Dancing in the rain

They say when it rains it pours, and today I think that to be true. Metaphorically speaking, of course; it’s sunny and gorgeous here in northern California. So in flipping off my own inner negative girl, I have decided to shake off my potential for cranky and refuse to wallow in negative misery.

And no, my level of first-world problems has not increased. Today has just been particularly trying on several fronts and I am shamelessly using my blog to vent frustration that has no other safe outlet.

Work is rocky right now, with my latest mentoring project referenced in this post. Our meeting lasted 2+ hours and feels unpleasantly uncomfortable, but we hammered out some really basic steps to be accomplished this month, with another formal check-in in 2 weeks. Behind closed doors, staff can pretty much say anything to be me – be critical, disagree strongly and even loudly if that seems appropriate, but be prepared to get as good as they give. The only rule I have is to not allow it to get personally insulting or to include other staff behaviors unless it is directly on point with whatever problem we happen to be discussing.

Maybe it’s the age difference anymore, but this woman is going to be a challenge for me, and not one that I am eagerly anticipating. The discussion got heated at a couple of points on both our parts. Normally I might agonize over my unprofessionalism and losing grip on my emotions and my temper, but in this case it was primarily to make myself heard and understood than from any genuine emotion-backed escalation.

On the heels of that, though, I had a phone call from my largest self-employment client about a meeting that I had hoped to avoid. Awhile back he received a proposal from a former employer of mine, and while they were the unsuccessful consultant on that project, there is another project he is pursuing where they could be a good fit. It goes against my personal ethics and conscience to recommend avoiding them, but I can and did confess to an intense dislike of the local director pursuing a business engagement with him. The rest of the firm is mostly fine, and I left on good terms and with good feelings toward them. This one guy, though … I despise and distrust him.

I am honest to a fault, particularly in business dealings. While I prefer it if I get on well with, respect, and actually like my business associates, it is not always absolutely mandatory to have a functional working relationship. Of course it is a lot more stressful, but being mature grown-ups we should be able to look past that and meet the common goal.

When this director was hired, I privately labeled him a complete and total kiss-ass politician and suspected my brand of frank directness would be irritating to him. Since I was a direct report to him in my position of office manager for a regional office AND I was well liked and highly respected by the executive branch at corporate HQ, he immediately felt I was dangerous to him and his machiavellian machinations. Have done my time in other corporate organizations, I recognized the type and the writing on the wall. I privately told the corporate operations manager, who was the supervisor of all administrative managers as well as our individual regional directors, that he would want to bring in someone else of his own choosing, rather than “inheriting” an existing manager, no matter how competent and respected; she agreed it was a possibility. I was not even upset about it, understanding this is the way things go, and during our first meeting I said the same thing to him – that if he wanted to bring someone else in, he should just tell me so I could start looking. He protested, said we’d “learn to work together” and all that happy stuff politicians say while kissing babies and then stealing their lollipops.

Thing was he could not disparage or complain about me to corporate, because by that time I had 2+ years of working directly with them on various innovations and reorganizations that had been adopted at the other regional offices. The CFO and COO wanted me to work with them, but since HQ was in San Francisco it was logistically challenging. In the meantime, I kept my head down and did my job. And the local boss would trash me in front of the staff and in private, but in email and conversations with the bigger bosses, I was the best thing since sliced bread.

Final straw was when one of my staff left and he chose to reorganize my responsibilities without consulting me. Being the big boss in charge of the office it was his right, of course, but to discuss my job and my responsibilities with every other manager in the office, get their input, and then tell me about it after my job had been completely gutted was the last straw. I got the “it’s not you; you’re doing a great job! But I want to take the administrative management in a different direction” speech. I was essentially demoted in my own office behind my back, and while corporate was aware it was happening and that he was exercising his prerogative to reorganize as he saw fit, they believed he had included me on the discussions and explained the reasoning behind his decisions. There was a hand-slapping discussion with the CFO and COO after I submitted my resignation, but by the then the damage had been done. It was a truly ugly, life-changing moment when I was finally told, and I honestly cannot recall feeling more professionally betrayed than I was that day. Sadly for me, I also count it as among my finer professional moments that I did not start crying in front of him. He would have interpreted it as being upset because of the changes, where in truth I was so speechlessly angry for being treated so unprofessionally I had no other way to express myself. My conversations with corporate immediately afterward were full of angry tears that I was glad they could not see over the telephone line.

I took the next day off, and when I returned on Tuesday (it was just before Memorial day weekend) I submitted my 2 weeks notice as well. A rule obeyer until the bitter end, I slogged through those last 2 weeks professionally cordial and helpful when asked to the staff, yet completely silent and absent from meetings unless specifically requested to attend. It was 2005, lots of other opportunities were available for me, and while I had nothing lined up when I resigned, by that Friday I had several good offers in hand.

