Sunday, November 1, 2015

Why I'm Unemployed

NaBloPoMo November 2015

It's been about two weeks since that fateful day when I 'lost my job'. I promised I would explain what happened, but it's difficult to write about. The situation is extremely odd and I still can't make sense of it. I will try to put it into words, however, to help provide clarity (at least for myself).

I had taken this job a year ago and it had been really demanding. I knew it would be going into it, but thought I would give it a chance, since it was a significant pay increase. Although I was one person managing all the many elements of a department with limited resources and time, I did the best I could. It was extremely confusing for me to try to learn the ins and outs of the organization and managing all that needed to be done. With minimal support, training or guidance. The management never seemed to be content with my efforts. They wanted someone more at the forefront of the organization, public speaking, running meetings, hobnobbing... 

I had specifically told them in our interviews that I prefer to be behind the scenes and not public speaking. They said that they needed someone with strong project management skills, not public speaking. So I gave it a chance and focused on keeping everything on track and on deadline. Every time I met with my boss and the other boss, though, they questioned my role, if I was happy, whether or not it was a good fit, etc.  Perhaps something bugged them about me? I didn't fit in? I didn't kiss up? I didn't get my nails done with gel manicures like everyone else?

The organization was a strange place to begin with, but I tried to adapt and stick with it. The political undertones and intense personalities annoyed me, but I managed to keep perspective and remain friendly and professional. The main boss was always talking about people behind their back.  The second tier boss was always an intimidating know-it-all who always had to have it her way and thought social media was a waste of time. (?!)  We met several times over the summer to review how I spent my time, what projects I worked on, my job description, what I thought I did well, what I needed improvement on, etc.  All very strange to me based on my professional work experience thus far.

My main boss, who was always out of the office for personal issues, took over the 'case' from the second tier boss, and it seemed my discussions were misconstrued. She had told her I was close to having a nervous breakdown, I didn't like certain people in the organization, and other B.S.  My boss told me they needed someone stronger at presenting and speaking in public, leading, etc. I said I could attempt to improve if she gave me specific examples on what aspects to improve on. I told her if she thought she could find someone better to do the job, I welcomed her to do that, and I could help in the transition.  Maybe that didn't sit well with her.

Weeks later, she emailed me a general list of things to improve on - not specific - and what seemed to be personality traits. Leadership, accountability, integrity... It was written very legal and as if someone else had written it (a lawyer perhaps), because isn't a strong writer. I had further suspicion that my time was going to be cut short there. It was quite discouraging as all the numerous monumental things I'd accomplished since being there was completely ignored.

Then shortly thereafter, the staff were introduced to our new outsourced HR company who were 'super friendly and there to support us'. We all had intake interviews to gauge what we thought about the organization and leadership and our role. Overall, I was diplomatic and kept it positive because I knew it wasn't confidential even though they said it was. I did mention that I was afraid they were going to lay me off because they didn't think I was a good fit for the position.

Then, another month passed. It was time for my annual performance review and when I showed up, there was the HR rep and my boss. They had stern expressions and stacks of papers. Although I had taken plenty of time to complete a self appraisal form of all I had accomplished that year, what I'd like to accomplish, etc., this was not discussed (except for the audacity that I'd had mentioning it would be nice to have an assistant). The HR rep jumped right into a speech about California being a right to work state, I have the right to leave at any time, etc. He offered me to sign a resignation letter with a puny severance. Or I could enter into a strict (impossible) performance improvement plan with frequent meetings and follow ups on the role.

Again, my previous conversations with the bosses were brought into question and misconstrued. He said there were cases of insubordination. (?!) I asked for examples and the feeble ones given were not insubordination and ludicrous (cussing in front of staff and telling my boss I was 'not feeling social' one day). I felt I was in a no win situation and they obviously just wanted me to leave. Why would I stay somewhere they didn't see the value in me or what I had accomplished?

So I decided to sign the resignation, take the severance and get the hell out of there. The HR rep got me my paperwork, gave me a bankers box to pack up my stuff and helped me load up my car. I experienced a complex set of emotions - euphoric, shock, anger, sadness, amusement, fear, shame. I guess I still am processing it all because I still feel a mix of these emotions. I've been in my profession 15 years and have always been professional, accountable, respectful and reliable. It's upsetting to be treated like an incompetent loser.

I feel like my (former) boss is mentally unstable (and the other one too). She would be friendly, personable, interested in actual work as well as her staff some days. Other times, she was fixated on her physical appearance, food, her dogs, lifestyle and her personal time. I never felt I could totally trust her or that she did anything of value. I don't even know how she even got her position. She could be so unprofessional. Wanting people to open up at staff meetings and retreats to divulge personal information about themselves and lives and then likely hold it against them.

People I worked with that I've talked to since said she genuinely respected me and didn't think I would leave the organization. (?!) Then why lead with the severance option and make it impossible for me to succeed?! I'm so angry about this no win situation. I should never have accepted the job in the first place. I should've listened to my instincts. I spent way too much time in my car commuting to that job, worked through much of my lunches, stopped exercising as much, didn't get enough time with my kids, hardly blogged or kept up with other hobbies... I'm glad I 'resigned'.

But now I'm second guessing my career and abilities. I question whether or not I'm the crazy, unreliable one. I'm now a middle aged mom of three, more distracted than ever, spread too thin, burnt out and unwilling to play political BS games. I don't want to kiss anyone's ass, attend stupid meetings, write up dumb reports, and on and on. Perhaps I AM a loser unfit for that caliber of job. Maybe I'm meant to always be told what to do in a low level job making minimum wage. I'm trying not to dwell too much on it though and keep a positive outlook. I'm hoping there is something great out there for me around the corner.  Sometimes it seems that it's impossible to succeed in Orange County and I don't know if I want to stay here. (Stinkin' thinkin'?)

I'm taking a few months off to try to get the house in order, spend some time with kids, get in shape, regroup, etc. I'm a little deflated, but I'm not without options. Tomorrow is my unemployment office phone interview and I'm hoping that will go well and I'll start receiving benefits. Then I'm meeting an acquaintance for lunch and possible job coaching/ego boost. Then I'm meeting another acquaintance for happy hour in Laguna Beach for business ideas/networking. This is all in between my regularly scheduled childcare and domestic chores. (That I suck at too I think.)

As I said, writing about this is difficult. If you've read this all, thanks. I hate to seem like I'm playing the victim and deflecting blame. I probably am in some way. It's hard to communicate all the nuances of the lame bureaucratic nonsense that has been my life for the past year. If you've seen the movie, Office Space, watched the TV show The Office, or read a Dilbert comic, or experienced this type of workplace first hand, perhaps you can relate and empathize.

If you have a similar experience, or any advice to handle this transition, please leave it in a comment below. I appreciate any support.

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