Sunday, January 15, 2006

Please don't dooce me...

Ok, Folks, I am writing about work, and as we all know, that can be dangerous territory. Of course, I won't reveal names, and no one at work knows I have a blog, but we all know that it's a small world so please keep this to yourselves. Shhhhh!

So I work in an office with 4 men. My boss is a dear sweet man who is loved and adored by the students despite his absent-mindedness. For instance, he owns a pair of really nice pants with a broken zipper. For a while we thought he was just forgetful when arriving to work with his fly unzipped. I grew up with all girls and have daughters and a husband who knows how to zip his pants. I didn't need this aggravation. But after the 3rd and 4th time of each person reminding him to zip up, he finally revealed that it was broken. Ok, shit happens. So fix it or throw out the pants. Time and time again, he continues to wear the pants. I'm sure he just forgets each time he puts them on. How do you burn a perfectly good (perhaps expensive) pair of pants when the zipper is clearly broken and causing great embarrassment. We have yet to figure that out, and frankly, that's not in my job specs.

There is an MD/PhD in the department who is kind and soft-spoken. And although he gives me work with minimal instruction and I have to lean forward to understand him, I have no complaints. Another assistant in the department is nice and young, always looking for a mate, a hard worker, who has no family in the area so part of me tends to mother him. I will try my hardest not to.

That brings us to the last man. I knew from the first day that I had little in common with this man, but I was going to hold my tongue. It did not take long to realize that he is highly ADD and nervous. He shakes and can't sit still. Within a week, it was clear we were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I am (believe it or not) holding my tongue. He is nosy, and it is not unusual to find him looking through things on people's desks and reading them. I do not take any personal e-mail at work and leave nothing on my desk or in my drawers that might perk his interest. He has a big "W" sticker on his truck and I am trying my hardest not to get into any political conversations with him. He goes off on some subjects that I don't agree with, but I really do keep my mouth shut until he gets hateful, and then I mention the other side. He plays jazz and bluegrass on his computer much of the day which I hate (in that atmosphere) and talks about guitars and how much he knows about this subject and that. For instance, he went off on David Letterman attacking Pat O'Reilly and was gleeful that he felt O'Reilly really showed up Letterman on his own show. Then he went off on Cindy Sheehan. Well, I know that some of my faithful readers and I may have different views on Sheehan and her efforts and the war, but the vehemence in his voice was so hateful. All I said was, "I don't know how I would feel if my child were killed in that war." I didn't even mention how horribly opposed I am to this war. I just thought I needed to defend someone who had lost a child. He went off on what a horrible individual she is and what a liar she is. I kept quiet.

Last Friday we were in the middle of a move because they are renovating our department. We were going back and forth down the fall with movers here or there, and I found myself by this man's desk trying to stay out of the way of the movers. I made some mention about it being Friday the 13th and how I didn't really like Friday the 13th. Nothing bad has ever happened to me on that date to make me feel this way. It's just the way I am. I don't date checks or letters with the 13th. And I said, "I know it's weird, but it's my only..." and before I could get out the word "fear" or "quirk" or "idiosyncrasy," this man said, "Oh no it's not." I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "You have something else." I thought me meant I had another fear and said, "How do you know I have another fear?" He said, "It's not another fear. You have another thing about you. Can I be honest?" And without waiting for an answer like, "No, frankly, I don't care what you have to say that's wrong with me," he said, "You get very defensive when you don't know something." And then he added, "I'm just telling you this as a friend."

My first thought was, "I am not your friend, and you are not mine," but I held my tongue. Really I did. I wanted to tell him, "I have only known you for 2 months, and 2 months does not a friend make." I just stared at him. He continued, "When you don't know something, you get really defensive," and of course, I'm thinking he means that when I am new at something and learning, I get defensive and I kept thinking "How does a person who has been out of the work world get defensive about learning new things when clearly I have much to learn?" And then I realized that when someone calls you defensive, there is no way you can defend yourself without sounding defensive. I just stared. I said, "If I do so, it must be subconscious." And I walked away.

