Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Passover ruminations

I had a very low-key Passover. Polar opposite of last year, which I spent with Ivan the Terrible pretending that someday he'd make me a stepmother. So this year, I went to one seder, and spent the rest of the time reflecting.

One of the things I thought about was work. What went wrong at my last job, and how I need to change to prevent those things from happening again. I knew that some people from my last job loved me, and many couldn't stand me. Funny thing -- those that couldn't stand me were all pretty much insecure, in different ways. I could do a bunch of character studies and bang out some funny nicknames, but I don't think that's necessary. The bottom line is, they were insecure and I rubbed them the wrong way.

What did I do that rubbed them the wrong way? I was a know-it-all. I thought I had the answers and knew more than everyone there. Those who were secure in their own knowledge and expertise were delighted to have me on board -- they were able to learn from me. Those who were not secure got sick of me very quickly.

I can't change whether people are insecure or secure. What I can change is how I interact with people. If people seem to not like me at my new job, I need to back off and not try to tell them how it is. I need to let them show me what they know and befriend them.

I had thought I would do this at my last job when I was transferred, but I didn't work at it enough and my essential know-it-all nature surfaced and annoyed the hell out of the haters. I was also always too stressed and frazzled, which is why I'm working on mindfulness so that I can manage stress better and not let it affect the quality of my work as much.

I told that to my therapist today and gave him an example where my stress led to poor job performance. I had a client who was a heavy marijuana smoker, as was his wife. They lost a 2-month-old baby to crib death, and then had a miscarriage. There are many indicators that marijuana use is linked to problems with pregnancy as well as SIDS. I was trying to refer him to a higher level of care so his parole officer wouldn't arrest him. I told him that he needed to commit to treatment. He said his marijuana use wasn't hurting anyone. I told him it could be linked to the loss of his children.

Naturally, he flipped out and told my supervisor that I said I blamed his children's deaths on his marijuana use. Which wasn't exactly what I said, but the executive director used that as an example of my "unethical" behavior.

My therapist didn't think that was unethical. He believed I was trying to help the client and struggling to do a good job while coping with work stress. It meant a lot to me, hearing him say that. It helps to know that good and intelligent and psychologically savvy people believe that my former coworkers were wrong about me.

But that still means I have to manage how I interact with them. It's not manipulation -- it's common sense, and it took me more than 40 years to come around.  I used to think that if I was right, people should just agree with me. But it's not that simple, and I need to accept that and adjust how I approach things and people.

In 2009 I spent most of Pesach with Dov and Tovah in Israel. Tovah recently told me that their children still ask when I'm coming back. I hope the Malchicks are asking Ivan the Terrible the same question.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. It's great that you are self-aware enough to acknowledge your mistakes at work. But the way you refer to some of your colleagues as insecure "haters" undercuts your insight. Surely they didn't become haters until they encountered your "know-it-all" attitude. Secure or insecure, no one likes a know-it-all at work, especially the new guy/gal who struts in with the attitude. I've had the same problem as you, and it was a tough lesson to learn.

  2. That doesn't explain why some of my former co-workers really, really, REALLY liked me. When I analyzed how the haters differed from the colleagues, insecurity was the one thing the haters all had in common. I am a bit of a know-it-all but not too much of a know-it-all for people who are secure. But I need to not be a know-it-all at all at work.

  3. Also, one of the haters wanted my job. He hated me from the minute I walked in the door.