Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

Well, it’s finally official. Effective this Friday at 5 PM, I have been transferred to another engineering team: my original team (going back 5-10 years)–and have been granted a 3-month leave of absence to finish my thesis and recover from the pain and burnout of the last year. When I come back, I will work under a manager that I’ve known for a decade and I trust “gets” me and will act on my behalf and my peers will be people that I also have a good rapport with and know will respect and encourage me. I’m quite happy.

I’m trying to focus on “quite happy” and not on the desperate measures it took to effect this change and how cynical and betrayed I felt in most of the process. I’m also trying to look at the valuable lesson I learned …

I recently asked my friend Art how he is so positive and loving all of the time. (He really is quite phenomenal in that way.) And he said that he just knows himself well enough to know when a situation is likely to knock him off his sense of center and his core connectedness with people, and then he draws a line well before that point and communicates clearly what that line is. Then, if the line is crossed, he simply takes his leave of the situation. He doesn’t go in a huff because he has acted before he got angry. He doesn’t need anyone to apologize for the infraction because he has taken care to protect himself and the relationship from injury.

On reflection, I realize that I also have a sense of that line in myself, but when people cross it, I compromise. And then I compromise some more. And I make excuses why compromising is OK. Until I’ve finally compromised so much that I’m angry and bitter. And who’s fault is that?

Now, had I used Art’s approach, I wouldn’t still have my job. I would have quit in the fall of 2006. But I also probably wouldn’t be quite so traumatized and protective and have been reinforcing the grooves in the less pleasant parts of my psyche. I know I have ugly, self-righteous aspects. It’s not like I’m going to become a saint and transcend these any time soon. But, if I’ve learned anything after countless hours of psychotherapy, the human version of perfection doesn’t mean being able to handle anything that gets thrown at you; instead, it lies in learning one’s own weaknesses and tendencies and respectfully navigating around these more destructive ruts and traps in one’s personality, even if that means sidestepping situations that make one react in these ways.

Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to practice this boundary enforcement some more soon, before I forget the lesson.

So, I’m sure everyone expects that a person with 3 months off would go do something adventurous. But, frankly, I need to eliminate as much stress as possible. A couple of my coworkers (who know the difficulties of my departing situation) have said that they personally don’t know how I put up with the maltreatment and shenanigans for so long. And just yesterday, another of my spine doctors expressed how relieved he is that I will have such a long break because he can feel all of the tension and toxicity in my body. So, I’m going to write, be with my pets, sit by the river and catch up on my tall stack of reading, exercise, and see if I can re-establish that sense of the sacred in every day life.

Peace, friends. May this be a summer of rejuvenation and deepening for you all.

Rock –> Me

It has been a while since I’ve complained about things related to my job. I was nearly in tears yesterday. Today, I am emotionally exhausted. My managers keep telling me that they hope to have this all fixed soon. They tell me to be patient, to have hope. But I’ve finally come to realize that they have no authority to fix anything. I think they have come to realize that they have no authority to fix things. Every query seems to get lost at the upper management level and our faith in our leaders has been tried.

The worst thing about this for me is that all I really wanted was to reduce my personal stress and do it without making a difficult situation anymore complicated for anyone. That’s why I tried to quit a few months back. I figured, better to just take care of my own needs and not get into ruffled or flying feathers. But they said, “please please don’t go” and the plot twisted and turned and now I’m in the very position I wanted to avoid: something has gotta give and, if I don’t exercise the one thing in my power (my employment), then, well, let’s just say that I should just walk out before I make a complete ass of myself ….

I need a hug.

Sink ‘Em Low

So, I passed on the job offer at that small company. I left a message with the VP who would have been my boss. (It’s rare to get him on the phone without a preliminary game of tag.) Considering his past delays in promised phone calls, I expect to hear back from him next week (if he counteroffers at all). What it came down to was the vacation thing. When I found out that my vacation there would be less than it is now and it would be docked with any sick days I took (on top of the fact that I would be traveling for them and therefore more exposed to the germs and viruses floating about), I was back to where I started from when that recruiter found me: I need a phat vacation before I can even think about taking on an unknown future.

I’ve just been too long in a work situation that has gone from challenging to unhealthy to subtly but relentlessly abusive. I don’t think I realized how much this was really the issue until I started talking to a manager at work who has known me for a long time (and is an empathetic guy) and he spoke to me in a way that recognized my abilities and contributions and made me feel trusted and valuable. All of the sudden I felt energized about work in general again. Facts are facts: I’m a sensitive person and I’ve managed to keep my head above water in a macho environment for 15 years and I’m tired from all of the swimming. I need to be in a situation that actually will help me feel buoyant again. If that means I need to leave this male-dominated industry, so be it. I don’t like trying to be one of the boys or pretending that that particularly masculine flavor of passive insensitivity doesn’t get to me.

I’m still at my job for the moment. I’ve promised myself to stay until I finish the latest task I’m working on. We’ll see what happens after that.

