Every time I think things at work can't get any worse, somehow they reach a new low. Last Thursday was one of those days that seemed like it would never end. It started with a meeting between my Boss, her Boss and the rest of our management team. We have these meetings at least once a month and sometimes as often as every two weeks.
I have always referred to executives as the cloud people. They hover 50,000 feet above the operational areas and don't really have a clue as to what it takes to run their business or implement the "out of the box" ideas that are constantly sprouting up. If my Boss is a cloud person, then her Boss lives up in outer space.
For me, it is especially frustrating to talk to him because we don't speak the same language. I always feel compelled to tell the truth. I imagine that if he only knew what was really going on at the operational levels within the company that somehow he would wake up and make some changes. But every meeting inevitably ends with me losing control of my emotions and sounding like an angry teenager whose parents won't let me borrow the car for the weekend.
I have tried everything to maintain control over my emotions. I even started wearing extra rings and bracelets on days we meet with him so when I look down at my hands it will remind me to keep quiet. I call it my "shut up" jewelry. But nothing has seemed to work.
Our meeting on Thursday was the same as always. I tried to raise his attention to some important issues while my Boss stammered and avoided the conflict. This time we were debating the concept of authority versus responsibility. My position being that if you give our team the responsibility for an outcome, we should have an equivalent level of authority to make it happen.
Ultimately, I was trying to get him to see that we need some more resources. But I just ended up whining about how I do all of my Director work by day and then I do my own work at night and on the weekends and that I didn't think it seemed fair. By the time we walked out of the meeting, I was almost in tears.
Of course, nothing ever comes of those meetings. Except for me feeling embarrassed afterwards and my boss calling me into her office for a chat about how she can help me "manage my stress."
That same afternoon, we all headed to the Directors briefing which is a monthly event where all of the directors in the company get together and hear presentations from other departments about what they are working on. There are literally hundreds of Directors, so it is held in a large auditorium.
At the beginning of each presentation, the speaker is asked to hand out "Above the Line" recognition cards. These are for people who demonstrated our core values in helping to solve a particular problem.
All of the stories this month sounded pretty much the same. The speaker gushed about how there was some huge crisis and then the employee stepped in and "Owned It." Which is one of our core values. Then they provided further details about how the person worked long hours including nights and weekends to make the project a huge success.
After every "Above the Line" recognition, the entire auditorium would give a polite clap, then the employee would pick up their card and go back to their seat.
As I listened to those speeches and thought about my conversation with my Boss and her Boss from earlier that day, I realized something. The company expects people to work nights and weekends to solve its problems. It is part of our culture. They were not shocked to hear that I am working all of these long hours on my project. And ultimately they don't care as long as the job gets done.
Then I pictured my Boss standing up at that podium in a few months after my project ends. I could hear her giving the same canned speech about how I had worked long hours, nights and weekends to deliver this project on time.
The crowd would applaud absently as I walked up to the podium to claim my "Above the Line" recognition. A small note card with some meaningless words of praise scribbled on it, in my bosses perfect handwriting. Then she would continue with her presentation. Most likely a presentation that wrote for her.
To the audience, I would be just another person who did what was expected. Put in the hours needed to get the job done.
But to me, those hours are precious. They represent time spent playing with my nieces and nephews. Time chatting with my parents over a glass of wine. Time to clean my basement and organize my life. Time for meditating at yoga class. Time to follow my heart and live my dreams.
And they are worth more than a polite ovation from a room full of strangers.