Friday, January 11, 2013

The Asylum

Yes, the retirement party was worthwhile.  The person we were honoring is one of those gems in life that those working under her weep at her departure.  She was nurturing, innovative and smart and a very close friend.

BUT I was also under social obligation to stop by my old department up several floors.

My final years I worked for the "guv'ment" in the Washington, D.C. area.  It was a service oriented job rather than research, and I was in a group where I sort of remained on the outside.  I had to bring in my own budget, and most of those I provided service to were not in the office, the building, or even the town.  So I did not work closely with those colleagues in the offices around me.  At times there was jealousy (surprise!) at my ability to have a little more independence with a budget.

But also, some days I really felt I was working in an asylum in my immediate department.  There were a handful of colleagues that were hardworking, professional and with whom I had a very collegial relationship.  Most of them moved on before me.  There were others that had serious personal problems.  #1 was emotionally unstable.  Some days she was friendly and some days she would bite your head off for no particular reason.  #2 was very competitive about her program and secretive.  I did win her over toward the end and she and I worked on a project or two successfully. #3 (the retiring program supervisor) was good at the job and did hold the unit together, but when she got bored she liked to play mind games with her staff and watch the chaos.  #5 (the new program supervisor) was treading water until his retirement and had no desire to manage anyone when he came on board and he hid in his office. #6 the office secretary was everybody's mother.   She had a million of her own life problems (money, live-in lover, divorcing son, etc.) but she always wanted to solve everyone's calamities rather than do her job.  She was out sick a LOT.  #7 also had serious mental problems.  She was cute and sweet, but behind the scenes she was frequently attaching herself to any new project and hung on for dear life trying to pretend she was making a contribution.  Once a contractor got in a shouting match with her across from my cubicle because she kept messing with his project.  She spent time telling tales on others and blowing things out of proportion.  She had a panic attack in one meeting and created a rift between another person and I that was totally unexpected until I saw how she liked to drive wedges.  She and another contractor had an ongoing feud which took up time in too many staff meetings.  When a position opened up for a promotion for her where she had criticized every prior candidate, she backed down and didn't take it, to no one's surprise.  For a full year I tried to develop a relationship with her and then just ignored her as best I could when I realized how dangerous she was.  #8 was in the cubicle near mine and I had to get her permission to use any of our major equipment such as the giant laser printer.  She was strict, demanded genuflecting, gave instructional lectures always and the only way I could get anything out of her was to praise the hell out of her....which I did.  #9 was the cleaning girl who stole food from our lunches in the kitchen.  Some days, you would be missing your lunch.

Everyone else was pretty normal and hardworking if a bit territorial which is not unusual in decades of tight government budgets.  I have maintained a close relationship we a few of these folks and we have even spent days hiking and boating after my retirement.  The night before this retirement celebration all the dysfunctional stuff I had had to deal with while trying to do my job came rushing back like a nightmare and that was the energy in the post below.

I regret that my final years were not spent in a place where people worked together with professional competitiveness but courtesy, where people had common goals, where there was some trust and sense of teamwork.  But, alas, I earned my money the hard way.

18 comments:

Granny Annie said...

Funny I don't remember seeing you there, but am sure we worked in the same office. Pretty sure I was #1, emotionally unstable. At least I was after dealing with all the others. LOL

Florence said...

I am glad the retirement partty went well for you. I was at my last workplace before retirement for 19 yeara. It was an excellent place to work but I am so glad that I no longer need to deal with departmental pettiness and the resident drama queen. :>))

Olga said...

Hear ya! I worked in a middle school too.

Mage said...

I like Olga's post. LOL The mentally ill can twist jobs sideways every time. I am so grateful that the last place I worked gave me an immediate supervisor that I still consider a friend.

Kerry said...

Reading this helps me understand the previous post much better.

I retired from a workplace that wasn't especially warm and fuzzy, had its share of drama, but was nothing as awful as yours. It must feel good to leave all of that behind.

Celia said...

Glad you made it through okay. My last office was "interesting" as well. Exhausting. I did come out with a best friend forever so I guess it balances out.

messymimi said...

Sounds like Sweetie's place at the University. Ugh.

Stephen Hayes said...

I could never work in an office; I have a little problem with authority and, as an artist, I've never been a team player. Of course people like me never retire with a gold watch, but then does anyone anymore?

Kat said...

Whew! That is quite a crew of characters. They sound enough to make working miserable. Shesh! That is always the hardest part of a job- getting along with all the different and difficult personalities.

Linda Reeder said...

Yikes! I had my battles in my experiences as an educator, but nothing that bad.

Peruby said...

Ah, yes. I do not work in the home office (60 miles away) - my saving grace. I actually have an office all to myself where I can even shut the door!

Even at a distance I sometimes get caught up in the drama, though.

Sheesh!

SueAnn Lommler said...

I find that that is the norm...sad to say! Why is it? It makes no sense!!
Sigh
Hugs
SUeAnn

Brian Miller said...

when i worked in cube world for the bank we hD bit of that asylum feel as well.glad i escaped there actually...it improved my own mntal health greatly...

Mage said...

...and it's just fine not to say anything at all. Quite often I find that nothing at all exists up there for me to say, actually.

LOL

Just stay warm.

ladyfi said...

Urk - sounds terrible!

I'm looking to work in a small firm that almost feels like family.

Friko said...

The joys of working in an office with a lot of colleagues. I think everyone who has spent time like that has a song to sing about it.
Back-biting bitchiness, jealousy and nastiness, they are all part of the fun.

The most horrible office I ever worked in had a group of people ganging up on one poor soul.

I am not sorry to be retired although I have also had a great many very pleasant colleagues.

Hattie said...

The thing I like best about retirement is that I can choose who I want to keep company with.

Cerulean Bill said...

My daughter says that out of college, she wants to work for the government 'so that she can make a difference'. Hmmm....

I met a fair number of local government workers when I was with IBM. Most were okay, a few were stellar, and one or two were toxic.