Edit for clarification: It’s not that I think that my company is especially discriminatory (although they have their troubles). In fact, I can see that the experience of work here is somewhat different for women in groups that include other women. You can tell just by walking by their areas: the grey walls are decorated, there are candies in jars, games on the walls–things that invite you to interact and give you a reason to just stop by. But the women there also have the advantage of not needing a reason to bump into each other: their day-to-day tasks bring them together. I could reach out to other women, and I do. But it feels awkward with no natural conversation starters and, even though I’m an outgoing introvert, I am usually too tired at work to make a practice of seeking out other women that I might have stuff in common with or to join in the things that the women tend to do (like planning underfunded, underappreciated office parties). Thank God for Diana. She comes by and gathers me into the fold every week with a nice gesture or visit. I would miss her ray of sunshine if I were to go.

You know that you are tired of your job when you look forward to a mammogram (because it lets you leave in the middle of day).

I just called to say I love you.

OK, now understand: I’m not complaining that I didn’t get more Valentine’s wishes this year. But I expected that, if I would get anything, I’d get something a little, um, more tawdry than this company email:

Your Valentine from Global Business Intelligence and Corporate Finance: On Feb. 14, our Global Business Intelligence team and Corporate Finance jointly rolled out “Posted Revenue Analytical Mart”. PRAM provides a wide range of options for slicing and dicing revenue data, all delivered in an easy-to-use format through Business Objects. You’ll love it for transaction analysis, especially if you’re in the sales, marketing, product or operations organizations.

Makes me all soft and squishy inside just thinking about it.

Ouch dammit Ouch dammit Ouch dammit Ouch dammit

  Microsuede-covered chair with metal lever on arm
+ Suede pants
+ Dry winter air
  Electric chair

Everytime, I get up or sit down, I get the jolt of my life. I swear I’m being trained like a lab rat. Not sure if the lesson is that I’m not supposed to get up from my desk or I should avoid going back at all costs.

Ugly Work Rant

Jumping Jeebus on pogo stick, you wouldn’t think it’d be so hard to be nice to somebody. My team at work got a new manager. Half of my team is in Boulder. Half is in Utrecht (The Netherlands). And my new manager is in … California. (Which is an improvement over my last manager’s time zone: London.) The new manager seems like a decent guy and is trying to build a sense of comraderie and trust with us. (We underlings have been working together for some time and so already know each other fairly decently.) So, he’s coming to the Boulder office for starters.

We have a huge building here, built in the late 90’s when the company thought that they were going to grow this office into a major tech support center. We never even filled out the 3rd floor. And now most of the 1st and 2nd are cubical graveyards because, every time someone leaves, we hire someone in India or China to replace them. Just walk into the building and you can feel how stagnant the energy is. Occasionally, some tries to liven it up and bit by posting some sudokus on the bulletin board. But then there are some days when it’s so deathly quiet that I start to wonder if I’m the last human on earth until I look outside and see people enjoying themselves on the bike path out in the sun. To top it off, the cubicle walls are grey. (OK, I can’t completely dis it because I have a window cube that looks out onto wetlands and a bike path.)

Needless to say, it’s not a particularly warm and friendly environment. But we’ve got the new manager coming and I, for one, need to feel like I’ve got a decent personal connection with guy if I’m going to trust him. Corporate is making the investment to fly him out here and put him up in a hotel for two days. So, you’d think that they’d want to make the most of the opportunity (especially since they are usually such tight wads about travel) and give the new guy a cube or office near his people so that we could all actually get to know each other just by being around each other and not having to have a formal meeting every time we want to have a short, friendly conversation. But noooOOOOOoooo.

Facilities informs me that we only have a limited number of phones and so we can’t be moving one around willy nilly every time a visitor comes to town. So, there are only a handful of pre-wired places for the visitor to sit. And all of them are inhospitable (like right on the hallway at the top of the stairs by the bathrooms) or so far away that he’d have to pack a lunch when he was ready to venture out and drop in on his new minions. But no exceptions will be made.

And this is one thing I hate about working in corporate, archetypally masculine, minutiae grubbing environments: Relationships and quality attention to interactions and spaces are treated as frivolous and unworthy of consideration. I wonder if my new manager feels as slighted as I do by being stuffed in some out of the way hole. I can say, for me, the company’s response to me trying to make someone feel valued and welcome makes me feel unvalued and unwelcome. That we may be on a tight budget during hard times, I could understand. But our CEO makes about $2 million a year and we keep buying up small companies. So, it’s not a matter of no coins in the coffee can, it’s a matter of values. And, secondly, I probably wouldn’t be all off on a rant here if my request had been met with an acknowledgement of the worth of what I was trying to do and some statement of regret that we couldn’t handle that the best way we’d like to. That part is just inexcusable. To me, it’s like inviting someone to visit and then not picking them up at the airport, not making them dinner, not freshening up their room. You just throw them the keys to the house, point at the refridgerator, and grunt that you’ll be back later some time. It’s just rude.

Lately, things have been going a wee bit better for me at my job. I’ve been a more engaged with the work and the team and less depressed and burnt out. But this has renewed my cynicsm. If I stay in this kind of environment, I will be a bitter curmudgeon by the time I’m forty. I’m drowning here.