Other reasons I felt bad at my last job

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bullyI got a fair amount of feedback after my last post. I was afraid that I’d made some excessive comments or had been cruel. For the most part, most people said that it was good that I learned something from my bad experience at my last job.

I don’t want to rue but I also wanted to get off my chest the final piece of my bad feelings at my last job. To recap: at face value, I was let go from my last job after 1.5 years of work because of financial problems. That was the official reason. I sense that this outcome had actually been carefully planned as I feel like for at least 6 months, some of my responsibilities had been stripped away and that I was basically put in a position where I was redundant by design.

I also think I was let go because I was becoming a nuisance to the leader of my team. For some time, one team member has been behaving in a way that seemed increasingly inappropriate. By the end, after nothing was being done, I reported this to HR because it was becoming a morale killer for multiple members of the team. This entry is my retelling of that situation because I want to share it but also because I want to share what I have taken away from what I will consider one of the worst professional situations that I have experienced to this point in my career.

I struggle to figure out where to start the story. There’s a whole other situation that was happening at work that influenced this situation. But I think telling that part of the story is more gossipy so I’ll stay focused on the member of the team that I had the most problems with. My initial opinion of this person was that she seemed like a snob. I didn’t naturally get along with her. One problem I had with her was her tendency to lecture while at the same time being a total hypocrite about diet. She was a follower of the Paleo diet and would constantly critique other people about their food choices. Mind you, a majority of the people on my team (myself included) are Asian. We are skinny as fuck. Seriously, my body mass index is insanely low. So to have a person who is (pardon the bluntness) “chunky” lecture us on our healthy diet choices while pushing an extreme diet (of questionable dietary benefit) was not so fun. Furthermore, she would pretend to be on this Paleo diet all-the-while pounding beers all weekend. She also once tried to do a cleanse before work and only accomplished vomiting all over herself. So needless to say: she was pretty annoying.

She was also exclusive. One time, I approached her and another coworker discussing a book they were both reading. The book is called “Grain Brain” but said quickly, it is hard to understand the title of the book. When I asked the coworker to repeat the title, she cut in and said, “It doesn’t matter– she eats grains anyway.” Rude, right? I mean so so rude.

So I didn’t really like her. But then I started hearing and experiencing even worse behavior– many of which falls within the boundaries of creating a hostile work environment. She would loudly critique other coworkers (like their clothing choices)– so loudly in fact that I heard her comments from 15 feet away. When I mentioned what I had heard to the person to which the comment was directed, she admitted she would have felt bad had she heard it. This individual was rolling her eyes at team members during team meetings. She was going up to a team member at her desk and making critical comments about her work and rolling her eyes.

So at this point, I’m thinking: this doesn’t seem right. I don’t think it’s reasonable for a team member to making nasty comments to coworkers, acting rudely in team meetings and generally making people feel uncomfortable. I brought this up with my manager who mentioned it to the VP of the team. When I sat down with the VP of the team to tell her some of what I was hearing or observing, do you know what she told me? She told me, nearly verbatim: “not everyone has to be friends.” She treated me as if I was a child tattle taling on someone for not being my friend. I could not believe it.

The abuse continued and I was starting to feel really miserable. So I met with the HR director just to ask her if any of this behavior was bad enough that it needed to be addressed. She said it was worth talking to the VP about but I asked her to let me manage it through my channels because I didn’t want the VP blindsided. I again brought it up with my manager but the issues were never addressed. So probably 4-6 weeks after our original discussion, I went ahead and lodged a formal complaint with HR because I felt like the impact on team morale was getting increasingly severe, for myself included, and I just needed something righted.

I tell this story because I truly believe that this has some impact on why I was let go. I think that I was perceived as difficult and the VP really likes the bullying coworker and resented my complaints.

