagues in other locations, but I think it will be helpful in other ways.

More than anything, though, has been the defensive posture I got into with my old boss. They were just so intrusive, so demeaning, so disrespectful… and demanding of things that didn’t make any sense. So much of my time was spent fixing the stuff they totally screwed up… no wonder I’m tired. It was exhausting working for them. But now they’re not here. I still am, and now I can start to pull ahead. I can start making friends and connections with people I haven’t met before — people who can do me some good (and vice versa) in the new organization.

A lot of things are going to change when we move, and more people from the parent company are getting integrated into the organization. It’s already started, and the people who have been here a while are getting nervous. They’re scared what it might mean for their jobs, I suppose, and rightfully so. As for me, I’m updating my resume and keeping in touch with recruiters… just in case. You can’t be too careful. Not in this economy.

But never mind that. Right here, right now, I actually have a new lease on life. My old boss from hell is gone, baby, gone, leaving me without that god-awful added layer of BS to navigate. This is good. This is better. It’s taken me 48 hours to start to decompress, but it’s happening. Thinking back, they were just such a nightmare, controlling and manipulating and power-mongering at every step of the way. Tiresome. Now I don’t have to deal with that anymore, and while Monday was a bust, with a lot of energy going to the transition away from having them around (and getting used to the idea of the move), today is a new day. I was up early. I have a whole day ahead of me — without intrusion or interference from an intensely insecure individual. I can re-start a number of projects I put on ice while they were around, because they were just so controlling and intrusive and were constantly telling me what I should and should not do… often to their own advantage and my disadvantage.

I can go back to doing what I want and need to do, instead of “managing up” to their denseness.

So, yeah, this is pretty great. I look around me, and the world is starting to look new again. I can’t let my lost 24 hours and the delays on projects get me down — I have a whole new avenue open to me, and it’s good. Plus, I’m having lunch with friends today who I haven’t seen in years, and I’m looking forward to being closer to them, when we move the office.

Ultimately, this is a really good move. It’s a grown-up move, away from the protected little space this company used to inhabit. It’s good that things are changing now, before I got too used to doing things that way. Because ultimately, that would have hurt me more than anything else. Gotta notch it up a level or two, and see what else is out there.

Gotta get back in the game.