Tag Archives: workplace

Origins #5

2 Jan

I’d just turned 31 and was settling back into life after a big holiday.

Life wasn’t exactly what I’d expected but I thought I was in a fairly good situation given where I’d started. I’ll tell you more about why having a decent job and a shitty little apartment counted as doing pretty well to me when I explain how I grew up, but that can wait for now. Anyway, I’d just hit 31 and started thinking about where my life was at. I’d also just hooked up with an attractive woman who was 9 years older than me and fallen into a friends-with-benefits relationship with her.

Cougar town

It was pretty cruisy. I don’t think we ever even went out for a meal together. Angelica would come around to my place late-night, 2 or 3 times a week. We’d have some fun and that was that. I don’t think either of us were under any illusions that it would go anywhere. From a sexual experience perspective, it was perfect for me. Angelica was experienced enough to know what she was doing and adult enough to not be self-conscious. I was experienced enough to keep up, but I still learned a few new things along the way as well.

I wish there were more women in the world like Angelica.

Gus oozes on

Back on the work front, I was just trying to weather the idiot storm until something or someone brought some change to the situation.

Gus, the project manager who had loaded so much stress on my shoulders in the previous year continued to do a poor job as a manager. We thought Gus was being pressured by Tim Everlong to get our division to be more productive. The impression Gus gave us was that our division was hanging in the balance, potentially ready to be shut down, so we had to work like crazy for a little while (already over a year) to make sure we all kept our jobs.

Unfortunately for those of us who worked below him, we didn’t realise what Gus was really up to.

One of the methods Gus would use to ‘inspire’ us was pinning a printed out image of a flounder (that’s right, the fish) to the desk of whoever he decided had been floundering. Floundering in this case was meant to suggest that you weren’t doing enough work. So you’d come into work, already dejected just to have to be there, and after days of bashing your head against a brick wall in an effort to achieve some ridiculous, pointless, and often impossible work request and discover that fucking printed picture of a flounder on your desk. I don’t think I’m easily affected by things like that but when you’re already stressed and frustrated, copping an insult on your desk for everyone else to see is a pretty gut-wrenching thing. I certainly didn’t like it, but it hit other staff even harder. One lady started speaking very, very loudly about how offensive it was and I’m certain that I saw more than one other staff member cry as a result of seeing that flounder on their desk.

Seriously! Who does this shit? How is that supposed to positively improve an already declining office morale?

Unqualified

I remember going into Gus’ office one time and catching him listening to project management podcasts. I thought he was listening to them to keep himself up-to-date but he proceeds to tell me that he doesn’t have any project management qualifications, and he’s trying to catch up on that.

That explained a few things.

Actually, that explained a lot. An incompetent manager is a very dangerous thing, but Gus wasn’t just incompetent, he was controlling and manipulative. I didn’t realise that at the time because he was so bad at his job. I just thought he was incapable of managing things well. I wish I’d been paying more attention to him and had picked up the fact that he had a little plan of his own that he was slowly implementing.

Time marches on

Work was shit but I was going out for heaps of dinners and innumerable drinking sessions and that was a great way to help me stop thinking about how shit work had become. Angelica was making regular visits at the time as well and what we were getting up to was another good way to just be in the moment.

At the back of my mind, it had dawned on me that I should start thinking a bit more about where I want to be in life, and what I need to do to work towards that. While everything I was doing outside of work was fun, it was temporary. Aside from some happy memories there was nothing left of it afterwards. I think that’s what your 20s is for, and because I’d spent my 20s running my own business, I missed out on a lot of that. I guess I was trying to catch up a bit but it was mostly just a way to distract myself from the difficulties I’d been dealing with at work.

I know it sounds like I’m bitching about the job I had. The job was only shit because of Gus. I really loved working with my colleagues. I loved that I could walk to work from my place and I loved that I got paid a good wage. It really was just how terrible a job Gus was doing that was making the job so unbearable.

A little ray of sunshine

One little ray of light in my workday was chatting with Laura Everlong in the morning everyday. I didn’t know exactly what was happening but I felt like we were becoming closer. There was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but I knew she was being more open with me. I was getting the vibe that Laura wasn’t with her boyfriend anymore, even though she mentioned him often.

It’s difficult to convert that vibe into words. I just knew there was something changing there, and I liked it. I liked Laura a lot. I was pretty good at not allowing myself to get too much of a crush on her but I admired her and thought of her as a rare mix of soft, elegant, strong, and beautiful.

Messages start coming

At the same time, I started receiving text messages from Rene Everlong. I didn’t give her my phone number, so that was a bit interesting in itself, but they were tame little messages so I didn’t think too much of it. She’d tell me how she’s training for a fun-run, or that she saw me crossing at some traffic lights, or whatever.

Whenever a message came through from her, I’d smile and think “She’s such a goofball”. I liked her and I liked that she was messaging me but I didn’t want any trouble so I was always only cautiously courteous in my replies. Rene had also taken to emailing me at my work email address. The emails were getting longer and more friendly as the weeks went by after the work party.