So this is the story behind kind of a bitchy comment in my last post about the company retaining shitty employees. This individual is a cancer on the team. She’s a cancer to anyone who comes in contact with her. Her work isn’t even that great (she barely understands Excel and once miscalculated an entire data set, presenting recommendations to the company that was directly opposite to what the data indicated.) She brings down morale. She is negative. She is rude to others. She is two-faced. She is a hypocrite. Retaining people like this on staff and letting them mistreat others is something a failing company does. I truly believe this.

But if I am to move on, I need to think about what I have gained from the experience. I wish I could say that I would look out for myself the next time around: that I would not make myself seem burdensome and be more conservative in the things that I say and share.

But I can’t say that.

I can’t say that because I know time and time again that when people look away as terrible things are being inflicted on others– the outcome can only be worse the longer it is allowed to continue. I can’t say that because I know that my value in the world– the value from my intelligence, from my morality, from my empathy– is predicated on my ability to assess situations and share my opinions. And I also can’t say that because it’s just not who I am. It’s not who I became after earning my undergraduate education at UC Berkeley– the lifebood of the free speech moment. Quiet, meek and agreeable are not traits that I aspire to.

I guess my takeaway from the experience is that shitty people exist in the world. Avoid them. They will only bring you down. And then when they aren’t getting the attention that they are seeking and actively seek out ways to make your life unpleasant, you fight them. You always fight them. You fight them because they have no right to do that to you or to anyone else. I still feel this way. I will never feel like I did the wrong thing pleading with leadership from my former employer to help make the workplace better for those of us who work so hard.

And as for the leadership possibly using this as a reason to get rid of me: it’s fine. They’re the ones missing out. And there is karma in the world, I believe this. And I need to let the karma do what it needs to, all-the-while continuing to conduct myself with honor, love, and respect.

With this entry, this is done. I need to move on and I won’t think about this any further.

The rain before my rainbow

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I fired off a pretty brief post last week—really out of guilt from not having blogged in over a week. So today I am posting a more robust explanation of some of the things I experienced. The past month, really, has been a strange journey from a super low to a high. I wanted to blog about my super low because I think there are things I learned from the experience and things that I think are worth sharing.

When I tell people that I am working now, they marvel at how quickly I found something. As I think I have mentioned before: I found my current role through a former coworker. She knew of upcoming hiring needs and referred me to a hiring manager. So this very brief, 6-week period of unemployment was curtailed, really, by some luck and the benefit of having some good work connections.

While I could have and would have survived a longer unemployment, the truth is that I was also grappling with some realizations at that point in time (6 weeks after being let go from my previous company). So I was at a junction of some very frustrating feelings when I was offered and later accepted my current job. In some ways, I feel like my feelings post-layoff somewhat mimic the Kubler-Ross stages of grief—moving from different and varying levels of confusion, anger and acceptance.

When I was laid off, I understood the situation completely—or at least, as completely as I could, given my emotional state at the time. Financial targets weren’t hit and of the non-sales people, the two people impacted from the marketing organization were people not as directly aligned with revenue generation or distinct products/projects. Also, being somewhat in the middle of my career, I’m not entry level (read: execution) or executive level (read: strategy). I was something of a hybrid. So all these factors made the shock a bit easier to stomach.

I was talking to a former colleague when she asked a question that changed the way I saw things. She asked, “Do you think they are grooming {a more junior employee} to take over {your responsibility}?” And that question alone fundamentally changed my perception of the last 6-12 months of my time with the company. Whereas I had originally thought, “Ok, they didn’t make enough money, they had to get rid of people and they used these metrics in the process”—I immediately realized, “They have probably been making these plans for months and the gradual taking-away of responsibilities and other events in the recent past has been an orchestrated effort to justify what was positioned as an in-the-moment decision.” And I got really angry.

I got angry for a couple of reasons.

1) I got angry at the company. I had invested time and effort with the company (in other words, I added to the company) and I felt like they took away responsibilities and basically handicapped me as a professional (in other words, they took away from me). I was going into interviews without a lot of the success stories that I would have liked to have. I felt very betrayed.

