Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Unemployed and Lamenting

I was laid off in January. Almost four months ago. This is the second job loss in the last few years. It's a little unsettling and demoralizing. I question my career choice, my abilities, my age, my emotional fortitude, my intelligence, character, employability.

I'm over 40 in a career that seems to be a young, driven person's career. I don't want to make lame excuses or be a victim. If I'm being one, tell me and let me know how to adjust my mindset. Ever since having my third child, I'm very challenged for time, energy, money, resources, patience, mental agility. Working full time and using childcare pretty much took a full paycheck and maybe a little more each month - on a fairly decent salary I would say. And I'm always spread thin - at home and at work and every other realm.

My last job came after a six month lay off from a very challenging position where I was doing the work of an entire team it seemed. I couldn't succeed in that role. I could barely work the full 40 hours during the week. Yet I didn't want to blame being a mom. I wanted (and want) to do it all. And do it well. But it doesn't seem possible. I tried.

So back to the point. My last job... the hiring manager told a very compelling story about the organization to get me inspired and onboard. I didn't realize until too late that it was an aspirational story. The reality was the exact opposite of what she presented. She even oversold herself. I learned quickly that the work environment was toxic and my boss was a control freak.

I wish I had blogged more during those eight months that she reigned over me. She was so neurotic, bipolar, two faced and bossy. I should've listened to my instincts in our interview when she dominated the conversation and didn't listen when I spoke, talked over me and everything centered around her, her career and her vision and strategy.

I gave the job my 100% and give her the benefit of the doubt. I didn't want to create conflict or lose my job. Although there were many times that warranted standing up to her. Here are just a 'few of my favorite things':
  • If I had a hint of a cold, she would panic that I would get her, the office and her infirm dad sick and would want me to stay at home (more extreme than school illness policies)
  • She had layers upon layers of process and procedure to share information and project updates as if I were Six Sigma/PMP certified and we were launching a rocket to the moon, which was far from the case. The simplest of projects/tasks would become paralyzed by her stubborn adherence to her wonky rules.
  • People brought their dogs to work almost daily, yet the one time my Little Chicken Hawk had to be picked up from school because of a potty accident, she became outraged that I had him in the office briefly. (I couldn't leave him in the hot car, outside the office building alone, or otherwise.) She ended up tensely being introduced to him, making him feel unwelcome and then making a big deal out of it that evening and the next day with me behind closed doors. I was lectured for bringing him in briefly, introducing him to others, talking about her behind her back about her rules. Other people had brought their kids in and she was equally annoyed by it. Oh and she just 'LOVES KIDS', however, I think that's false.
  • She gave me detailed direction in ordering materials before a specific date and we'd had months of back and forth leading up to it, comparing quotes, designs, options. Turns out it was the wrong direction from the president and he didn't approve the expense. It pissed her off, put her in an awkward position and she blamed me for not following procedures. There were closed door meetings, stomping feet down the hallway and cold shoulders. I apologized to the president for any wrongdoing on my part and he brushed it off and made it seem copacetic.
  • It felt like a toxic relationship where you're always walking on eggshells and not sure what mood the person was going to be from day to day, hour by hour.
  • I tried to be friendly in the office with the other staff. She tried telling me not to talk to certain people telling me that they're not a good worker and would often talk about others behind their back and over-the-top friendly to their face. She liked to be in the know about everyone's lives and tried to influence the president on who should stay and who should go.
  • She needed plenty of time off for random crises like a cat's sickness, leaky pipe, etc. However, if I needed time off, it was a nuisance or petty.
  • She took copious notes and kept them under lock and key and randomly ripped her notes up loudly in her office.
  • Always kept her office door closed to concentrate and if it happened to be open and someone had a conversation nearby, she would shut her door rudely and exasperatedly.
  • She claimed to be a mentor to young girls, when it was really being an AA sponsor (I believe). She was supposedly sober and often talked about her former crazy party days. I don't mind someone being in recovery and working their program, but the neurotic, abusive treatment of employees is completely unacceptable.
  • She become enraged the one time I needed to leave a volunteer charity event 15 minutes early in order to make it to an after-hours appointment. I told her about it before and during, and I told the other volunteers, but she claimed to not know. She emailed me that night about it and she had a heated closed door meeting with me about it the next morning. She accused me of being defiant and told me 'I needed to get out of my head' and some other asinine shit. I was stunned in disbelief and hurt. It was supposed to be a positive event with holiday philanthropy and she tainted it and created another tense, hostile workplace situation. This is the one time she made me cry on the job where everyone could see my red, puffy face. Then that made her feel incriminated and she suggested I wasn't feeling well and that I should go work remotely. ?! 
  • I could go on and on, but you get the gist
Unfortunately there was no official HR department in our small office and I felt there were no checks and balances against her power. I really tried to make it through each day doing the best I could and to keep my reactions and emotions in check. I wanted to keep my job, make it at least a year and get my bearings as I was going through divorce mediation and I suspected I was suffering from depression. I didn't want to be a baby or a victim - 'woe is me'. I wanted to be strong, confident, capable.

I felt like whatever initial fondness she had for me, turned into disdain and hostility as her attempts to control and manipulate me would sometimes fail. Of course, I tried to adjust my projects and communication style to her preferences, but it was always a moving target. I have over a decade of professional experience and many good performance reviews, so I'm not a complete incompetent moron. Or am I? I've started wondering about my own abilities and have lost much of my self esteem. I've considered changing professions or at least industries.

She liked to attempt to give me career advice. What I would be good at, what I'm not good at, what type of person she thought I was - basically I'm not cut out for corporate life. If she's the epitome of 'corporate', than hell yeah, count me out. I have become so disenchanted on the career I fell in love with and so burnt out by politics and egos. I'm hoping my next job will fuel me and not deplete me. I can't handle going through this again.

As a side note, I need to blog more as an outlet. I've been blocked and not able to put my thoughts into words. I think it would help me feel so much better getting it off my chest and knowing that I'm not alone in how I feel. I could really benefit from two or five different support groups for all the things I'm going through. Is it a complete midlife crisis?