When I was at Intermediate School we had to make a chocolate log in Home Economics. Mum took one look at the recipe and insisted that I use her tried and true recipe instead and that I “fold it into a horse’s nose instead of rolling it into a log”.
This was back in an era when kids did what their parents said, and so I used her recipe, and folded instead of rolling. Ms Gibbeson, the teacher, was outraged that she had been defied and undermined, and she hated me forever more. She did, however, ask for a copy of the recipe…
The same thing happens in work places. In the job ad, and the subsequent interview/s they’ll say that they want someone who can think outside the square, who can offer ideas for improvement. They don’t. They want you to come in and say “I couldn’t have done it better myself” and stroke their already over-inflated egos. I learnt this the (really) hard way.
Even when the main purpose of your role is to improve processes and identify time efficiencies, they will poo poo your recommendations and then tell whoever will listen that you’re shit at your job. That’s rich coming from managers who spend half their time in meetings and the other half throwing people under the bus. But shit, at least they can multi-task, and from time to time will throw someone under a bus IN a meeting.
I also need to advise that you shouldn’t be yourself. All that “be yourself” shit is just that – shit. Whatever you do, do not go into a workplace and be yourself. Unless yourself is meek, mild and agreeable, then be yourself. But that self is not myself, and so I must always remember not to be myself.
If you’ve missed it the other 628 times I’ve mentioned it, I’ve been between jobs. I spent quite a few weeks at home pouring concrete, cooking candles, and watching The Biggest Loser (and crying in EVERY episode), and then a temp job came up so I took it. I figured it would keep me busy until Christmas, and allow me the luxury of buying gifts. It’s a junior position, with an hourly rate to match, and to say that I am over-qualified would be an understatement.
I came into the assignment, knowing that they were aware of my qualifications and experience, and also that, generally speaking, the first impression I give is that I think I’m better than everyone else. That’s the way my social anxiety manifests itself: into a kind of manic state where I talk too much and laugh too loud, and I’ve usually pre-loaded like a 19 year old, and so my already annoying voice and laugh are like fingernails on a chalkboard to some, and like cotton wool on teeth to others.
So with all of these lessons already learned, I came in quietly. In the time that I have been temping I have offered zero opinions and absolutely no suggestions for efficiency or system improvements. I’ve made up fresh docufile boxes for each company, even though the boxes from last month are only half full (and every other month before that), I’ve even subscribed to the “just code it to office expenses” mentality that ruins data integrity and affects decision making.
You know what though, they still hate me. And you’re allowed to laugh, because if that last sentence was a text I would have written “hahahahahahaha” after it. In fairness, there are two ladies here who hate the place, and give me sympathetic looks, but know I’m a leper and don’t engage with me when Boss and Bestie are around.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve not been called by my name. Boss and Bestie have conversations about me less than a metre from my desk and refer to me as “her” and “she”. I am not wearing noise cancelling ear phones, subtlety is not a strength.
When I am spoken to, it’s in a loud voice, and very slowly. Very simple language is used. I know that my name looks like it could be foreign, but I assure you that I was born here and English is my first language. And guess what, I’m more qualified than the whole fucking team combined, so please don’t feel like you need to dumb it down for me.
After the first week I wanted to quit. I REALLY wanted to quit. Especially when Boss made me change my time sheet to reflect the extra six minutes I took for my lunch break AND called the agency to tell them about my unapproved extended lunch break. There’s another pearl of wisdom for you: return to your desk after lunch and THEN get up and go back downstairs to use the bathroom.
I was frustrated and angry that I had got myself out of one shitty work situation but back into another, even though it was only a temporary one. I was all “whyyyyyyy meeeeee?”, then I channelled my inner Kenny and thought “what would he do?” and I knew that he would have looked at them with his big blue eyes and said nothing. Then he would have gone home and laughed about them.
So I did!
I don’t speak unless spoken to, and even then, I either give a polite nod or I say nothing, and that depends on the tone and manner of the person addressing me. If I am asked (somewhat) civilly to complete one of the tasks that I’m paid to complete, I will nod, and complete it (in the precise way that I am instructed). If Bestie stands at my desk and loudly and slowly asks where I’m up to with my data entry, and it’s quite clear that there is a pile in the “entered” tray and a pile in the “to enter” tray, I look at her like I didn’t really understand the question and she usually answers it herself. In her defence, it’s really fucking hard to differentiate when they’re all stamped with ENTERED regardless of whether they have been or not.
So yesterday, Boss called out “hey!” as I walked past her office and let me know that tomorrow will be the last day that I am required, and I nodded and said “OK”. So now I’m faced with a really tough decision: do I take the bowl I bought to eat my lunch out of, or do I leave it behind?
And as for Boss and Bestie who no doubt have ankle envy, and justify their shitty treatment of me by saying “I don’t like her because she thinks she’s better than everyone else”, I am better than some people. I am better at being thoughtful, considerate and accepting, because everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about, and it costs nothing to be kind.