Thursday, April 1, 2010

Triggered and Confused

Where do I start? I have a situation going on at work that is sucking the life out of me. There is a man who works here who is difficult and demanding to put it mildly. We've had our run in's before...we're both wielding stubborn Irish tempers so we can clash in a big way. Lately, in the past few months, I find myself unable to even tolerate the sound of his voice without cringing and feeling anger rush over me.
On Monday, we had a disagreement about something he wanted me to do for him. I questioned him on why he needed this particular thing and he got right up in my face with his finger and seethed "Let me tell you something. The day I have to explain myself to you is the day I'm out of here. You got that?" It was meant to be intimidating. At the moment, I reacted to it numbly and just went back to work. But as I continued to mull things over through the day, I had an epiphany. This man has been abusive and harassing for years and that is the root of my angry, defensive feelings anytime he is near me. I, along with everyone else in the office, have excused it by saying "oh that's just how he is" but that feeds into his bahavior as he's learned he can get what he wants and no one will stop him. When I try to stop him, he takes it up a level and stomps his little temper-tantrum feet until someone basically says "Oh just do what he wants to make him go away." I've had it with that.
Since that realization, I've run the gamut of emotions. I've been outraged, depressed, numb and mostly just confused. I have a boss who is non-confrontational to the extreme. He doesn't say what needs to be said in difficult situations. He tries to ride the fence and keep everyone happy which doesn't work. I mean, I suppose there are times I benefit from that because I've certainly made some mistakes or been known to run my mouth off. But I see where his management style has really come to cause me detriment in my job. Yet I protect him fiercely with my words, I've noticed. Particularly now. I find myself saying "I love boss and I hate to put this on his plate.." or "Boss is such a great guy and I hate to put him in this position....." Why do I feel this way? I've referenced before how authority figures have tied into father figures in my mind. Am I protecting my coveted image of him as a "good dad"? Because he's NOT my dad and I've worked on making that disconnect so now I'm wondering what this is all about. He has been a good boss in positive ways....he's easy going, he's family friendly, he gives me alot of latitude, he's ethical, he's generous. Yet, the majority of my frustrations here have come down to the fact that he won't sternly discipline poor behavior or job performance. Is this who I want to work for? I'm not sure anymore but I can't deny I have got it GOOD here in ways that matter to my life. And do I want to start from scratch right now, in this economy? Not really. So what does that mean? Shut my mouth and just work?
At my last job, my principles cost me my job. I was all high & mighty about what I did vs what others in my department did and, in the end, they rallied together and sabotaged me. Though my boss knew exactly what the truth was, he looked at the many vs the one and let me go. He made the easy choice. Human nature, I suppose. He did later admit that he made a mistake but it was too late. When that happened, I lost all sense of job security because that boss and I were pretty tight and I never in a million years thought that could happen. I will not make that assumption ever again. And I promised myself in my next job, I'd keep my mouth shut and my nose to the grindstone. Well, that lasted a few years here until I really settled in, felt comfortable and developed an open rapport with this boss. Now I find myself in this position of being "the spokesperson". People in the office talk to me. They tell me their problems/frustrations. None of my peers feel comfortable sharing their frustrations with boss. So when I hear rumblings around the office, I will advise boss if I feel it's big enough to cause a potential problem. Maybe I need to quit doing that but I always think that a boss should know when things are going awry so he has the opportunity to deal with it before it's out of control.
Now, I've had a handful of conflicts while here and I keep coming back to that. Is it me? Why am I the one who always seems to be on one end of all these problems? Is it because I have too high expectations? Is it because I'm a bitch that people can't get along with? Is it because I'm the only idiot who can't shake it off and let it go? that I've been involved in a few issues, are my complaints even going to hold weight? Is he going to be sick of me and just fire me?
I've done some research on workplace threats, harassment and bullying. I came across this quote: One of bullying's greatest tragedies is that the best and brightest, not the weakest, are selected for targethood. You posed a threat somehow to a person who is not fully developed as a moral human being. He or she may possess skills, but the only important ones involve manipulation and control of other people and the game of political sabotage at work. The fact that bullies are threatened speaks volumes about them, not about you.
Well, by no means do I feel I'm the "best & brightest" and in fact, I often feel I'm a stupid, useless fraud who has no right to be in the position I am. (Old messages) So does that mean I'm the one acting out because I feel threatened? And then I think no....I did not bring this on myself. I see what this man did to me and, although we were in the midst of a 2 sided, heated conversation, he had no right to speak to me like that. I have the right to expect to feel safe and protected at work. Right? I don't know anymore. Legally, not so much. I mean, the quote above, let's face it, has application to abuse as well. It's about manipulation. It's about the perpetrators own shortcomings. Does my past abuse make me unable to keep perspective in the workplace with people like this? Am I being hypervigilant and making mountains out of molehiles because confronting a workplace bully somehow is feeding an old desire to confront my abusers? Do I keep my mouth shut, when I feel like I've really been violated? Am I now the girl who cries wolf and this most serious of offenses will now be minimized because it came from the mouth of the troublemaker? I am so confused.


Ali from the Teddy Tour said...

Jeepers, what a curly one!
I find aggressive people really intimidating. In the moment I am usually pretty calm and able to handle myself and the situation OK, but later on I fall to pieces! I dread having to face them again, too.
I admire the way you're able to analyse your feelings and work through them, bit by bit.

Found you via Survivors can Thrive. Looking forward to reading more :-)

Cassandra said...

hey- just wanted to stop on over and ask ya how you are.. hope all is well *hugs*