Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Work Rant

I was supposed to write this post before Christmas, but the last day of work came, and then came the stress along with me being knocked out with fever again, and then life just proceeded with lots to do every day and heaps of things left undone.

This is an account of the past six months at work, and may not be very interesting to people not concerned, but I want to write it down to get it off my mind, and also getting some input from others who know me more or less well will be useful, I believe. The delay has made it all less clear in my head, but this I believe is to the good.

I chose to use a jump break here, so the rest of the post is not visible on the front page.

Disclaimer to what follows: I am in the habit of thinking well of people, and I do not really think that this is a vendetta against me personally. But since my feeling is a daily "what have I done wrong, why will nobody tell me" something seems to have been rather clumsily handled. 

I have sent the link to this post to the people that should see it. And to you: If you feel this to be wholly inappropriate and that I should remove it from public view, do tell me.

This is an account of the past six months at work, and may not be very interesting to people not concerned, but I want to write it down to get it off my mind, and also getting some input from others who know me more or less well will be useful, I believe. The delay has made it all less clear in my head, but this I believe is to the good.

For the past few years I have loved my job. I have looked very much forwards to going to work, even if getting up at five have been a pain at times. I have been part of a great team, and I have enjoyed the job I did - both the administration and the coaching, even if my reclusive nature means that I subconsciously am more drawn to the administrative solo tasks. That said, the coaching have been what has given me most in return, possibly apart from my nerdy enjoyment of building something new or figuring out how something work and making it useful, streamlining it, making work technically simpler for others.

I have earlier and on several occasions said to my boss, S, that I did not want to leave the call center to focus on the administrative team in customer service, or for another department, that I felt I had more to give, and that I wanted to see the begun development towards more sales and even better individual service to the customers further along. However, when she approached me at the end of summer and told me that one of the other team leaders were going on study leave, that the position as back office team leader would be vacant, and that she found me best suited for the job and she was unsure who else was suitable, and would I consider taking the place, I agreed after some discussion and an extracted compromise that I would continue teaching conversation technique and some other things for the call center and keep an active part in that and the sales training, since that was what was closest to my heart.

I agreed because she asked me and because she said it would be the best for the department. As my loyalty were foremost to her (I would have left the company long ago if it were not for her, and I always felt unsure if I would stay on if she would leave) and thus to the department, saying no was not an option.

Then a while later, after I had agreed, she stated that the advantage with the change was that I could move out of CS, ostensibly to give me more quiet and concentration - but the only thing I felt was evicted, thrown out. I did not want "peace and quiet" - I wanted the close contact with the TL team, and with the department and what was going on. But as usual I acquiesced.

Unfortunately my yearly one month holiday was scheduled for the same date as the other person's study leave were about to start, and my new team was therefore left unattended for a month, as well as my old team (though they all coped admirably) and there was no real time to sit down and hand over responsibility, information and such since I unfortunately caught a cold (the first of very many - four or five times knocked out with high fever in five months) and had to stay home in bed the week before my holiday.

Thus, the first week back was mostly reading e-mail and talking to people to catch up. There were other new team leaders and one of the old team had moved on to an administrative position as assistant to S, which made me go "!!!" inside my head, wordlessly. Wondering why I had not gotten the option to go that way, for instance. But people were always hand picked by S for different things and although sometimes bitter, it usually turned out well, also she made out it was a temporary solution as the person was probably resigning soon.

My first weekend back was spent on a teambuilding/conference with the extended TL team. There in an informal conversation, playing with cards (asking a deck of cards yes/no questions), I overheard S saying "will back office still be under me in three months?" and almost went into a panic attack. What the HELL was she getting at!

That became clear some days - I think just over a week later. S wanted to talk to me and informed me that it was decided that backoffice - including me - would pass over to another department (IT+dev) as it does not fit in with the customer service profile, being a more administrative department (that said it does not really belong in IT either, but for other purposes - getting some of the administration automated - it is well suited for now). This time I came even closer to panic, and I had to clamp down firmly upon myself to not start crying. She said it would be a great opportunity for me, although it would mean I would have to work on other things those I already excelled at (sales/conv. tech among others). I cannot now recall what she tried to sell it to me with, and I did not really hear any positive arguments for me personally in what she said. Good for the team (a chance to get alot of boring tasks automated) but for me personally? Less chance to advance within CS certainly. Losing S as a boss. Losing the team of the other TLs around me.

