The Work Dread

Lately I’ve been having The Work Dread every morning.  And evening.  I get a respite while I’m working, which is probably a clue to something, but the knots in my tummy and anxious avoidance are wearing me down.

I haven’t wanted to call in sick this often in years.

Feelings are for learning so I’ve been paying attention so I can figure out what’s up.  My best guess? Personal growth is biting me in the *ss.   Years ago I worked for a boss who sat me down and told me, “The problem isn’t that you’re not right – you generally are.  It’s that people don’t like you. When you get high enough in an organization like this one, how people feel about you — and themselves in relation to you — starts to matter.  You have to find a way to do your job without making them feel bad about how they do theirs.”  The next two years were the toughest of my career because all of my effort went into the dreaded soft skills.

Shutting up.  Being patient.  Letting things work themselves out.  Playing nice.  It was hell.

And now?  Much of that comes naturally, unless I’m frustrated or feeling impotent, which happens a lot lately.  I’m back to that point I thought I’d grown out of  made worse because I grew out of it.  Back then, I wouldn’t have noticed I was being a railroading steamroller who was pissed about people not doing their own d*mn jobs so I could do mine.  If I had to, I’d do theirs too.  Now?  It haunts me.  Swooping in to save the day pisses me off now.  Not swooping in when I can is worse.

We watched the latest episode of The Closer last night.  Toward the end of the story, she has to make a choice between what’s right (right = rules) and what’s right (right = justice).  Which is “right”?  I struggle with that every day.  You know me, I’m not so good at decisions.  The ones I make every day, constantly, with authority, are the ambiguous kind where nobody really wins or succeeds.  I’m choosing the best of sucky options, trying to find my way based on rules I’m making up as I go, hoping that I manage to make the “right” ones more often than not.

But what’s right?  Is that the same as following the rules? The rules exist for a reason; if you break them for long enough, you trash your ability to get back to them. Is the goal a temporary success or long-term strategy?  And how do I ensure that every day,  I have at least one of interactions that feeds my spirit, the kind where smart people work together to find the right solutions?

There’s a part of my job that’s so easy I feel bad getting paid for it.  I point to the smart people and say, “What they said.”  Literally.  I feel so stupid not offering my own self, except I am by lending my authority to theirs.  Many times, though, I find myself playing blocker, trying to prevent them from having to say no by doing it myself.

I hate feeling like the b*tch who shuts things down, but part of our problem is that we’re too nice.  We take on things that aren’t central to our success at the expense of our real jobs (and we’re Engineering, so our success is critical to our business’ success since it’s predicated on selling the thing we create).  Succeeding is more about saying no than about saying yes.  Or it’s more about knowing when you have to say no in order to say yes later.  Or something like that.

I’m the grim reaper of hope, the high queen of “no”, the one who swoops in and asks the awkward questions like, “Why are we here?”  Once upon a time this would have made me proud.  Now?  I can’t do one single thing without feeling bad.

{A, ha.  I found the problem.  Supporting is one thing; supplanting is another.  When I back up the decisions of the smart people, I feel good.  When I try to protect them by keeping them out of the whole shebang, I feel bad.  I love blogging.}

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One thought on “The Work Dread

  1. >>I hate feeling like the b*tch who shuts things down, but part of our problem is that we’re too nice.<<

    Dude. I had to be this woman on Monday night. I was at a "movies in the park" event and people were encroaching on my space. We got there at 5pm. A couple slipped into a little 2 x 2 space next to us — no big deal — except then they proceeded to put THEIR blanket on top of OURS and call a friend who slipped in at 8:40pm (5 minutes before the movie started) and SAT right in front of me. ON MY BLANKET. I was like, "NO. Uh-uh. We have been here since 5pm. This is our space." And my husband was all, "Why are you being mean? We could share our space!"

    Yeah – we could — if they asked. But they didn't. It's not like I was reactionary, I thought about it before speaking up. I weighed saying something against stuffing it down. Being nice (and silent) just wasn't going to work for me in that moment. Unfortunately, I still felt like a bitch on the inside after speaking up. That's mess up. Why should I feel bad for standing up for myself?

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