And of course, being the person I am, I kept thinking about this comment and wondering if I'm really defensive when learning something new. I worried all day about it and tried to remember a time he or someone else was trying to teach me something new and I came off as defensive. I stayed out of his way and was thrilled that in our new situation I am not in the same "bullpin" as he is. I will be in a crowded office by myself, and he gets to share an office with the man who keeps wearing the unzipped pants. As I kept thinking about what this man said to me and wondering how I could possibly defend myself against a comment about my being defensive, I ate up way too much of my time worrying about how I am being perceived by my new work mates.

And then it hit me. Did he say I am too defensive when I don't know something because I came to Cindy Sheehan's defense? Maybe he wasn't talking about my work habits or abilities at all. And if you noticed, I didn't come to her defense. I'm still not sure how I feel about her, but I do know I DON'T know how I would act, react, feel if my child died in a war, specifically this war. That's all I said to him, and if that came off as defensive, well, then fuck him. After two months, you don't get to judge someone. I didn't tell him to his face what I think of him after two months. Why does he think he can tell me? He's not my boss. I have since found out that the students can't stand him and feel the same way I do in describing him. He obviously has delusions of grandeur about his abilities and thinks he can tell people what he thinks after such a short time.

I am not giving it another thought, but wish me luck when it comes to keeping my mouth shut. Just don't say you're telling me something "as a friend," when we are not friends. We are work mates who barely know each other. Nothing more. Now does that sound defensive?


At 5:08 AM, Blogger Pam said...

Man, that sucks Red.
Here's wishing you luck. I have found that when one accuses someone of something, one is usually guilty of the same sin. I don't mean that you were defensive. But he's reading your reticence as defensiveness. Probably because he's an insensitive idiot.
This will really get him sweetly and walk away! Works for me when I am at a loss.
So, break a leg-Pam

At 11:09 AM, Blogger greekchickie said...

Ugh. Sounds like this guy is a pompous ass. I have worked with people like him ~ it's so hard to let things roll of your shoulders because everything he says gets on your nerves.

Sometimes it's so hard to smile & walk away...

In situations like that, I guess I get really quiet & do not talk to people like that.


At 3:23 PM, Blogger AWE said...

Hmmmm. That is a hard one. Defend yourself without being defensive. I just don't know how without cutting his tires or something.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Sarahlynn said...

You're right. He is so sure that he's right, that when you point out the "other side," he assumes that you're ignorant about the truth.

Because his view is The Truth, you see.

My recomendation: next time he starts going off on one of his rants, reply with, "I'd prefer if we could keep controversial political opinions out of the workplace," or something "professional" like that.

Anything that makes you look professional and him look like the blow hard that he really is.

Perhaps you could keep a buzzer on your desk and "buzz" him whenever he starts spouting off again, as a reminder to keep things professional. Hah. :)

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Angela said...

I would have answered with, "Yeah. You're right. Oh! And another one of my 'things' is name calling, Dickhead."

(Actually, in reality I would have gone out to my car and cried for five minutes and then avoided him for the rest of the day/week/year.)

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Ole Blue The Heretic said...

Sounds like that is someone who you have to put on ignore.

At 6:51 PM, Blogger Shephard said...

Geez, that is a rock and a hard place. Your post really got me thinking. And I would have probably done the same. Because once you pick up the rope, he'll be looking for opportunities to engage with you in the future.

I supose if he really pressed in the future, you might say, "I am so glad you feel like you can say whatever you like around me. And likewise, I'd like you to know that I do not talk about inappropriate topics like politics and religion in the work place with people who are easily offended." And then if he gets angry, you say... see, you're offended, which is why I respect you enough not to talk about it with you. And from now, we now both know not to talk about it with each other."

Who knows if it would work. Sounds like staying away is a great idea! Your take on him sounds very grounded, though. People like that love to shame you into thinking there's something wrong with you when they know you disagree with them.. Kinda pathetic.



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