Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday Therapy: Working for a Living

Haven’t written a TT post in a few weeks. Life intervened and focused me elsewhere, but I’m back now and hope to continue these weekly therapeutic posts for myself.

Tuesday’s therapy session dealt exclusively with work. Work has been stressing me out lately. I have a really difficult time reading Boss. He is a different personality than I am used to having as a boss, and consequently I don’t have my feet under me all the time when dealing with him.

Boss says things in ways that I take very badly. I hear more criticism than he intends I have learned, but in order to learn that one thing right there has put me through weeks of agony. What you basically have here is a boss who will always share with you what you need to improve but rarely mention, or mention as an afterthought, things you’ve done right. What you also have is an employee who comes from a “there’s perfect and there’s failure with nothing in between” background and hears every suggestion for improvement as criticism. Put these two together, and just maybe things don’t work out so well.

Anyway, therapy happened to be the day before my monthly meeting with Boss. I was beside myself. I had myself convinced that I was one step away from being fired due to some things Boss had said to me within the last week or two.

In essence, what had happened was that Boss had given me an assignment to change a certain report without specifics just that it needed to be more informative to the reader rather than the same old thing every month. I did it and did what I thought was a good job of it, removing redundancies of information, adding a couple of new things, rearranging others. After he reviewed it his first comment was “I thought you were going to change this report.” “Too subtle for you?” I said in a lighthearted manner trying not to betray how awful that one statement made me feel. Boss then went on to say yes they were too subtle. He said he liked this change and that change, but he wanted more. I asked him to be more specific. He again gave me the vague instruction that it needed to be more informative to the reader. He asked if I understood what he was looking for. I said no, I really don’t. He then said we need to keep working on it and walked away. I felt demoralized and was certain that he was trying to push me out of the department by giving me vague instructions so that I couldn’t possibly do it right.

In addition, on a couple of occasions recently as we passed in the hallway he would not say anything to me when I would smile and say hello. Given that he had asked me to improve my communications with him I thought that he was not doing much to encourage that if he couldn’t even say hello to me.

At therapy I let all my frustrations with the situation fly out of me. It is the one time in therapy when I wondered just how well the walls muffle sound there because I think my voice got just a little loud a time or two. I really needed both to vent and also to get some help with strategies for discussing the situation with Boss in a rational way.

Fortunately, Freud was, as usual, very insightful and helpful as he listened to me rant, asked for clarifications, made sure he understood, and then offered me feedback. I swear the man is a godsend to me. He’s good at the how-does-that-make-you-feel thing, but he also is good at discerning what you’re trying to say when even you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to say and then good at helping you deal with it no matter what it is. Freud helped me see that the approach I had concocted (confronting Boss with “If you want me out of this department don’t do it with passive aggressive behavior, but just tell me because if you want me gone I will start looking for another job and get out of your way.”) was not the best possible approach (which I knew, but when I get to a certain point of frustration with hidden agendas and other such bullshit that’s where I tend to go).

Armed with strategies and ready to hear the worst, I met with Boss. Things went much better than I expected. From what I can tell, the guy doesn’t have a clue the impact his words can have on people. He doesn’t buy in to telling people when they’ve done a good job. A good job is an expectation not something you reward. He only thinks you need to point out areas for improvement. I don’t agree. However, understanding his point of view helps me see how I misinterpreted his intentions. I hope that he now understands my point of view so that he can see why I reacted badly to his comments. All in all, it went well. We don’t see eye to eye, and that’s okay. It’s okay because I got him to admit that he wants me to stay in the department, and that the job I am doing is not inadequate. Just knowing that much is enough for now.

And now I can return to sleeping at night without the worries of how to pay the bills if I suddenly were out of a job.

1 comment:

Val said...

& here's another Therapy Conundrum for ya: P casually informed me last night that he has a follow-up appt w/his therapist TOMORROW...
It isn't as if he invited me - just informed me where he'll be going, which is mildly puzzling. Far be it from me to muscle in & make it an unwanted joint session - but as usual I'm probably misinterpreting everything, par for the course!