The girls have health class in school this year - yeah, scary, I know - and there's been an emphasis on feelings and walking in someone else's shoes, in addition to the regular health class stuff such as hand washing. At home, we discuss being nice to others. You don't have to be friends with everyone but you need to be nice to everyone. And maybe just ignore the kids who are really mean to others.
For some reason this week, I've been thinking of a former boss of mine and the torture that was working with her. She was mean. She was the meanest person I've ever had to work with in my twenty years of working with many, many different types of people. But she wasn't mean to everyone. In fact, four former co-workers of mine left Big Financial Institution to work for her at Big Online Retailer.
I was hired into the Tax Department at Big Financial Institution by B, who was super nice. We became work friends and I eventually took management of domestic compliance off of his plate. There was a lot of weird political crap going on way above us and a new leader took over the group. He basically turned it into a mini law firm. So, look. If I had wanted to become a lawyer, I would have gone to law school. (Did consider it a few times, but no.) If I wanted to work in client service, I would have stayed in public accounting. God, I used to despise the fake presentations for the sake of creating a presentation.
So they decided to shake things up, and redid the org chart of the group. It was announced in a meeting that I wasn't able to attend because I was at home with a very sick Anna. I still remember it very clearly. It was summer and she had a fever. The pediatrician believed it was simply something going around but we needed to keep a close eye on her, given her spina bifida. I checked my Blackberry and there's an email to the entire group with a pdf attachment of the new org chart. Have you ever viewed a document on an old Blackberry? Yeah, so it took me awhile to enlarge and decode but that's how I found out that I now reported directly to J. And so did my former boss, B.
This is what J told me: "Think of this as sort of a promotion."
Career advice: If anyone ever tells you this, immediately push for an increase in pay and a title change. Otherwise, you'll only hurt your career in the long run.
Six months later, she fired B while I was home sick with norovirus.
It took awhile but I figured out J's deal. Well, partially. She was smart but she was most likely a B student. She didn't like to be challenged and I was used to having intelligent, thoughtful conversations with peers. Tax does not exist in black or white form. To her, discussions of options or possibilities were challenges. She befriended and was super nice to the lower level staff members because they wouldn't challenge her. If she said the answer was XYZ, they would write down XYZ without question. She also liked to fill positions with those who were under-qualified because they wouldn't be able to do their jobs properly without her telling them what to do. She was a micromanager.
She would belittle me during conversations and also behind my back to others. I knew everyone. It got back to me. It got to the point where I would leave her office door open when I went in to meet with her because I knew she wouldn't be so mean when others could hear. Any anxiety I had lying dormant in me bubbled to the surface during my time working with her.
One day I was in the bathroom crying (a common occurrence) and I thought, If she knew that I'd once held my dead baby in my arms, would she be so mean to me?*
I tried to find common ground with her. I was as nice as I could be. I wanted to know why she was this way. I tried to walk in her shoes. Nothing worked.
And then I thought about myself. Should I be in a separate class of people because I'd lost a baby to stillbirth? Should people automatically be nice to me because of what I've been through? No. The answer to those questions is no. We should be nice to others because we are freaking adults and we don't know what anyone has gone through or is going through in their lives.
[I eventually equated my job and what was left of my career to the reality show Survivor. Outwit, outlast, outplay. Only one of us could survive. Who would it be? She knew I had received bonuses in prior years of stock of the company that had not yet vested. She'd made the comment, "You have a lot of stock." She knew what it was worth and she knew if I left, what I would be walking away from. I can't even say that I won, because does anyone really win in these types of situations, but she left the company when the head of the group was forced out. And years later, I collected all that bonus money.]
*The answer is yes, because I found out that she had been told.