Now my client is entertaining a proposal from them the firm with him in the lead role for some environmental work and studies. Since this director is the one in charge of the potential engagement and I assist my client with evaluating the cost estimates of such projects, of course my client has requested that I attend a meeting/presentation with them next week in San Francisco. I agreed, because he’s my client and I need to be professional about the job, but my dread and loathing for this former boss are off the charts today. It’s been more than 10 years; I am apparently not completely over it (understatement of the year thus far).

The idea of sitting in the same room and listening to him present their quals and gush about how the fabulous fit they are for this project, how cost effective, how amazingly wonderful … yuck. But I will hold my nose and try to open my mind to the potential that he is not a complete lying, backstabbing sack of poo. Then there is the fact of having to have lunch with that smarmy asshole (gee, let me tell you how I really feel) that makes me want to vomit. Fortunately others I know and actually like from the firm will also be attending both the meeting and the lunch, so maybe I can mostly avoid actually interacting with him.

And in addition to those somewhat stressful occurrences today, a client whose project was officially over on March 31 emailed and then called today about continuing. I’m reluctant, because I feel a little (or a lot, depends upon the hour of the day) overwhelmed with work right now and am actually trying to trim my roster of smaller, more time consuming clients. Every time I tried to bring up referring her to someone else she would ask me what it would take to get me to continue. While I am terribly flattered, the work is tedious and the net pay is inadequate to make it worthwhile for me personally to continue to do, yet I cannot in good conscience abandon her. She is full of praise for the work I am did for her and the plan had been for her existing staff to take over this month. I spent time with them last month walking through the steps involved, documented the  process for their references, and feel like it’s complex (everything government related is overly complex) but manageable. But today she says the initial run was completely screwed up and she will need me to untangle it and then take it back, because I am the only contractor she utilizes that is worth the monies paid because it makes her life simpler.

Put that way, it is difficult to argue with her.

We finally came to verbal terms on rates that will allow me to subcontract the work out and still pay my full hourly rate to review and submit it. She promised me a contract by Friday so I can pick the work back up next week without missing a beat. Oh joy.

In addition to my young friend’s heartache, I have another close pal geographically even farther away this year and in the dating dumps. He’s what I refer to as a “serial monogamist” who does not treat women poorly (that was his younger, dog days), is always honest about his intentions (no marriage and no kids, somewhat disinclined toward long-term serious relationship), and who recently broke it off with his flavor of the quarter, because she has young children and he grew increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of meeting and spending time with them, getting attached, knowing he was leaving in 8 or 9 months to return home to the states. I guess the disentanglement is not mutual, and she’s been trying to woo him back. What’s different this time is a broken hand is keeping him from fully venting his frustration in the gym. I have mostly been letting M take the lead in communication on the subject, because I have my hands full with work drama and such right now. But I still hear plenty from both of them, in addition to the daily peppering of questions about how I’m spending my time at the gym. Yesterday I said I was sitting in the hot tub eating chocolate dipped strawberries and swilling Mexican coke; he was not very amused.

I have no clear plan of how to cope with the various big and little human dramas going on all around me right now, and it’s okay that I have no clear answers right now. Problems, I find, do not become easier to handle by worrying obsessively. Tomorrow is training with J, so I will not necessarily be mulling answers while we are working. But I might. Sometimes I am capable of amazing multitasking and have enjoyed some of my best breakthroughs while washing or drying my hair.

But honestly, most of this stuff is well beyond my scope of control. My work issues are going to resolve well or not, and there is little more I can do to influence those solutions at this juncture. I will not allow myself to vomit or allow the horrid former employer to ruin another millisecond of my life. The meeting is next week, I will look and feel fabulous, and remember that I am now on the other side of the table and they have to impress and influence ME now as I am a major player on my client’s team. For my friends I am here to listen and offer support and suggest real and imaginary shortcomings for those who cause them heartache.

Maybe it’s emotionally pouring on right now, but I have come to wholeheartedly believe there is something magical and healing about dancing in the rain. Even for those of us who don’t dance, I still highly recommend it.

 

2 thoughts on “Dancing in the rain

  1. Karma is a bitch and looks like she gets to show up at your meeting next week. A good reminder to him that you should be very careful when you screw someone over – you never know where they will show up again.

    Now importantly – are you making money off your subcontractor’s hours? 10% above what you pay them? This is important – if using subcontractors shouldn’t be a pure pass through if at all possible.

    Dancing in the rain is really a great pleasure.

    • Most definitely – actually 15% – and it’s someone I trust, have worked with previously, and is happy to have the work while she stays home with her toddlers. Win-win!

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