Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Story Continues: Stress in the Workplace

This picture can be viewed in different ways.  One of them being on top of the world.  Another might look down and think 'it's a long way down, I hope she doesn't fall'.  Some might think it's precarious or dangerous.  Others might wonder 'how the heck did she get up there?'  I think maybe the workplace is like that as well.  It all depends on how you see things and, perhaps, where you are in the pecking order.  The problem is:  the higher you get, the longer the fall.

I worked later than the other office staff, so after everyone else had left for the day, my supervisor came to my cubicle and started out by saying, "I'm sorry if I was too harsh, BUT" ... and continued her tirade from before.  I was focussed on the first part, the part that sounded like an apology while she was focussed on the 'you were loud' part and, therefore, came to the conclusion (or judgement) that I was unprofessional.

To compound things, one lone tear started to sneak out of my eye.  And that apparently was the unpardonable sin, at least to her.  I cried.  Therefore, I was unfit to work in that office.  Period.

That lone tear came up negatively again and again over the next few months.  Always as a judgement.  I cried.  Therefore I was unfit.  Emotional.  She never wavered in her assessment - or judgement.  She never considered the extreme stress I was experiencing in the workplace doing one and a half jobs.  She never considered the fact that I was navigating those uncertain waters on my own with extremely limited training and almost no support - especially from her.

As one thing led to another, one incident to another.  I felt like I was constantly under the lens of a microscope.  Her microscope.  Her lens.  Her world - or rather workplace - point of view.

I made mistakes.  Which since my training was inadequate and the procedures for this job were totally different from mine, should have been a given.  After all, as I indicated in another posting, the learning curve went straight up.  Most people are allowed the odd mistake.  But I, apparently, am not most people.

I felt isolated from my co-workers.  Not because of anything they said or did.  Quite the contrary.  I was very well liked by not only my immediate co-workers in that upstairs office at the back of the plant but also by everyone I liaised with as well.  Even members of the Executive (way off in the "high tower" of the front office) had heard of some of my more noteworthy successes.

But it was never enough.

I was the one who was different.  The one on contract.  The one who was not allowed to have any frailties - or be human.  The one continually being ostracized by my supervisor.

The misfit.

The focus was not on my achievements.  Not on my strength of character.  Not on the fact that I got up in the morning day after day, got dressed and trudged into the office under adverse circumstances BUT on other things.  Things that really didn't have anything to do with my ability to do my job.  Things which had a lot to do with my supervisor's personality and point of view.  With her judgement.  With how she felt the universe should run - and how her subjects (er, employees) should act.

I felt caught in a vise.  Actually two vises:  one was the vise created by my supervisor's perceptions and expectations and my attempt to prove myself worthy.  The second:  the time factor.  The days were slowly and steadily counting down to the end of the year which was also the end of my contract.

Day followed day with no word as to whether I would be kept on or let go.

Day after day, I tried to prove (unsuccessfully) that I was not only a good employee but a great one - and should be kept one.

Day followed day.

Exhaustion became my constant companion.  Confusion followed.  Anger came in as well.

At that time and in that place, I was an angry person.  I now realize that I had been an angry person for years - but that is now. This was then.  As the stress in the workplace caused by both the overwork and the abusive relationship with my supervisor escalated, my emotions went all over the map.  Fortunately, this was confined to out of work experiences and places as I was not inclined to make my supervisor have any more grounds against me than she already did.

I sat in my cubicle and did my work.  Unfortunately my supervisor's cubicle was right next to mine.  I could hear most of her conversations, and she could hear mine.

In retrospect, I think that close proximity was the death knell on my tenure at that workplace.  Before more cubicles were added to our lage, roomy office (which with the advent of something like six more bodies along with their respective cubicles and work stations lost its spaciousness and roominess), my desk was in the far corner opposite my supervisor's.  I find it ironic that all these issues with her and my personality flaws came up immediately after the move across the room to the cubicle beside hers.

More and more as the days went by, I felt like this derelict canoe.  Unworthy.  Not able to float anymore.  Stuck.  Destined to the scrap heap.

As I've indicated, this series is taking a lot out of me remembering that dark time.  That dark place.  Yet, as I'm looking back I'm also seeing more and more what happened there in light of workplace abuse, workplace bullying, which I was unable to see at that time.

Tomorrow, I'm going to give myself a wee break from the pressure of writing a daily narrative about my first experience with workplace bullying.  A delightful young lady called Sparrow is going to come in and write her thoughts on a totally different topic.  I hope you enjoy Sparrow.  I'll be back with you on the on-going journey on Friday before taking another wee break for the weekend.

I solicit your comments.  What you like.  What you don't like.  What brings you here.  Would you like to see more pictures?  Hear more (non-abuse related) stories?  You're the reader.  You count.

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