Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another one down and a few lessons learned, sort of.

Have you ever walked into a conversation and realized, just a little too late, that the other person already had their mind made up and was never going to listen to you anyway? That happened to me today and it was shocking. As usual, I entered a situation believing that the people whom I trusted would have my back. Because I always believe in the good of people. I believe in honesty and transparency. I believe that people will do the right thing when faced with a choice between what's easy and what's right. So I enter situations with these ideas in my head and then am shocked when nothing goes as I see it. Naive? Maybe a little bit. But it's also a choice.

Maybe I should start with all the things I did wrong. Since the criticism I hear so often is that I never see my part, I'll start by telling you my part.

First, I misunderstood ambiguous dress code rules and had the audacity to ask for clarification in an employee meeting. My management team said that Converse were ok...until they weren't...sort of. The thing that they would never say is that athletic shoes were not ok. I think this is because they personally saw nothing wrong with fashionable athletic shoes and also because they were incapable of making a rule and just saying it. My misstep? Asking for clarification too often and too loudly in a group of people who wanted to talk over me. Yeah, the ambiguous language doesn't work for me. Were my bright red Converse ok or did I have to buy another pair of shoes? I never actually got a specific answer. Instead, I made a scene in the middle of a meeting because my managers wouldn't say anything directly and everyone wanted to give their two cents. I was sort of reprimanded later when an interview turned into "constructive criticism" and they wanted to call me out on my behavior. I admitted it: I can't always see things going off the rails until they are off the rails and then I don't know how to reel it in. I apologized. I thought it was over.

But it was just a check on my score card.

We got a new assistant manager and she and I had a problem. I cannot even remember what it was, honestly. I just know I was ready to leave and had to call my manager to tell her that I was trying to change my ways and not walk out on my shift. I can tell you part of the problem leading up to the situation was that parts of the management team weren't doing their jobs and I was constantly picking up their slack. I was listening to my manager bitch about them and telling me that my assistance in doing their job was really good and she needed that. She and I had little trips to take out the garbage where she admitted she shouldn't be bitching about them, but I was a willing ear and her mouth kept moving. In response to this, I kept working...but I also thought I had an ally, because I thought that she saw the work I was putting in and valued it. But there I was, in the bathroom, trying to keep it together instead of just walking out and going home in frustration. My manager talked me down. I stayed. Later, I apologized. I wanted to do the right thing, and so I apologized when I didn't think I was wrong. I wanted a good working relationship because I wanted to stay and work as a team and accept this new person despite her flaws. During my apology, when I was trying to talk to her about how I communicate and why that wasn't meant to be offensive, she made a gesture...she clawed the air and made a sound like a screeching cat...because it is ok to make fun of me for the way I talk to people. I relayed everything to my manager, said I apologized and wanted to have a good working relationship, and then I forgot the entire situation. For me, when apologies happen and communication resolves, the issue is done and disappears. I don't keep score.

But my manager keeps score.

One day, I decided to take over the bra situation and bring it all up to visual standards. I told the second assistant what I was doing and she responded in a really surprising and aggressive way. She started yelling at me about what to do and I read the visual standard stuff and assured her I was following the plan and not messing everything up. She was so weird, and I communicated well, and felt like we were on the same page and went to work. As I was working, I called her over to talk about the process, but she needed to interrupt me. She didn't want to listen to me, then respond, so we could work together to come to a resolution. She just wanted to order me around. It was weird to me, but I also wasn't having it. I don't take orders because I'm not at boot camp. She escalated the situation while pulling the, "I'm the manager," bullshit...which she actually said out loud to me. There I was again, in the bathroom, on the phone with my manager, trying to keep my shit together. I don't respond well to blatant disrespect, especially when I'm just doing my job. This time, I took my 15 minute break, waited for the other manager to leave, and talked to my manager about it. The next time I worked, I went over everything with my manager...Did I need to apologize? I offered. I was willing to do what it took to make sure that me and the second assistant were on the same page, that everything was ok and we were all back on the same team. My manager said we'd chalk it up as a bad day and move on. And so I did.

But my manager didn't move on.