Between the emails, text messages and random facebook stuff I was probably talking to Rene 4 or 5 times a week. On top of that, she’d often stop by at my office building for a chat because she worked so close by and her sister ran our office. Looking back, it’s easy to see there was an escalation of communication between Rene and me. The messages were increasingly friendly and personal. They were coming through more and more often. There were little hints about times and places of where she’d be and what she’d be doing.

Even with all the communication, I still had it in my head that if Rene wanted to go out with me, she could ask, otherwise, nothing was going to happen.

What I wanted at that time

Turning 31 had made me think about things and the most important insight that came out of that was that I didn’t want to waste my time. I was having fun with Angelica and I was having fun in my social life but I was also conscious that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life just drifting around.

I’d always known deep down inside that everything would work out. I’d always had a confidence that I can’t really explain. I just knew I would get what I wanted. After turning 30 and realising that things hadn’t yet panned out however, doubt had started to creep in.

Doubt is an extraordinarily dangerous thing. I’ve always been a ‘go with the flow’ sort of guy but that little bit of doubt had pushed me to decided I better start making things happen. I figured that if I didn’t start pushing for the things I wanted, I might never get them. I was still confident I’d get what I wanted out of life, but I was trying to take on board the sentiment that you don’t get what you want unless you make things happen for yourself.

What making things happen meant to me by that point was finding a nice girl who I had a real connection with, and have some fun going out to dinners and shows with her. To me the long term wasn’t so important, I figured being with a girl who I was really into was the most important part and I could figure the rest of it out later.

I had enough money rolling in that I could afford to show someone a good time and still cover my mortgage, and I wanted to share my time with someone in a more intimate way than what had been happening with Angelica. As fun as that was, I was after an emotional connection.

Passing thoughts

I wasn’t hung up on any of this stuff. It was there in the back of my mind but I wasn’t thinking about it very much. I was more focused on getting by and trying to enjoy life. I still assumed things would work out if I just play it smart and do what I should do.

Despite feeling a bit doubtful about some things, I was feeling very confident about others. I was managing to find ingenious solutions to the ridiculous bullshit Gus was asking for. I was getting a lot of interest from women too, and not just women I knew. Women were flirting with me everywhere I went and I was feeling very, very confident as a result.

I guess the fact that I’d lost 20kg in the previous 2 years was helping, and all the positive attention I’d been getting had given me a bit of a swagger in my step. All I needed to do was to get the situation with Gus sorted out, find a cool girl, and life would be glorious.

And along came September

I mentioned how everything was escalating with Rene. It wasn’t just with her. It was with Laura, with work, with my social life, my self-reflection, it was everything. My whole life was ramping up towards something.

And that leads me to September 2010, the month my boss’s daughter stayed the night at my place. I’ll tell you about that next time.

Crazy bitch tip: Think about what other people are going through before you dump your crazy shit on them and expect them to solve it all for you.

Bitch in business

18 Dec

Alrighty. I’m going to start by pointing out that I’ve worked in plenty of offices and that I’ve been running my own business since 2003. I’ve also worked in some very large organisations and have managed projects that had prices with lots of zeros at the end. Maybe I have a right to talk about business, maybe I don’t. And I understand that, according to a lot of people, the fact that I’m a 35 year old, white, male means that I’m speaking from some delusional and privileged perspective, but I did grow up dirt poor and had absolutely no support from my family, so like it or not, I reckon I’ve earned my point of view on this particular topic.

This is apparently what it's like to be a young, white, male. I must have missed the meeting when I was getting by on toast and water, until the toaster broke.

This is apparently what it’s like to be a young, white, male but I must have missed the meeting where they were supposed to throw all that easily attained money at me.

I’ve worked with all sorts of people and I’ve watched as my friends from school have progressed into the working world and where they’ve ended up now, which is about 15 years later. One thing that’s become increasingly clearer to me is that you don’t have to be a bitch or an arsehole to get ahead. As a matter of fact, I’d say the opposite is true. I won’t pretend it’s as easy for a woman to get herself established in business as it is for a man, but just because it’s extra difficult for women doesn’t make it an easy task for all the men who want to do well.

I think there are a lot of people out there telling themselves that success is more difficult for them to achieve than it is for everyone else and I think that’s a big load of bullshit. I think that’s just people discovering that something is more difficult than they anticipated and making excuses for the gap between how tough they thought it would be, and how tough it really is.

Business is competition. People treat it like a sport. They get all worked up about gaining as many ‘trophies’ as they can, except in business terms a trophy is a high-growth quarter, or landing a big account, or putting out a product that does really well. Let’s not forget that if it were easy to do these things, everyone would be doing them.

