It’s summer. And it’s been beautiful lately. Not too hot, no humidity, upper seventies or low eighties… I should be happy. Summer is my happy time. But I haven’t been.
It’s not that I’m bottom-of-the-barrel miserable. I’ve just been so unmotivated about everything. I can’t seem to get excited about much. By the time I get out of bed, I’m already looking ahead to the end of the day. Nothing in the waking hours seems to hold much appeal lately.
I guess it’s a series of events that just seem to be weighing on me. I have no control over any of it. And I think it’s all compounded by an ongoing situation which I really can’t change. There’s a person in my work life who doesn’t treat others very well. She’s phony and seriously lacking in integrity. This seems to be common knowledge. People talk and I’ve heard the stories for years. When she behaves politely, you’re always left to wonder what her angle is. If she’s unhappy with you, look out. She’ll spit words at you like fire. I’ve been on the receiving end of such behavior on several occasions, and like most others, I’m always so stunned that it leaves me speechless and at a loss as to how to defend myself. Afterwards, I’m never sure if I’m more upset with her for having the gall to be so arrogant, or with myself for failing to speak up once again.
It happened again on Friday. Here’s the thing. I think I have a reputation for being nice. And it’s not that I’m really all that nice, all the time. I have mean thoughts just like anyone else, but I keep them to myself. I don’t think I’d have the ability to voice hurtful opinions on others if I tried because deep down, I know those really mean thoughts are just that. Mean. Insecurity. Jealousy, maybe. But believe me, I’d love to let loose on this person if I could. I just don’t want to stoop to her level. I honestly think that when the company was reorganized, someone must have asked the question, “Who do we think will put up with her?” I think I was the answer. What happened on Friday? I did nothing wrong. I was asked to provide input for an important project and I simply agreed to do so. I was asked in front of her. And I’m pretty sure she just felt threatened that I was asked and she wasn’t. Her reaction was instant and her words boiled down to, “What makes you so important?”
I know I was asked because I’d done all the work leading up to the request. We were to work on it as a team, but everyone else was busy. I happened to have the time and what needed to be done was something that played to my strengths. I did the work at the request of the team, shared it with them and asked for feedback. She provided no feedback other than to say she was fine with what I’d put together and agreed I should move it forward, which I did. I took care to say it was our unified response, but I think my other teammate made it clear to others that the work had come from me because my boss acknowledged that she knew so. All the effort leading up to the request was mine. Why shouldn’t I be asked when it was time for follow-up? Why should she? But she didn’t see it that way.
Like always, in the face of her ire, I fumbled with a response that was merely an attempt to cool her down. She was completely unjustified, yet I was frantically trying to soothe her anger. Why? Why do I feel it’s my duty to make sure she doesn’t feel insecure when I have nothing to be ashamed of? Why do I feel that I need to muffle my strengths and talents just to protect her feelings? She’s an outwardly confident person with a reputation for arrogance. But she’s more than confident and arrogant. She’s bold and blatant. She thinks nothing of spewing condescension and spite when she feels threatened. She can be completely and utterly unprofessional. And each time she does it without being called out, it just seems to fuel her fire. I’ve seen her unleash on others and I’m always floored by the fact that there isn’t some corporate policy that requires she behave respectfully. She just continues to get away with it. Maybe it’s because she does do good work (when she actually does some work. She usually squirrels away the day and then kicks in to gear just when everyone else is wrapping up for the day. Then she makes sure everyone is aware of all of the “extra” hours she is putting in.) But she seems to feel that she always has to have a leg up on the rest of us. We’re supposed to be a team, but she wants to be the alpha.
It’s not as if I’m witnessing the worst of her behavior on a daily basis. She’s smart and knows to rein it in most of the time. But it’s happened enough, both the big displays and the little digs, that I now go to work, constantly on edge, always wondering if something will set her off. She talks incessantly from her cubicle whether or not anyone appears to be listening. And I always hear the “dig” in her words, whether it’s actually there or not. I’m so uptight that I’ve stopped looking forward to going to a job that I actually do enjoy. I work in an office full of people I truly like, except for one. And when I come home in the evenings, she and her words keep resurfacing in my mind. She’s making me nuts. And I know I’m making those around me nuts because I can’t seem either rise above it or face the problem head on.
I started tweaking my LinkedIn profile and this weekend, began to tell myself to start picturing myself doing something different, doing it somewhere else. I’ve mentioned at home and to a good friend that I might start opening myself up to the possibility of new work opportunities. My friend and my own daughter had the same reaction. “You can’t leave because of her!“
I didn’t immediately realize that my friend and my daughter were right. Ironically, it was while working on my LinkedIn profile this weekend that I stumbled across a notification in my email that I’d missed a couple of weeks ago. I subscribe to blog posts on Steve Harper’s Ripple Central and I just so happened to have missed an article titled How Did You Start Your Day? This article reminded me that If I’m waking up every day feeling less than enthusiastic about what’s ahead, there’s only one person who can do something about it. Me. Then today, I saw something in my LinkedIn news feed. I must have previously subscribed to this feed at some point, and today, it lead me to The Happiness Project. I found myself clicking through the site, reading various postings, soaking up one piece of positivity after another and again, being reminded that if I want to get back on track and be happy, I need to work at it. It’s on me. I can’t control the behavior of anyone else. But I can control the way I react and I need to figure out how to do this better.
I needed this. It suddenly dawned on me that the world is full of difficult people. The person who is my problem is clearly insecure and very likely, a really unhappy person. (Is it bad if I take consolation in that fact?) I can look for another job, but if I find one, that’s no guarantee that I’ll be free of the kind of person I’m trying to escape. I need to be more confident. I need to learn to filter her out when I’m able and I need to learn to speak up for myself when the situation calls for it. I need to learn to respond immediately, with respect and without guilt or regret. I’m sick of carrying it all home with me day after day and constantly mulling it over in my mind without any kind of resolution. I’m done. And I’m already feeling so much better.