10/14/2008

Am I Anti-Social?

It's always been my policy on my personal blog never to write about negative situations at work. It's just one of those things I've never felt comfortable doing because it makes personal matters that touch on others public.

antisocial However, recent events have more or less absolved me of my duty to remain silent and just endure. So, I'll talk a bit about recent events in my new job.

As I mentioned in previous posts I accepted a position in the surgery billing and scheduling department at UMC here in Tucson. I was very excited about the job and actually found the work itself to be a nice match for my skills and personality. I'm very much a perfectionist in most things and pretty detail oriented. I'm quick to learn new tasks and to pick up potential problems and find a solution. In fact, I was good enough in the job to run the entire billing portion of a major surgical services department for a major hospital in 3 days.

This was necessary because their current person was leaving the position to move across country in a couple weeks. She would even be out on my fifth day on the job for the rest of the week then back two days the next week and gone again. This meant I had to learn the role quickly in order to completely take over in her absence. I did that and managed to keep things running with no major errors while teaching myself where to find information I needed.

Unfortunately, the moment she left and incidentally while our supervisor was gone as well, a problem cropped up with one of my co-workers. She's been there for quite some time and is a Type-A personality (to say the least). By the end of the day the first day I was on my own I found myself very stressed by her demeanor and way of dealing with me. She is brusque and has a way of "asking" questions that implies you are inherently doing things wrong. Every step I had learned up to that point she questioned and indicated it was exactly the wrong way to do things. She wanted me to change the procedures I'd learned in mid-stream despite the fact that I was doing a good job and not making mistakes.

This continued for three days until by Friday of that week I was exhausted from the constant barrage. I decided on Monday, when our supervisor was back to speak to her about the situation and get her insights as to what to do. After all, I knew that they had trouble keeping people in the position and after my experience had some inkling of why that might be.

So, I spoke to her on Monday and expressed my concerns and the fact that I was very nervous now about things. She indicated that this person had already called her with tales of my "unsocial" behavior and how I was "resistant" to her. Well, of course, I was resistant. After all, I had been taught a particular way to handle matters so I could do the job and at each step she would throw changes in and confuse the whole process until I was unsure whether I was doing anything correctly or leaving things out that I'd already been taught.

I asked my supervisor if it would be OK for me to speak to this co-worker one on one the next time it happened and try to work it out. She agreed at first but then decided that she should "moderate" any discussion.

All day long I was subjected to this co-worker telling people calling from other departments or doctor's offices that she was having to deal with "someone else's drama." At one point she announced to her friend in the office that maybe she should have just picked up her purse and left instead of having to listen to all the "drama" caused by "someone else". This went on the entire day and the barbs continued as she talked about how if they hired a fourth person for the department they shouldn't "rush into" anything because she wanted someone who would be her "friend".

I suppose much of that had to do with the fact that on the second day they were all going out drinking and partying at a disco at one of the casino's. I politely declined saying I had other plans that night. I don't drink to excess and I don't go to discos. I gave all that up when I was in my 20's. Today, I prefer to be home with Michael and share my free time with close friends who share my interests and tastes. Neither of which tend to benders and techno-dance music.

Not to mention that my second day on the job this woman decided to quiz me about my disability status and whether I knew that the health insurance offered by UMC "sucked" and why I'd want to take a job like this for the "crap pay". I kept getting the feeling she was trying to talk me out of working there. I suppose she was based on later events. She also seemed to be irked when I pointed out the pay was exactly the median for that job across the country and that living costs in Tucson were lower than a lot of other major metro areas. I also pointed out the insurance was decent compared to most private and small business plans to which she replied "Well, they probably won't pay for anything you have to have because of your transplant. They're big on 'pre-existing' conditions!" Have you ever heard a warning siren in the back of your head and just told it to shut up much to your detriment later?

So, that afternoon, much to my surprise my supervisor calls a meeting and goes through this whole "teamwork" aspect. Everyone knew what was going on because my troubling co-worker had made of point of bringing in everyone she could.

I decided to be blunt about the situation and stated how I felt about her manner in "helping me along" as well as other things that bothered me like the constant negative talk about our supervisor behind her back and the gossip about staff members who came to our office. This really grates on me because I try to treat everyone with respect. I hate to have someone walk out and hear them ripped apart as a "bitch" or a "whiner" or any one of a dozen other things said about people. There's even one very sweet older lady who works in the office. She is kind, polite, and quiet. Yet, the women in my office constantly make fun of her because of these qualities. Maybe it's a woman thing, I don't know. But I don't do it and I don't like to be dragged into it.

Needless to say, it didn't go well. Everyone pretended to make nice and we moved on. By the end of the week the tension was palpable again. I was being overly polite to everyone. Despite the fact I don't like to stop working to "chat" (I get paid to work not chat), I made an effort to join in conversations about non-work things. Each time I added to the conversation my co-worker would glare at me, stop talking and swing around in her chair. I finally just gave up, concentrated on what I was doing and kept quiet. After all, I'm paid to do my job not socialize (or so I thought).