Just a few days ago, I was working and New Girl was working with me. It was our first day together. I was not really excited, because our crew was too full and I wasn't really getting any hours so I had no idea why we needed yet another crew member. My manager fed me some lines about it, but I think her reasoning is flawed. So there I was, with the new girl. When I came out from the back office, I heard her talking to someone about sizing. I decided to stand next to her and listen, just in case she need help with any of the sizing and just to get a feel for how she worked. This is what you do for new people; make yourself available to them. When I started walking out, she stepped in front of me, blocking my way. As I moved around her, she did it again. This girl, who is twice the size of me, physically blocked my path. Finally, I moved all the way around so she couldn't block my path, so I could watch and listen. She proceeded to make a scene. She freaked out and told me she had it and ordered me to go somewhere else. She rose her voice to me. I stood my ground, because that is what I do. When she finally left, leaving me and the customer in a super awkward and uncomfortable position, I excused myself to talk to her. I asked her to come into the back so I could introduce myself, ask her what the hell just happened, and generally clear the air. She wouldn't. I asked the second assistant manager to ask her to come back so we could clear the air, but that manager was too busy getting ready to go home to take ten minutes to be an actual manager. I tried to get the assistant to come make it happen, but excuses were made. In the end, nothing happened. New Girl bullied me and made a scene and no one did anything. I texted my manager...which was apparently the super wrong move because she was on vacation. But since she had made herself my ally by constantly bitching to me about her management team and gossiping about fellow employees, I relied on her as the only person I could go to. It was clear to me, in that situation, that the other managers were ineffectual and I needed to talk to someone. Earlier, when I had completely cleaned the entire back room, picking up the slack of everyone else, she wasn't bothered by the pictures I sent to her on vacation.

Good news is ok, bad news isn't, I guess.

Today, I went in to work two hours early so I could talk to my manager about the situation and make sure everything was handled and I was continuing to work as part of the team. What I didn't know is that conversations had already happened and I was made out to be the bad guy. According to my manager, the scene that was made by New Girl was the cause of complaints by the customers against me. Unbeknownst to me, the situation had been determined. I had my three strikes and I was on the out. My manager was mad at me and upset by the situation I had caused and nothing I had said would make any difference at all. My describing the situation as bullying was too harsh...despite the fact that someone twice my size used her body to physically block my way and then escalated the situation to raised voices. Despite that, I should admit my fault in the situation, obviously. Furthermore, even though my manager has spent the last two months constantly bitching about how shitty her assistants are, the only thing to consider in this case is that I've had one situation with each of them. She said to me, "When I work with you, everything is fine." She has said this to me multiple times. She has expressed confusion that her management team can't work with me. But today, the evidence all pointed to the entire situation being my fault and I am the problem. Of course it would play out this way. She couldn't possibly listen to the words that had come out of her mouth for the last two months and actually have my back. She couldn't possibly see all the hard work I have put into keeping the back rooms organized and easy to use. She couldn't see my dedication to visual standards and learning to do my job by the book. Absolutely not. The answer in this situation is that I am the problem.

This had been decided before I even walked into work today. If only I had stayed home, gone in at the regular time, not tried to make sure that everything I needed to do in order to work well with my team was happening, not tried to make things right...well, I'd probably still have a job with a bunch of backstabbing hypocrites.

So what is my part and what have I learned?

My first reaction was to go into super-bummer mode and lament my inability to fit in anywhere and just assume that I'm insane and actually a big asshat who will never fit in. This was the part of the day that saw me crying into my iPhone while waiting for my brother to come pick me up. While I waited, I chatted with my friends and I THOUGHT. What I thought was how my manager spent so much time bitching about her management team and telling me I wasn't a problem to her when she was really keeping score. I thought about how my manager had come into the situation already settled on who was to blame and wouldn't even listen to anything I said. I thought about how hard I had worked, not just on the business of doing the job no one else would do, but also on actively trying to fit in with my team and resolve any issues that came up without holding a grudge. I thought about all this and I realized that I don't fit in. But I don't fit in because I don't give into the bullshit that everyone else does. I believe that I am an equal, even to my management, and I don't back down or sublimate to make them feel better about being my boss. I believe in letting things go and not holding grudges and not keeping score. I believe in going to work every day and actually doing my job. I believe in what people say to me, when they say it again and again over the course of a few months, and I will continue to take people at face value.

And if these things make me a big asshat who doesn't fit in, then I guess I'll just keep looking for a place where people are actually respectful. Not where respect is when I lick someone's ass and they treat me however they want, but a place where I'm treated with the same respect I give to everyone else. And until I find that place, then when the shit goes down, I will always bow out. I refuse to surround myself with people who lack integrity and character.

So I guess what everyone says is true; I don't see my part. Or I do see my part and I refuse to change it. Because I'm an awesome person and I'm not going to compromise all that awesomeness to make everyone else feel better about who I am. Everyone else can fuck off.

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