There are literally millions of other people out there trying to be successful at business as well. You don’t get to be successful in anything ultra-competitive without working your arse off at it, purely because everyone else who is after that same thing is working their arse off for it, too. If you want to be a success, you have to earn it. Moaning about what’s holding you back is just a good way to waste time that you could be putting towards earning the success you’re chasing.

Expect a lot of this vibe in the business world

Expect a lot of this sort of vibe in the business world

Of course things need to change and women need to be given a fair playing field, but the reality is, the people who are already successful want to retain all their wealth and clout, so fair or not, they won’t be giving up any of that power they have without a fight.

Yeah, I have run into some absolutely atrocious people in the business world, and yes some of them have done well. It’s funny though, they’re always the most unhappy people. They’re manipulative, controlling, bitter, little butt-holes and they’re never just arseholes at work, they’re just as horrible in their home and social lives as well. They’re monsters, pure and simple. Think of them as cannibals. Sure, they’re eating well, but they end up lonely pretty quick.

Cannibals: if they're well fed, you can bet they're lonely.

Cannibals: if they’re well fed, you can bet they’re lonely.

The way those little monsters get ahead is by cheating. They take credit for other people’s work. They start in-fighting within an organisation to try and benefit from the fallout. They fuck with people’s heads just to try to keep them from noticing the other dodgey shit they’ve been up to in an effort to get more power and more control. I’ve seen men who act like this and I’ve seen women who act like this.

The undeniable fact is that it’s far easier to win when you cheat. Look at old one-nut Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France ‘champion’. He took out 7 ‘victories’ by knowingly breaking the rules. Sure they’re taking them away from him now, but you’re never going to know the names of the people he was competing with that were actually playing by the rules, because that scumbag stole all the glory they were entitled to. That same shit happens in business. Ethics go out the window when the dollar signs start showing up.

Lance Armstrong: Cheats to win, doesn't have the balls to admit it ;

Lance Armstrong: “champion”

 

What’s awesome though, is that there are still people out there being successful in their chosen field who manage to keep their ethics and not waste their energy complaining about gender inequality, racism, religious prejudice and whatever else. Life isn’t fair. Business isn’t fair. Don’t expect it to be. Don’t waste time complaining about it. After you’re successful, that’s when you should start fighting for equality, because nobody can tell you you’re just a whinger if you’ve already succeeded despite the inequalities that exist.

It is possible to get ahead by being a bitch in business, but doing so will probably make you an unhappy person, so what’s the point? What’s the gain if you’re cashed up but you’re soul-crushingly lonely because you can’t trust anyone, and they can’t trust you.

This belief that being a bitch is the only way for women to get ahead in business is just a flat-out lie. I’ve worked with some extremely successful women who are straight-up lovely, easy going people. The became successful because they understood that they needed to work harder and smarter than everyone they were in competition with. They did that, and shock-horror, it worked out in their favour.

Being a bitch is a bad thing. You don’t have to be a bitch to assert your opinion or disagree with someone. It is possible to be female and make a point without coming off like a bitch. We call it being assertive. When you were a kid, did you do what your mother said? Of course you did! And why? Because she had an air of authority about her!

Have an air of authority, like this, but with less spoon and angry pointing.

Have an air of authority like this, but with less spoonage and minimize the angry pointing.

That’s what some people are missing when they go into business and that’s what causes them to feel trodden on. It’s not just women who experience this. Men have the exact same problem. When a meek and quiet guy tries to talk at a meeting, he’ll be talked over. When a ‘soft’ person tries to negotiate with someone aggressive, the soft person comes off second best because they’re not on the attack.

When you start getting into the business world, you have to get it out of your head that people are going to be nice to you and treat you with respect. They will mock you and tease you and try to hurt your feeling because they’re trying to beat you. They’re trying to crush you so there’s one less person to compete with. Don’t stand for that shit. Get that air of authority about you. Make it clear you’re not going to be pushed around. That doesn’t mean you have to be a bitch, it just means don’t be a pushover!

To clarify:

  • Speaking up when you need to speak up is not being a bitch.
  • Voicing your opinion is not being a bitch.
  • Not backing down when you shouldn’t back down is not being a bitch.
  • Demanding to earn as much money as anyone else who does the same work as you is not being a bitch.

Versus:

  • Spreading rumours about a colleague or competitor is being a bitch.
  • Making jokes about the size of your colleagues or competitors genitals is being a bitch.
  • Giving a colleague or business associate the ‘cold shoulder’ or ‘silent treatment’ because you’re unhappy with them is being a bitch.
  • Getting annoyed at the only guy in your team because he doesn’t think your personal drama should impact your ability to meet a project’s deadline is being a bitch.

And, finally:

  • Expecting to get ahead in business without having to outdo your competitors isn’t exactly ‘being a bitch’ but it’s not going to get you anywhere.

Crazy bitch tip: Instead of focusing on being a bitch in business, focus on doing a better job than your competitors.

Crazy bitch bonus tip: Very, very, very few white women can rap well enough to do it on a music video.

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