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From Pincushions to Pinball

March 28, 2007

First, thank you to those who offered the kind comments about my chronic back pain. I hate to sound like a wuss, but if sharing my experience helps someone else, then I guess it’s all good.

Today was a doozy. It was emotional, stressful, and I drove home feeling like the pinball in a pinball machine.

I’ve known for a while that my boss was leaving the company. He kept giving me hints – very obvious smoke signals – without actually telling me he was looking for another job. He would point out how he never hung the pictures he brought into his office, then point out how they were gone, and then state things to me like, “You’ll be here much longer than I will.” Then there were the “doctor” appointments and sick days and his cessation of sending the team emails as to his wherabouts. Today was the first time I saw him in the office in almost a week. We had our usual one-on-one meeting and he made another comment about leaving and said he just didn’t know when his last day would be. Other than that, it was a pretty normal meeting – with the exception of the discussion around my request for a promotion – more on that later.

About an hour later, my colleague meets with him and comes out and whispers to the rest of us that today was his last day. This is around eleven in the morning. Now we’re scrambling to get together to take him out to lunch and only have limited time because his boss (the prez) called a team “status” meeting with us for after lunch.

Finally, we land at a restaurant, and have a nice, but somewhat strained (emotions, not the food) and uncomfortable lunch. No one really knows what to say or what to talk about. We talk about inconsequential things. We know we have to go back to work without our boss – whatever our feelings are about him – and face the president of the company. Our boss was less of a manager and more of a facilitator. There were a lot of battles he should have fought for us and didn’t, but he was a good guy. There were (at least for me) many areas where he did support us and give us opportunities we might not otherwise have had. He was  also our buffer between us and the prez, whose reputation is one of inconsistency, micromanaging, and controlling. What will our future be like? Will they merge us with another group? Are they going to hire a replacement? Is the prez now going to hyperfocus on our projects and activities? We are a highly self-sufficient bunch of program managers and writers and the last thing we need is to be under a microscope as we work hard to get multiple products launched at the same time.

We go back to work and to our meeting. The prez is there with the human resources vice prez, who used to be a director until he promoted himself. (And yes, the sarcasm and bitterness is intentional – more later.) The prez sits next to the HR king (who has bloodshot eyes and always looks stoned to me) and does his best to be supportive as we go through this “transition” and while they look for someone else, which always takes longer than they think it will. “Questions, anyone?” he asks. One of my colleagues speaks up, “Performance reviews?” (See, we were supposed to have these meetings with our boss where we discussed what he was going to recommend and we’d have a chance to negotiate or have input.) Prez apparently didn’t realize that our boss never met with us. HR king kept his glazed look as he glanced around the room not really looking at anyone. So, as part of our initial individual meetings with the prez going forward, we’ll get the “high level view” of our performance reviews.

What I know that they don’t know I know is that my boss told me this morning how much I’m going to get. I’m going to get a token tiny merit increase, with about double that as a promotional increase. Now, why am I not jumping up and down? Should I just shut up and be grateful? If they hadn’t already given THREE mid-year and publicly announced promotions to men since December, I might be more willing to acquiese and accept. But they did, and I’m already not paid market rate for my original job, let alone the huge responsibility I’ve been handling for the last several months. I kept my poker face on and asked if I was going to get a title change like I requested. Nope. It’s an “in-job” promotion to recognize that I’ve been doing way more than my normal job. But a public promotion with adequate market rate pay and title and announcement to the rest of the company? Nope. I guess that’s reserved for HR Kings and other males in the company. Not for me.

So, I keep my poker face on, but I know what cards are left in the deck. I don’t have the winning hand. Time to fold and quit the game. After several months of being bounced around, up and down and all over the place as I implement a new intranet, manage writers, consultants, budgets, and learn a new system from the ground up with no formal training, fight against the pettiness and jealousy of a few, I’m done.

I spoke with a former co-worker today (he used to work with me at this company) and we both agreed that life is too short. I need joy and fun in my life, and when reading a work email raises my blood pressure and inspires anger, then it’s not the right job for me.

I’m reminded of my father and the lesson I learned upon his death over thirteen years ago. He was a very successful business man, made great money, and had the respect of his peers and subordinates. He’d contributed a great deal to the business community in which he worked. But at his memorials, it wasn’t those accomplishments for which he was remembered. It was the memory of the type of father, friend, neighbor, mentor, and husband that he was. That’s what is important.

I have to remember this. Always. I once asked a nun how I would know what God’s will is. She replied, “If it feels like you are pushing a pea up a hill with your nose, it’s not God’s will.” Can I equate that to feeling like I’m the pinball in the pinball machine? I think so.

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One Comment
  1. March 29, 2007 3:21 am

    (((Claire)))
    I hope you manage to find out what is good for you. That phrase from the nurse is food for thought!

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