Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bad Moon Rising

My boss is problematic. This is news to nobody who works for her or who has to deal with her in her professional capacity (she's a big noise in her profession, at least here, and her reputation as a difficult person is legendary).

For the most part, she and I don't interact, and when we do she's either sunshine and rainbows, or she's irrational and bullying. I've noticed the latter tends to happen right before large business trips, especially overseas, when her rampant paranoia and need for worship reaches well into the red zone, so anything, ANYTHING that she perceives as adversely affecting her impression on our overseas brokers is enough to make her fangs grow and the howling begin.  Several of us have decided that she missed her calling as a really angry, bitter nun. Sister Perpetual Degradation.

It used to unnerve me; now what unnerves me is that it doesn't unnerve me.

I won't go into too much detail, but after Hurricane Sandy, SPD decided it would be a great idea to create a spreadsheet of every single property within the hurricane zone for which we had some responsibility for property maintenance. Our company has no central database, so everything is gathered much like a scavenger hunt. I ended up with a sheet with more than 700 rows of data.

She assigned this at our bar-none busiest time of the year, when the Christmas holiday was approaching and people were on vacation. We had a miscommunication about disseminating it -- in a meeting we'd agreed she'd review the sheet before it went out for updating, so I'd sent it to her with an explanation of my methodology and a request for her to let me know it was OK to send. She never responded, and when she approached me later on my progress, I reminded her of her instructions to me, and that I was waiting for her approval. (There was a third party in that meeting who confirmed this with me when I double-checked with him.)

So with one thing and another, she decided to go off on me about it, first via email (using words like "disappointed" and "you told me").

I looked at that scolding, condescending email, thought of how hard I'd worked to help get over NINE books prepared for renewal, posted almost all of them online, fixed problems that co-workers couldn't (because I'm apparently the only one with problem-solving skills), all the while dealing with the endless stream of email that is my job, helping resolve property-claim payment issues (one property accountant told me point-blank she would not deal with the claims guy because he keeps screwing everything up, so I'm trying to clean things up there as well), arguing insurance evidence with mall owners, and tossed onto all of that, this monster of a spreadsheet that had been sent to over a dozen people for review, input, and follow-up.

"Bite me, you irrational, ungrateful, horrible human being," I thought.

Later at her desk, I handed her what I had, and she, literally wild-eyed and snarling, needed to vent some more, so she bit my head off every time I made a comment or suggestion.

"BLAH BLAH BLAH because YOU were supposed to have been updating this for weeks now, and it's not even DONE!"

Oh, hell fracking no.

I stood there, looked at her and said calmly, "No, we've discussed this. I was waiting for you to approve the list, as we agreed in the meeting, before sending it out. You thought I'd sent it; I was waiting for you. It was also assigned during an extremely busy time, so it's likely that even if I had gotten it out earlier it would still not be ready. This is a very large and time-consuming project."

Calmly. Looking her right in the eye. Because she knows I'm right; she absolutely does, and all the bullying in the world will not make me say I'm wrong. Not for nothing, but I'd bet good money she was going to take my sheet and present it as something she pretty much did. At least, she's going to take credit for its creation. So I know her BFD is that she didn't have it completed to wave over at the brokers in the UK before she whipped it out and had them measure it.

I expect some kind of meeting when she returns, which should be interesting. Bring it on, honey.

Anyway, the point is, there was a time in my life when this would have been unthinkable for me. I look at this and realize I have really come a long way from the sad girl withe the external locus of approval. I'm not afraid of losing my job; I'm afraid of becoming someone I don't like in order to appease bullies.

I can say no to people. I can set limits. I can do this comfortably, without feeling apologetic. It's a nice thing.


karen said...

Me too, honey, only my worst person was my own mother. The day I told her, because it came out not because it was preplanned, that she would never bully me again was quite the day for me. I don't know if it was a good day for her, but that, I realised, is not within my control.

Yip to the ee on appropriate and calm pushback. <3

JC said...

That was a good day for you, and I'm glad you found it. Some people never do; Mothers are so powerful.

i stopped being intimidated by this woman when I topped respecting her. And I stopped respecting her when I realized she was a coarse bully. ONce you realize that you can choose how you engage, it takes your power back.