Last Friday when I got to work my supervisor called me into her office and said that things had not gotten better and this woman had again complained that I was "anti-social" and "hostile" toward her. If there was ever a textbook case of transference that would be it. I explained that I'd tried to be engaging but was rebuffed and my supervisor, being very sweet, said she understood and appreciated how polite I was but things just didn't seem to be working out. According to her only 50% of my job was doing what I am paid to do. The other 50% is keeping this co-worker happy and being her friend. According to that this is the UMC definition of "teamwork". OK, well, being someone's best friend, gossip hen, and drinking buddy was not in my job description - I looked!

In the midst of the conversation she asked me how I felt about things. I told her as far as my work was concerned I was fine. After all, where usually it took them till 3pm or later to do the work, I usually was done by 1pm at the latest. Sometimes, I finished by 12:30. Therefore, no overtime for me. She again reiterated that was only part of the job. I then told her as far as the personal things went, I was very ill at ease because it seemed no matter what I did I could not get past the problems with this co-worker and she seemed intent on throwing me off my routine and concentration.

At that point, my supervisor suggested that things didn't appear to be working out. The gist of it was she couldn't fire me for not being this woman's best friend (as my predecessor seems to be) and certainly not because of my job performance since she was astounded at my skill and speed. But, she couldn't keep me if things didn't improve. Meaning, I suppose, that the first time I made some sort of error I'd be gone. She then asked if I'd like to give her a week's notice. We could "see" in that week if things had gotten better and if not then I could transition out of the department.

Needless to say I was thunderstruck. Sure, my job satisfaction had plummeted but I could do that job itself. I thought about it and finally agreed to her proposal. She then asked me if I wanted to work Friday or leave for the day. I was already there so I worked, provided I could use the extra office away from the others.

So, I began working and had the entire thing done by 12:30. Near the end of the day she came into my office and said she'd talked to her boss who suggested that she talk to my co-worker about things since there seemed to be an ongoing issue with her style and manner in the office and retention. She told me she would "hold" my notice another week and we'd see after that.

I went home and was totally at a loss to understand what was happening. I'd been fired for all intents and purposes but then "re-hired" on the advice of another supervisor. I'd been told I had a week to find other work then told that I had two weeks and "we'd see" after that. Confused does not cover my mental state Friday afternoon.

All weekend I wondered about things and really didn't see things improving. Sure, they would talk to this woman but her belligerent and passive-aggressive reaction to the last confrontation did not bode well for a formal session on her style with the Director of the entire department.

Now, I should mention that in the 3 short weeks I've been there my ulcer which had been dormant since my transplant has made itself known like never before. I've had pain worrying about the situation and the feeling of being jerked around on a chain hasn't helped. You're fired, you're not fired, it's you, it's her, it's nobody, and all the other conflicting approaches have not helped.

By Sunday night I was truly sick. I couldn't help but wonder what craziness I would face come Monday and by 4am I was throwing up almost pure acid and in great pain. I decided to call in and take the day off and try to make up my mind what to do.

This morning I had decided this situation was completely untenable. I was terribly unhappy and had lost all confidence in my supervisor being able to give assistance or support. After all, her actions on Friday had made it perfectly clear that in any situation I was expendable and would be out the door.

So, I went in this morning and told her I did not wish to continue. I had expected that she would accept this knowing that she had more or less told me that on Friday. However, she seemed truly angered by my decision. She was very brusque and seemed like a whole different person. She told me that she had talked to my co-worker and things would change. I told her that I hoped they would, but at the same time I felt that her last reaction to having this discussed showed that she would continue to harbor resentment toward me. I also told her that while I liked the job I could not be a party animal which is what these girls defined in truth (if not in voice) as "teamwork".

I got the feeling that her boss had put pressure on her Friday to make this right and perhaps she'd been reprimanded in some way for handling matters the way she did and more or less showing me the door. Now, I was taking her up on her offer and she would get grief for losing yet another employee over this horrible environment that catered to the personality of one person.

But, my health is suffering. Last night I was again feeling ill and didn't sleep well. I haven't eaten a decent meal in days because of the ulcer pain and even antacids taken at prescription strength have not helped. It was also obvious that while the Director might have wanted me there, the consensus among my Supervisor and "the girls" was that I was the interloper. There really is little choice in a situation like that. I can continue and deal with the struggle every day while my work suffers and my health suffers or I can just find another job where I can feel more welcome and happy.

As I was trying to be polite when I left she cut me off and told me that because I didn't give a full two weeks notice I would be ineligible for rehire at UMC or "any of it's facilities". I started to remind her that I had attempted to give notice but she didn't want to accept it and instead decided to jerk me around with her flip-flopping to the point I was totally at a loss. I decided against further engagement and just said "sure" and left.

So, that's over and done with. Sandy, my personal job search guru, is already sending me new jobs to check out. I've debated on sending a letter to their Human Resources head about the situation, but don't know what good it would do. Big corporations have a way of going into denial about such matters, and I'm sure that her story will be entirely different from mine and paint her as a saint and me as an anti-social boob. So, probably best just to move on and let them continue to struggle through with that revolving door. From the office gossip they have gone through 7 people in the position I had in just 3 years. Interestingly, the only constant has been my problem co-worker. I guess system analysis isn't their strong suit.

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