Fevered personalities

You can pick your friends.
You’re stuck with your coworkers.

People in an office setting are a curious lot. They really are quite the clunky, dysfunctional, construct family. And you end up spending as much or more time with them than you do with your real family. Over the years a sort of pack mentality can form. Self-appointed alphas and betas thumb-wrestle for position among the staff. Newcomers aren’t always treated well. A good chunk of your life goes by around these people, and unfortunately bad energies, unfinished arguments, feelings, and emotions follow you home after your shift…it’s an office funk that doesn’t come off very easily in the shower.

In my longest stretch at a company, I tried, very badly, to set boundaries, to keep work at work. I didn’t like the fact that it’d be the weekend and I was still thinking about different goings-on from the office. At the same time, and to be fair, things from my personal life have a habit of spilling over into my 40hrs. We talk about maintaining a work-life balance but the nature of the working world has things heavily weighted in its favor. It’s why the chorus of the 1981 hit by Loverboy goes “Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend!”

There are going to be all manner of personality types in any job setting. I’ve had my share of issues with bullies at the office. These were the ‘tenured’ employees. They had been with the organization a long time. They did their jobs for the most part, and management never seemed to care much about the fact that they were a massive source of stress and a pain-in-the-ass to their coworkers.

What’s the best way of dealing with these sorts of work relationships? I don’t know. Some people choose to be more overtly confrontational. I’ve never worked anywhere where the management appreciated that sort of thing. You can go to HR. But Human Resources exists to keep the company out of liability. I’ve not found them very helpful in many cases. Their action usually ends in some sort of meeting followed by the employees involved being handed copies of the employee handbook and sent back to their department. I don’t like confrontations. I always try to find some other solution. Most long-term resentments never resolved themselves. Or I should say, we never made any effort to resolve them. Layoffs happened in the Fall of 2012 and those troublesome coworkers are no longer part of my life.

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Amendment

separation_of_church_and_work

My jobs have all been secular. I’ve never been employed, in any capacity, by a religious institution. I’ve worked with fellow church-members twice. At one company the coworker had ongoing issues with management. After working there a few years I was promoted to a floor supervisor position. This made me one of his immediate supervisors. The manager didn’t discuss things with the leads unless they were involved in whatever situation was at hand. So I wasn’t present for most of whatever conversations he was having in the office, and he and I didn’t discuss much of it. At some point he started talking with the pastor and a few of the men at the church. Not long after that I was at a party at church and one of the deacons asked me what I did for the company I worked for. Then he asked me if I knew the employee. Then he started telling me about a conversation that supposedly happened between my manager and the employee. I said, “I can’t talk about business matters.” When I said that, his reply was, “…well you can talk about here,” as though church was some sort of ‘safe-place’ where I was free to discuss my employer’s business.

No.

Hell no.

I was part of the management team at a, not-affiliated-with-the-church … had-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-church-or-religion, secular business. Sharing what was discussed in the office, in the way these guys at church were implying I should, was a good way to lose my job. Risking that was just not on the table. These discussions were intrusive, and honestly the presumption of it all really pissed me off. As I drove home after that I said out loud, “I need separation of church and work!”

The church doesn’t have agency in outside affairs. Many Christians think it does, and dominionists want it to have absolute agency. They’re wrong. Or maybe the institution has the agency that people give it. I was never one of those people. Work was a separate part of my life from ‘church stuff.’ quote-matt-22-21

This coworker/employee/fellow church member and I had never been close. We weren’t friends. At best it was kind of a long-term acquaintance. He was someone I worked with, and for a while, someone I attended church with. I was angry, but I never confronted him or discussed the conversation I had had with the two deacons.

Later on my cell started ringing again, this time with the pastor asking about more things to do with the office. I became resentful, or more resentful of the employee after this, and began to distance myself further from him at work, except in my capacity as his supervisor. Some might say that I was disloyal to my ‘brother in Christ’ by not supporting him in whatever problems he was having with his managers.

Eventually I left that church. There were a number of reasons why, and while this wasn’t the primary one, it was definitely on the list.

When you’re part of Christianity, and perhaps in other religions, there’s a rule of sorts…maybe a commandment, that you’re to put the church and your fellow believers ahead of everything. It may be implied by the ‘greatest commandment’ from Matthew 22:36-40 that we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and that we’re to love our neighbor as ourselves. There were many times, some might say most of the time, when I didn’t do this. I looked back…often. I didn’t put the church and my fellow believers first when it came to many things during my time as a Christian. I’ve never viewed my employment as part of ‘ministry.’ I wasn’t there for that. I wasn’t there to wear people down or catch them at a low point and sell them fire insurance. I wasn’t there for bible study. I was there to do a job and collect a paycheck so that I could pay my bills. You may say that I was never sincere. You wouldn’t be the first.

We judge each other based on the idea of constants. Life is about ebb and flow.

Strategy, not weakness

After 35-ish years in the workforce, I’ve dealt with companies changing hands and headcount reductions. It’s very stressful on many levels, pink slop cube 640and never ends up quite the way those in charge start out telling you. Opportunities that are suggested can disappear off the table the next day. When you’re working in a non-union setting/at-will setting you’re fortunate if you’re given any advance notice or reason why the change is happening.If the owners/upper management folks are decent, they’ll give you time to prepare for the adjustment.

And it will adjust.

During one or two of these business shifts I’ve had to deal with immediate supervisors who weren’t exactly truthful or were just being jerks. I was unable to respond in kind because I needed whatever severance package was being offered, and or to be laid off and not quit or be fired so that I wouldn’t have problems applying for unemployment once it was finally over.

I hated that…the needing.

When a job ends, the goal is always to get to the end with whatever final benefits in hand. So I’ve held my tongue in these situations, and some days it took a good deal more self control than others. The managers in question probably saw me as weak because I wouldn’t pop off and give them an excuse to let me go prematurely. I wasn’t a coward, I was playing my hand.