First being evicted, now being thrown out of the team, the department, and losing my boss. To an uncertain future. My new boss would be D, and he too was presenting the new fact for me. The change was to be from november 1st and it was already the second half of october, although I would continue with S for a period of time until the actual move. S said she was surprised at my reaction. To me they were turning my world upside down with very little warning, and I felt manipulated into it - I am fairly sure the plan was, at least preliminary, known before I accepted to lead the team.

To finally coax me along things like hopefully getting my own department in two years, training as manager, and similar was promised. I am ambitious enough that that made me agree, and I did my very best to put a positive face on it when speaking about it with people outside work. Also at work: Especially to the team it was important that they should feel it was a positive change, which it is for the team.

Then came the yearly salary discussions, and the first disappointment. Since I would no longer work evenings and weekends, what I basically got was a reduced pay, and I was pulled out of the CS salary negotiations. The other CS team leaders I already knew were getting bonuses on how well their teams sell, as well as the same salary as I, plus the added money for weekends and evenings. I was given promises by S that some sort of bonus would be worked out for me so the difference would be made up.

Work progressed. I was doing less and less of what I had been doing. Supporting all the new team leaders in CS took up some time, but that too was less and less. My work burden went from 105% of my time (in calm periods) to less than 100% of my times. For the first time since I became a team leader I found myself taking coffee breaks that were not an excuse to go talk over some sensitive matter with another team leader. I stole work from the agents under the excuse of learning the things they do, but seeing as I worked in backoffice 2,5 years before I became a team leader it was mostly a way to fill my time. The CC team leaders needed me less. And less. S stopped having her weekly follow up meetings with me. I was no longer attending the quick morning meetings with the team leader team. They were doing stuff without me. I had less to do. I was bored. New things did not turn up fast enough to fill my time as things were taken away from me. I got more bored.

I noticed signs that I was falling back into the depression of a decade back. Random crying. Panic attacks.

D made it clear that there was no assurance at all that I would either get management training, and that my position did not warrant a bonus, thus hammering home my new salary, for all practical purposes somewhat lowered, and much lower than the three all new team leaders in CS.

S said it was because I "am so good at what I do". I am thrown out of CS, thrown out of the team, and get a lowered salary because I am so good at what I do? I am not to have a sales team because I have an advantage on the other TLs already being good at selling and at coaching? The hell?

With two weeks left to Christmas I had no motivation to go to work, was getting trouble sleeping but easily oversleeping, and spent more and more time crying, frequently at work. I have never in my more than five years in the company felt so unwanted, so skillless, so sent to the corner. If someone is problematic but have progressed to far, you find them a new position where they can't harm anyone. Is that what happened to me?

I don't know.

Then came the final blow. My birthday.
For years I was the one always baking cakes, bringing cards, collecting money to buy gifts when people's birthdays were coming up, but when it never was reciprocated and I got sadder and sadder over it, I (maybe a bit too kindly) thought that it was because I always fixed everything and noone were in the habit of thinking  about those things, so I started leaving some responsibility to others. But still nothing. My hope thus was for this year. You see, when someone becomes 20, 30, 40, 50 etc the company buys cake and usually some present of variably value. So this year at least I would get a cake I had not brought myself.

I thought. Until D informed me S had told him I did not want to celebrate. I said "But I do!" but it was apparently too late and it was already decided: No cake for Silme.

I spent my birthday at work biting my lip to keep back the tears, putting on a fake cheerful smile - although I actually told my team in the morning that the reason I brought cake was because someone had decided I shouldn't get one. Neither was there, of course, any gift. And because I know what for instance other team leaders have gotten, that hurt. Not because I am greedy but because apparently I am not worth it.

I have never been so glad to go on holiday. I have never so much dreaded to go back to work as I dread to return on monday, to this place where I am a social pariah, unwanted and unappreciated. Always I have figured that even if I won the lottery and no longer needed to work, I would still work because it gives me so much, a sense of belonging, of being useful. If I won the lottery this weekend I am not at all sure I would return.

I can only hope that january will get better. Because of the purchase of a new switchboard I will have more to do. I need to have my time full to be happy, I am extremely bad at doing nothing and get very unhappy at enforced idleness.

And a final word: Maybe the change itself would not have been so bad if it was my choice to clip my strings to S, to the team, to walk on my own, if the circumstances had been different and not so much surrounded with other negative things. But because everything came at once and it was NOT my choice to no longer have the team close around me, to no longer having S keeping track of me and questioning me weekly to have me consider my priorities, I feel adrift, insecure, and definitely unsure of my abilities to deal.

For reasons I hope are clear to you all I am not allowing comments directly to this post, but if you want to comment feel free to send me an email at sionnach1 at gmail dot com. Publishing now, without reading through it.