Sunday, November 21, 2010I have to admit that in professional situations I am a rather timid person. I'm not sure, but I think it stems from a paranoia about losing my job (which in turn derives from an obsession with going bankrupt). When we move I have these great fears I won't find a job, and when I DO find a job I'm convinced that my employer will fire me at the drop of a hat. Of course, it doesn't help that I have seen my co-workers fired for no discernible reason and without warning. I might be less paranoid if my supervisors ever told us why people left the company, but that would alleviate everyone's anxieties and what would be the fun in that?
Anyway, as a consequence I am constantly letting myself be taken advantage of. At any request, no matter how absurd, I'm like "Sure! No problem!" A report written from scratch in two weeks? No problem! A proposal I've never heard of by the end of the day? Done! An op-ed for a major newspaper in three days? Why not!
This is how I ended up working 60 hours a week at my last job. Every time I was asked to do something, I agreed to it, so my bosses must have thought "wow, he can handle anything!" and gave me more and more and more work to do - to the point that I couldn't sleep and started losing my hair and realized I'm drinking 40 gallons of coffee a day.
Since BH gets a new job and takes me to a new and interesting part of the country every few years, there's always the excitement (read: terror) of finding a new job. And at the beginning I say to myself, "Self, this time you will stand up to your employers and not let them treat you like doo-doo." I mean, they're not really going to fire me if I say no, right? Of course, every time I end up making all the same mistakes I made last time. Last week I was asked to write something for a journal without a promise that I would get any credit for it, and despite the fact that I knew I was probably getting screwed, I said "Sure!" Idiot.
What's so strange about this is that in most parts of my life I always thought I was a very strong person. I like sticking up for myself. I like arguing and making a fuss. I am generally NOT a conflict-avoider. In fact I am frequently the "designated asshole" in social situations. One good example is the time we were waiting for a table at a crowded restaurant. The previous diners were already finished - they'd paid and everything - but they wouldn't leave. The poor waitress was practically in tears. So I walked up and politely asked them when they were going to be finished, since they were clearly done and we needed the table and you just don't hog tables in New York City during Sunday brunch. Or another time I was stuck behind a car that was trying to turn left onto a crowded street at rush hour with no light. Finally I turned my car off, got out, and told the driver that he should turn right and make a u-turn because otherwise we'd be here all day. It drives my wife crazy when I do things like this. But at my job? I'm just a wuss.
Maybe now that BH is making boatloads of money I'll finally be able to get over my bad social habits at work.
But I doubt it.