Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Saboteurs

Why do erstwhile professionals sabotage their own reputations so darn often?

I have seen it happen over and over, not simply in the "brick and mortar" corporate world but also in the work-at-home arena. It drives me to distraction just thinking about the strange ways some persons wind up undermining their own possibilities of success.

Indulge me for a moment while I take you on journey into my past to illustrate some of the self-saboteurs I've known. (Names have been changed, not because I enjoyed being around these individuals, but because being sued would kind of mess up my plans.)

"KAREN" (circa 1995)

"Karen" resided in the cubicle next to me and spent her days whining on the phone. This was not her job, mind you. Every five seconds (give or take), she was contacting her babysitter. Usually, those conversations started on a high note and ended abruptly when the kids (preschool-age at the time) wouldn't say anything to their Mommy. In desperation, she would begin yelling at them. Then, someone would hang up.

Her other phone companion was her husband. They had a volatile union. Typically, he would "hunt her down" if she wasn't at her desk when he called. But before you immediately call him an abuser, know that SHE did the same. (Remember, these were pre-cell phone days. You couldn't immediately connect with someone the way you can now.) Almost every morning and afternoon, they would have a rousing fight. And I, separated from her by light gray cubby fabric, could only sit and listen and learn.

Oh, and when she wasn't on the telephone, she would seek out other office mates to discuss... you guessed it... her strife-filled home life.

Ironically, she was given a few promotions. Maybe her managers just wanted to get rid of her. I know I did.

"JESSE" (circa 2001)

"Jesse" and I worked together in a very attractive, good-paying professional environment. I was her supervisor, and she always had a crisis. Each day was a soap opera drama come to life.

At first, I believed her stories and even thought, "That's terrible! She's really has had such a run of bad luck." Soon, though, I realized that her misfortune was nothing more than the product of an overactive imagination and the need to be important.

Jesse's cell phone rang constantly. Interestingly enough, when she was focused on her work, she could get quite a bit done... but it usually was only half-completed. It "worked" in the short-term, but in the long-term, we'd find out Jesse had overlooked some components of the job. No, we weren't doing anything life-or-death, but we had clients and they counted on us to do everything up to a certain standard.

Jesse was exhausting. Jesse became boring. Jesse made me angry. Jesse was eventually fired.

"GAIL" (circa 1999)

"Gail" was my manager. She never bothered to tell anyone anything; somehow, we were supposed to absorb her commands and desires by osmosis.

She was very religious and touted Bible passages whenever the opportunity struck... and the opportunity struck quite often. Someone came to work at our company who was a Buddhist; he left rather quickly.

Gail gave me much responsibility, but no resources. I was a supervisor, but I had no supervisory control, really. I couldn't make decisions, couldn't give promotions, couldn't offer raises... BUT I was asked to "discipline" quite a few people. I think Gail recognized that I could deliver some hard blows with compassion--something she didn't want to do (nor was she capable of doing, if I am to be honest.)

I don't know what happened to Gail. I literally left the job in tears because I was so frustrated. I felt as if I was working with crazy people. I suppose Gail could still be exercising some sort of Christian-based management techniques. I'm not against Christianity, mind you, but I am against bad supervision.

What do these stories mean? For me, they have strangely been wonderful lessons. They have taught me that I NEVER want to be "the unprofessional one."

I don't want to be the person who isn't able to remain calm. I don't want to be the person who constantly irritates others. I don't want the person who obtains promotions simply because I'm a pain in the ass and my manager wants to pass me along.

Any of you have similar stories or pet peeves?


the individual voice said...

Uh, the employee that was given a long term sick leave prior to being fired because no on wanted him back in the office and figured he would sue if we didn't pay him for a year of doing nothing before a layoff plus severence. It was all worth it.

SzélsőFa said...

Having never worked outside my home (except for a dew days) these stories about co-workers and bosses freak me out.
And makes my decision of staying at home (read: earn next to nothing) a great take on life.
I would suffocate to death in a cubicle.

The Quoibler said...

Tiv: Isn't that sad that it was worth it? Hey, sanity ALWAYS comes before money, right? :)

Szelsofa: You are fortunate. The cubicle farms (as they are not-so-lovingly called) really stink. Sometimes literally.