My Inklings of Coherence

Meandering to the beat of a different drummer, these are my thoughts. If you are offended or angered by this blog, or feel it is of low-quality, please accept a full refund of your contribution.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

So much for that

I am no longer employed. LTM and I came to an agreement: neither of us wanted me to continue working there. A little background:

After 3 plus years working for the state of Louisiana, I came to a crossroads. Always on the look-out for a new and better (read: more money) job, I had actually received an offer. A very attractive offer, one that would double my salary and had some very interesting long-term possibilities. Now, the decision had to be made: continue with the state that offered lots of flexibility, a good working environment and little stress, but with little money, empty promises, and not much of a future; or jump to a job in the private sector that would require harder work, longer hours, a cube, but also much better pay and benefits, and long-term possibilities. I decided to leave my comfort zone and pursue a more comfortable way of life for my young family. I though I was ready to make the leap.

So I go through with the difficult break-up with that nice steady girlfriend to take my chances with the hot chick who just showed up.

I work in public relations. That involves writing, creating, organizing and basically being on top of everything that is going on. When I was told that this new job would require those things, I of course felt competent. This was nothing new to me. Boy was I wrong.

For the first month, all I heard was how busy my supervisor was. So busy in fact, that she didn’t have time to really give me anything to do, other than sit and wonder about how things were going to be. After the first month of nothing, people kept asking, “So, how’s the new job?” “Fine, I guess.” I hadn’t really done enough to form an opinion. Immediately, people began to interpret my response as “Oh no, he’s miserable and he hates it.” That wasn’t really the case. Like I said, there really hadn’t been anything to base an opinion on. I had a really nice computer and a camera and a nice paycheck. Other than that, there really wasn’t much that I had experienced.

The second month continued much the same way, but slowly picked up. I began getting more assignments. These assignments, however, where vague and non-descript. “Write a PR Plan for this project.” Okaaaay. Any more details you want to give me? “I’m too busy to explain everything, just get it to me.” Alrighty.

And so our relationship progressed (or degressed?). I was given vague assignments, which I completed incorrectly and/or without the required urgency. I eventually came to the realization that the game was: I will give you an assignment that I have specific demands for, but I won’t tell you what they are; you need to figure that out. And I will give you a deadline, but I really want you to work on it like it is the most important thing in the world that is due two minutes ago and that the entire company will fall apart if it is not done exactly right the first time.

And when said assignments were completed and submitted for review, that is when I would learn just how little I knew about this job that I had been trained in and had worked at for the last 4 years. According to some people, it was amazing that I had even graduated with a degree at all, much less with one in Communications. Real confidence building stuff.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, I apparently just wasn’t “perky” enough, dammit! You can’t really call yourself a PR person if you aren’t everyone’s best friend and in everyone’s business, can you?!

Well, I began to realize that I wasn’t achieving these lofty goals, so being a good employee and wanting to be successful at my job, I went to my boss and tried to discuss these things. The gist of the conversation: Jeff, I can’t hold your hand and explain everything to you. You have a perfectly good manual that should vaguely explain these things to you. And besides, I am entirely to busy with everything to help you out. You need to work harder and decide whether or not you think you can handle this.

Now, as most good managers know, when delivering criticism to an employee, it is a good idea to motivate them by complementing some of the things they have done well. Someone missed that memo. When the compliment wasn’t offered voluntarily, I was gracious enough to open the door myself. “So, when I do complete the assignments that are given, just like you ask, what do you think of them?” “Well, there is still some work that needs to be done. We need to get you to a point where you can run the entire company next month (well, sort of)” I pressed again, just please, give me something that I can feel good about, please. “So, is there anything that you have been pleased about?” “Well, I have been very pleased to see that you have been coming in on time every morning.”

That’s it? Are you freaking kidding me? My most redeeming quality is that I’m not late?!?! Well, yeah, I’ve been coming in an hour early everyday to keep working on these assignments!!

Needless to say, all of this was beginning to take its toll on me. I had been battling some internal things to begin with, and this was really starting to put me over the edge. It got to the point where Erika, having exhausted much of her compassion and patience, had declared that she could no longer stay with me the way I was. Something had to change.

It was around that time that the alternative entered into the picture.

Well, I was quite ready to give up on this yet. I hated to think that I was as incompetent as I was made to believe. Another “come to Jesus” meeting. Mind you, by this time, I was such a rattled basket case that I had doubts that I could even sign my own name inside of that office. Well, my boss and I basically gave each other ultimatums. I was told that my latest assignment would be reviewed and if it wasn’t up to the standard formless guidelines, then I shouldn’t be surprised if some disciplinary actions had to be taken. I told her that when I came back to work on Monday, that unless there was a change in the environment, then she shouldn’t be surprised if I handed in my notice. I told her that this had become personal and that I worked to provide for my family, that’s it. I was not going to sell my soul to the company store, and I wasn’t going to allow a job to destroy me inside.

Well, Monday morning, we had a classic exchange that was followed by my issuing my own “memo”. It basically said that it was evident that I was not capable of meeting the desires of my superiors with regards to this position and I would hate to be a hindrance to the company as a whole.

So here I sit. There is certainly a sense of failure. There is also fear and self loathing. It really sucks to realize that you were deemed incompetent at the only thing you’ve ever done professionally, and that now you have to figure out a way to feed your family and keep the lights on.

I try to think of the things that I will take away from this experience. The only thing that comes to mind is the dark hole in me. The one that is covered up by that big “LOSER” sticker. Nothing like taking that leap of faith into the darkness and realizing that, yep, its darkness and you should’ve stayed in the light genius.

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