Friday, November 26, 2010

Skip the Mall

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Play the Game

I have a deep aversion to game playings and politics in the workplace. In my view, I work for the company. And the good of the company supercedes any loyalties I might have to coworkers or bosses. But this is not a popular position to take.

After my boss granted a small raise in my wages, I was expected to look the other way while some unsavory business practices were carried out. At another jobsite, my boss attempted to pull me into her inner circle by bribing me with joining her favorites for luncheons and other networking events. But these ladies were disappointed to find how resolute I can be.

I read people very well and am fearless when it comes to confrontation over issues of right and wrong. But I have poor skills of manipulation and rarely get my way.

Well, my husband has been teaching me the art of diplomacy. Little by little I have tried to develop this skill. In my present work environment, it is vital to my survival.

I have been working in a department whose manager has no interest in me whatsoever. He leaves all of my instruction to a young woman who has worked with him for several years. She has enjoyed having me to push around, and I have completely submitted to her direction and yes, even her whim. Some days she will even dismiss the janitor and asked me to do the mop the floors. I have taken the position of being unquestioningly cooperative, and she has tested the limits extensively (although, to her credit, she has never asked me to do anything dishonest). Three days per week, I am allotted 4 hours each day. Lately, she has been testing the bounds of her authority by interfering in my schedule. On several occasions she has sent me home early, asked me to come in late or take extended lunch periods when the workload is light. This means that I travel 45 minutes each way only to work 2 or 3 hours. Whenever I have objected to this, she finds a way to punish me. Once, she sent me home early, and instead of leaving the premises, I assisted in another department to fill my 4 hours of allotted time. When she found out, she was furious, but outwardly congratulated me for my industriousness. But I knew from her tone that the other shoe was about to drop. Sure enough, she "gave" me an unscheduled day off so that I would lose 4 hours of wages. Her excuse was the light workload, of course, but Monday we struggled to finish what had been left undone the previous Friday.

Well, she instructed me to take another extended lunch last week. I intended to go along without making any waves, but during my lunch I discovered that I was being transfered to another department that afternoon for a special project. I decided that I had better take a regular length lunch break so as to make myself available for as long as possible in her department. To my surprise, she had shortened her lunch break as well and she returned just as I had logged back into my workstation. She demanded to know why I did not obey. So, I explained my reasons. She had quite a tantrum, which I largely ignored. Since her manipulating my schedule had more to do with control than having a logical plan to complete our daily duties, she did not care for my solution. She was angry that I had improvised in her absense.

Well, her boss witnessed this scene without addressing it. The following day, he announced that he needed to speak with me about a matter before I left for home. I attempted to approach him several times that morning, but each time he said it could wait. When my shift was up, I gave him one last chance to talk, but he still did not have time. I wondered, and worried as most people would. I reasoned that it could not be earth shattering news, or he would have made time to talk with me. Then I remembered that my coworker did not even hint at what the subject might be, as if she wanted no part in the matter. That was out of character for her which made me suspicious. Finally, I settled down, sure that I had solved the puzzle.

Today, I was able to confirm my suspicions when I finally pinned him down. He simply let me know that when the gal in the office asks me to take an extended lunch, he expects me to do as she asks. He apologized for playing such a limited role as the department head. I asked whether he had heard my explanation for cutting my lunch short, and he wavered a bit. He had thought it reasonable, but for the sake of peace asked that I just let her make those decisions. I went very easy on him because I knew it wasn't HIS issue, and let him know that I understood his position.

Guess who was waiting for me outside. She asked what he had said (as if she hadn't instigated the whole issue). I was already locked into game mode, so I didn't falter, "he overheard our conversation the other day about the long lunch, and he was still heated about it. He was just letting me know that he was on your side. Funny that he didn't have anything to say about it then...."

In a way, I'm proud that I played the game well. But there is still the self-loathing that comes with acting like one of them.

One of the new managers told me that when he complains about the favoritism, the big bosses just advise him to learn the game, and play it well. His response was, "I stopped playing games in 3rd grade," but he knows that the only other choice is to find another job.