2) I got angry at the junior level employee. When I started this blog, I said that I wouldn’t talk badly about people and I wouldn’t say in the blog things that would be better (and healthier) to address directly with another person. So I’m not going to talk too much about the person and I actually can’t even say that the individual was doing things on purpose. However, I was giving a lot of guidance to someone on my team—via feedback and ideas—and around the time of my layoff, I was beginning to realize that she was taking credit for a lot of my insights and positioning these ideas as her own. I felt like by not being more careful, I had somehow helped myself seem less important at the company.

3) I got angry at myself. There are lots of articles that exist about ways to know that you are becoming redundant at your companies. Things to watch out for that indicate that your boss is trying to get rid of you. In retrospect, these things happened to me and I feel like I was completely blindsided when I was finally made totally redundant and asked to leave.

I hit a low when I made these realizations and I was in a dark space for probably a week. And yes, I admit that one week is not a very long time. But I was really sad. I felt betrayed and I felt like the company had really done me wrong.

I talked to people about the concept of forgiveness and getting over trauma in one’s life. Admittedly by this point, I already had a job offer in hand so I was getting this insight just as my life was already in the process of picking back up. But I felt like it was a worthwhile exercise because I know that I tend to hold grudges and make myself more miserable than I should be.

I scheduled an appointment with a career counselor of the graduate school that I attended. After I’d finished explaining my situation, his first feedback was this: you are feeling really badly about how the company treated you. You need to get over this. Business is business and shitty things happen. You can’t get too worked up when these things happen. You have to salvage what you can of your professional life, buoy your feelings (artificially if needs be) and survive.

He also said that I had a right to feel betrayed about what the junior level employee had been doing. Whereas I was a little more understanding (after all, I knew her so I wanted to keep things above board), he tut-tutted and thought it was so bad how she had been presenting my ideas as her own. We talked about ways that I could be more careful about this moving forward. How I could have subtly addressed this before it became a problem.

I also talked to my cousin about the matter. She is very Christian and I wanted to know her take on forgiveness, as it is a primary tenet of the Christian faith. As you can see by the paragraph before, whereas I can move on, I still harbor some pretty bad feelings. She wrote me a pretty comprehensive email on the matter but basically said that as you harbor bad feelings, the deficit in happiness lies with you. You may not be able to apologize or move on from a situation for various reasons, such as pride or pain, but ultimately, continuing to hold onto the burden of bitterness detracts from your life much more than it impacts others’. She also said that when she is mad, going through the motions of telling herself she isn’t and acting in a positive manner was something that helped her out. It seemed like a variation of a science experiment where if you hold a pencil in your mouth that forces a smile, you tend to have a better attitude. So perhaps some mind over matter is the best way for me to move past this and get on with my life.

So that’s been me in the past few weeks. I know that this post is kind of a bummer. I thought it was worth writing because it’s the truth. But I am in a better space today and hopefully my future blog posts will be a) more frequent and b) more upbeat.

Time to celebrate

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pop_the_corkHello blog friends!

So admittedly I fell off the blogging wagon. As I mentioned in my last post, a lot of things changed in a very very short amount of time. I accepted a job offer verbally on a Wednesday, I accepted officially by Friday, by Saturday I attended an open house for an apartment, by Sunday my current apartment was being shown to interested renters and by Sunday night, I knew the apartment I would be moving into in the lovely city of San Francisco, California. I signed my lease on Tuesday of that 2nd week and by Friday night was turning in my keys. And Saturday, I officially moved my little self up to the city. So in the matter of about a week and half, my life changed pretty significantly.

I’m now into my 2nd week on the job at my new company. It’s early yet but I think this will be a good experience. I have to hope that it will be a good experience. My apartment makes me happy and I love being closer to my friends. Fingers crossed that this is a good next thing in my life.

I’ll write more in the future.

And by Monday, I started a new job!