Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Beyond Anger




Was I really the person banging her fist into the table and speaking in almost a scream at this afternoon’s meeting? For those of you who know me, you would probably say you can’t imagine me acting like this, but indeed I was that person.

My father had this habit of bringing home a “sick headache” when the contention at work got too great. He just couldn’t go to battle with the bureaucrats, instead internalizing his own frustrations until he became physically sick. I never really understood that until today when my stomach felt really queasy and my head was pounding on the way home from work. I can imagine that my ordinarily low blood pressure was soaring.

This all has to do with upcoming “improvements” that are being made to the gargantuan survey I work on. The processing currently runs like a well-oiled machine and I am extremely cautious about making any changes that might affect 3 million households of data a year. There is a small group of people whose whole life it seems is centered around these changes. They do nothing else, whereas I have at least 10 other things of equal priority going on in my working world.

Yesterday one of these people approached one of my staff members and started badgering him to the point where he came to me to say “help!” Today I learned that the same person had orchestrated an e-mail message from someone else on high to my boss making similar complaints about our staff dragging their feet.

I tried to head off the conflict by calling her directly and appealing for her to bury the animosity, adopt a positive attitude, and look at this as a team effort, apparently to no avail.

They backed me into a corner in this afternoon’s meeting and guess what? I had learned from their behavior over the years how to come out sluggin’. I was fighting for something to do with principle that had nothing to do with the amount of work I would have to do, but rather had the potential to affect the data we collect and process and that to me is tantamount. I stood my ground and said I would appeal to my upper management to support my position. She countered with “I’ll do the same.” I quickly added that I would live with whatever decision was reached.

What disappointed me most was my two colleagues who just sat there in the meeting and let me hang out on a limb all by myself. Apparently they are still intimidated by those who speak loudly and carry big sticks.

As self-righteous as I felt, my slightly sick stomach reminded me that I could retire and just walk out of the place tomorrow without even saying goodbye. I refuse to get sick over principle. I’ll see where my management comes out on this and then decide what to do. I want to enjoy the rest of my life without all this stress and for heaven’s sake I never want to have to bang my fist on anyone else’s table!

9 Comments:

Blogger honeykbee said...

Hey-- sometimes you have to stick up for yourself. Good for you!

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! I thought you said, "my job was never anything but a job."
This post makes it seem like you feel a sense of purpose in it -- for the product, and for the people who work for you, and for how other people are dependent upon it.
Nice contrepoint.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

There's a lot of conflict flying around in the air. Hope you're feeling much better today.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Bengal said...

I used to get angry at work. I no longer do. But I remember what I was like, how I could get so worked up that I could feel my pulse within my eyes, so certain was I that I was right and the rest of the world was wrong. I must have been quite an unpleasant person to be around (i.e., anywhere in the same state) at such times.

There are a number of things, and some specific events, that brought about the change but, most significantly, I realized that it just didn't work to my advantage.

So I calmed down and learned to look around and to look ahead, and to do a better job at socializing my position and building consensus for "my side" of an issue.

I wonder whether Anne-Sophie Mutter has to put up with crap like this at her job.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you don't do it all the time, it has more impact coming from you. Of course, once you have slept on all of this, you will be able to put everything in the proper perspective.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Don't do anything rash just yet...just wait and see what shakes down. Jobs are great when you're really into them, but the rest of your life outside work is always way more important....as I'm finding out this year!

(Hey, the word verif. was inluk! all the best!

12:00 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Honeykbee -- It was nice to hear from you so quickly. Stay tuned...

Anonymous -- I keep thinking I'm not being clear about something. Don't get me wrong -- I am passionate about doing a good job and I am a perfectionist. I care deeply about data and ethics in dealing with data. I pride myself on being a team player and on not making my successes all about me. It's simply that I never had my job as a hobby or something to entertain me prior to signing a contract to work here. It might be interesting to see if I would love this type of work if I were not getting paid for it. Maybe I'll get a chance to find out, depending on how I choose to spend my retirement days.

Reya -- I'm only doing better because one coworker and I had a long talk and he totally agrees with me. I'm still a little unsettled otherwise.

Bengal -- I would love to talk to you at length about how you curbed your anger. If I stay here, I don't want to repeat yesterday's outburst because it's unprofessional and unhealthy. Maybe over our upcoming group dinner...

I'll bet A-S M has problems that would make mine seem trivial. Being a professional musician probably entails all sorts of stress. Like what happens if you wake up with a cold and you are supposed to play a 2-hour concert for 5,000 people that night.

OL -- Unfortunately I wasn't able to sleep much of the night, so I know this is a serious problem because I usually sleep like a log.

MOI -- I love INLUK. I will treat that as a good omen for the future. What will be, will be.

12:54 PM  
Blogger steve said...

WHENEVER A DISSENTING OPINION IS CALLED ON THEY ALWAYS PICK ME TO START...WHAT I HAVE LEARNED IS TO TAKE YOUR FIRST SHOTS AT YOUR STRONGEST ALLY...THEN WORK YOUR WAY DOWN TO WHOEVER YOU REALLY HAVE A PROBLEM WITH.... MAKES NO SENSE BUT WORKS FOR ME.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

People have new ideas for a variety of reasons. New ideas are not necessarily bad.

People resist change for a number of reasons. Not all resistance is bad.

What is bad is an unwillingness to communicate, to take egos out of the mix and do the right thing.

Mostly, I find people don't really care about doing the right thing. They are more interesting pleasing others, avoiding the displeasure of other, promoting themselves, promoting their ideologies. People need to step back and just do what is best.

The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. - Doctor Who, Face of Evil

3:37 PM  

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