Trying My Patience

It’s been a week to try women’s souls…nothing cataclysmic, thank the gods, but a preponderance of  disturbances and upsets that seemed quite determined to eradicate all those fine feelings of comfort and joy I was boasting about so happily a while back.

Too much work, for a start, at a time when I really wasn’t all that much of a mind to work at all.  And changes at work, to boot – changes that I don’t really cotton to all that well.   People are asking me to work in ways contradictory to my personality.  I feel like I know myself pretty well after almost 54 years of rather intensive study.  I know how I work best, understand what it is I need to make my work life productive and satisfying.  I think I’ve always known it, actually, going way back to the time when I dropped my plans to be a teacher, and my father asked me what I thought I’d like to do instead.

“I’m not really sure,” I admitted.  “But I think I’d like  to have my own little office where I work around nice people, but be able to do my own work all by myself,” I replied, inwardly shuddering at the memory of my practice teaching where I’d been surrounded by clamor and confusion and the demands of two dozen six year olds.

I’ve also learned that I don’t like being the main attraction, don’t enjoy being “in charge” of anyone other than myself.  That’s why I love being an accompanist so much – I’m just slightly in the background- necessary and valuable, but not the star of the show, collaboratively following someone else’s direction. 

No one in my life has ever tried to change me, and for that I’m grateful.  My parents always accepted my personality, and my husband has continued to honor all the traits which have become very deeply engrained in my half century on earth.  My truest friends loved me the way I am otherwise we don’t stay friends for long.  You see, I’m pretty easy to get along with unless you try to make me into something I’m not.  And then, as my mother says, I get my Irish up. 

Last week, that’s exactly what my boss did.  You see, she wants to change my job so that it becomes purely administrative.  She wants to hire other people to do the work I’m currently doing, and have me be the “gatekeeper,” corralling all their work, editing it, organizing it, and distributing it.  She wants to put me in charge, have me be the manager, pull me out of my nice little corner cubicle and put me at the center of an array of workers all funneling their work to me.  Just like all those little six years olds back in my practice teaching days, vying for my attention.

“But you know I don’t work well that way,” I protested.  “I really prefer working independently, I’m much more productive that way, and a lot less stressed.”

“You need to get over that,” she says, in the way she has of thinking she knows what’s best for everyone. 

Now, when people tell me I “need” to do something, I start to feel a distinct prickle at the back of my neck.  The hackles start to rise and I go into defensive mode.  Although I like to be a follower in my professional life, I’m extremely independent when it comes to matters of my personality and behavior.  Nobody tells me what I “need” to do or be. 

No Body.

“You certainly have a perfect right to decide how you want to run your business and this department,” I told her, crossing my arms over my chest in classic closed mind posture.  “But I have the right to decide how I want to work and I don’t want to work that way.”

She was actually speechless for about three seconds (a miracle really).

“Do you mean you’d leave?”

“I might,” I answered.  “I’ve been through a lot this past year, and I know that life is too short to be in a situation where I’m constantly unhappy.  I don’t have to do that, and I won’t.”

I don’t know whether I’ll have to make that decision or not, whether she’ll come up with an alternative plan we both can life with.  I’ve wondered lately whether I might have reached my shelf life with this particular job, whether it’s time to move on to something else.  There had been niggling thoughts about this in the back of mind last spring, before all the calamities of the summer hit. 

But change is hard for me – that’s another personality trait of mine with which I’m very familiar.  I’ll put up with a lot before I willingly make drastic life changes.

I guess I’ll try to be patient a while longer and see.

How about you?  Do you feel you know yourself pretty well? Are you satisfied with your personality?  Is your current lifestyle and work in harmony with your personality?  How do you handle it when people try to change you, or put you in a position where you know you’ll be uncomfortable/unhappy?



10 thoughts on “Trying My Patience

  1. Your employer is obviously wanting and needing you to step up because she must think you’re capable. As one who hated being a supervisor/manager, I understand the position you’re taking…and as someone who never had the courage to quit despite being miserable, I admire you too. But I empathize with your employer as well. There’s a job to be done and the qualified people to do it are scarcer and scarcer these days. No pat answer. Each person and each situation is different. Hope it all works out for you…

  2. I can totally relate. I spent 10 years managing a department that ranged from 20 to 50 employees and I HATED it. I left for another job, but my original boss called and asked if I would come back in a different capacity and I said only if I can work on my own – I will not be responsible for anyone else. And that’s what happened. And I’m quite happy with that.

  3. I love love LOVE how you handled this! Good for you for sticking up for your own way of being and not just going along because a) she’s your boss, and b)it sounds like a promotion of sorts. I often find myself going against my own best judgment when I’m afraid I’d be a fool to turn down something like a promotion, even if it sounds dreadful. In that respect, I feel like I don’t know/listen to myself as much as I should. Working on that…

  4. The post speaks volumes. Sure, you’re capable of the work. Your boss’ job is to keep things running as she sees best. Sometimes, as employees, we have to keep the company’s bottom line in mind, rather than our own. BUT– I think this mentality is engrained in us so much and this is how we lose ourselves and become very unhappy people. Of course, we have to consider– how will I pay the bills? What else will I do? Sometimes fear keeps us where we are. Sometimes it’s simple math. But you have shown great courage to stand up for who you are and how you work best. We are constantly being pushed to change, to comply– rather than owning our strengths and God-given gifts and find places where those things are needed… places where we thrive!

    Whew– guess your post hit a nerve with me. 🙂

    As with anything, there’s a delicate balance… but good for you for being honest and firm.

  5. Update: My boss came to me yesterday (bearing gifts, I might add!) and said she’d been “rethinking” and thought we should consider making the changes I had suggested. So…

    I’ve worked in this job for nine years, and during that time I’ve made every change required without complaint. I think that history stood me in good stead when I finally took a firm position on something I didn’t want to do.

    My boss herself noted the irony in this situation, because she’s been trying to get me to be more assertive for years! Finally, it worked!

  6. My husband was a manager of about 20 people for a number of years. Hated it. After he moved on to another job in the same company, he swore he’d never do that again.

    One of the advantages of age is knowing what we need, who we are, and what helps us to thrive. I read you last comment, and I’m very happy that your boss heard your concerns and accommodated them.

    Have a wonderful holiday, Becca.

  7. wow you dare to say something out loud that I’d only think (and if I’d be truly unhappy for a long time, I’d silently look for another job…but still shut up to my current boss I would think).

    Glad that it’s working out for you!

  8. oh boy. This was a tough one to read, but I so get it. I’ve worked for myself since I was 25 to avoid situations such as these, and I am sorry you of all people find yourself here.

    Know that there are so many of us out here, who wouldn’t change you in anyway.

    Merry Christmas, Becca.

  9. Yikes, Becca. You have guts to the max! Good for you — and it worked. That was pretty darned brave, which must have meant you felt pretty strong, maybe a bit desperate.

    I think so many of us know where you are coming from on this one. I basically love most of my job; supervising two problem children is not something I like at all — and a new boss isn’t working for any of us. Right now I feel lucky to have a job and insurance.

    I’m glad, after reading your update, things have worked out. Now THAT’s a happy new year!

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