Today’s Topic T is something that I think we’ve all been wrong about at one point or another – who to trust. I can’t speak for men, but for women, or at least myself and every female I’ve ever known, we all fall into the savior/nurse/Cinderella/whateveryouwanttocallit complex sometimes. You know what I’m talking about – the idea that you are the one. You’re going to turn everything around for this person, you are special, you’re the exception, you’re exactly what this person needs and he/she is going to realize it if you just wait around long enough. All the warning signs are there. Your friends try to get you to open your eyes to reality, but you ignore their concerns because they just don’t know this person like you do. You question certain things this person does but always find a way to rationalize them in your own mind so they don’t seem so bad at all. You act a little bit differently around this person, biting your tongue in situations when ordinarily you would say something, but you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
You probably think I’m talking about romantic interests here. I kind of am because that’s generally when this problem occurs, but the specific story I have in mind for myself is not one of romance but rather just a professional tale.
I started a job years ago that I was thrilled to find. My skill set was a great fit and the job was fascinating. Although the corporation I worked for was rather large, my department was fairly autonomous as far as supervision went. And we became even more autonomous when a month after I started, my supervisor quit and a month after that, the department manager quit. For almost a whole year, my co-worker and I were essentially left on our own to navigate a lot of bureaucracy and manage several dozen simultaneous projects with several dozen contractors working for us.
It was great! We were two intelligent ladies with a philosophy of getting work done well and on-time, but never working harder than we had to. She had been there a bit longer than I and was a willing mentor because it was in both of our interests to keep our little cog in the machine greased so that no one would send a mechanic over to interfere with our autonomous operation. I became her right-hand man and together we churned out projects, decreasing delivery time, coming in under budget, and improving quality and our ability to collaborate effectively with other departments, all while taking on twice as many projects as the other two-person team who was doing similar work on different product lines. And we got along personally too. We went for long lunches together, went out to happy hours, and went shopping in the nearby mall. We spent a good portion of our time in the office chatting about personal issues and I considered her a friend.
But…I should have known better than to trust her. I watched her play so many people. All apple pie and flirtatious winks to their faces, and then gossip and conniving behind their backs. She would tell members of one department one thing and then members of another department something else. She said and did anything that would help her get ahead. The company tried to transfer a manager to our department about six months after the previous one quit and we (yes, I’ll admit I was her accomplice in this) were so awful to him that he quit completely after just two months…and he had been in the company 19 years. Granted, he had no business trying to manage our department. It was like putting a burger flipper in charge of the NSA. But still… Even with people I thought she really liked and respected, she would say terrible things about them to others if doing so worked to her advantage. If you look up backstabbing in Merriam Webster’s, I’m pretty sure you’d see her picture.
And not surprisingly, I eventually became her victim. When we finally did get a supervisor again, you can imagine that we weren’t too thrilled. She wasn’t thrilled because she had applied for the position herself and been turned down because apparently a lot of people weren’t as naïve as I was about what a wretched human being she was. (More on that in a bit) But we also weren’t thrilled because this person, while someone we liked personally, came like all insecure new managers do and tried to assert herself by shaking things up without really understanding what any of her direct reports really did or were capable of. My mentor and I revolted successfully for some time but as the new manager gained confidence, revolting no longer became an option. Morale declined as our roles changed and arbitrary rules were imposed and I eventually decided to go to this new manager and express my dissatisfaction and talk to her about what I wanted. Most of what I wanted, and had well-earned after a year and a half of successfully running the show without a manager, was a position that would put me on par in terms of title and salary with my mentor. I told my mentor exactly what my plan was and what I would do if it didn’t work, and she was very enthusiastic and supportive. Until I actually carried through. And then she completely turned her back on me.
When my manager denied me the promotion, I demanded a written description of the differences between my mentor’s titled role and mine, and made clear that from that point on I would only be doing the tasks that someone with my title was required to do. If I wasn’t going to get recognized for doing all that extra work for so long, I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Which, as the wool fell off my eyes, I realized meant that I wasn’t going to be taking half the load off my so-called-mentor’s plate anymore. I wasn’t going to be her lackey and she wasn’t going to be able to take advantage of me, which was suddenly so evident was what had been happening all along. So dropped me faster than I face planted the one and only time I tried to ski. She also immediately pulled a 180 in her attitude toward another employee our department had just hired and decided that even though she had despised him up until the day before, he was now her mentee and new best friend. Literally, just like that. Not that I should have been surprised by her borderline psychotic two-facedness at that point.
In retrospect I should have known better. Isn’t that always the case? But women stay for years with men who beat them and lovesick girls repeated call and text and pine after men who clearly only considered them a one-night stand and people still smoke cigarettes even with all the irrefutable data out there about how bad they are for you. So I thought I was the one, the exception. Call me naïve. Or willfully ignorant. Or just plain stupid. That’s fine. But her? There’s nothing you can call her except a bad person. She’s Lucy Wyman from 13 Going on 30. Nah…that’s not bad enough. She’s Nancy Downs from The Craft. Kathryn Merteuil from Cruel Intentions. I’m sure she’d love to be Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada.
I know rotten women like this exist in the movies, but I had never experienced one in real life. However, as they say, living well is the best revenge. So is strategically quitting your job. I hung in there for five months after the treachery, sitting in the cubicle right next to her day in and day out, still working as her right hand man but not saying a word to her. I know it just burned her up inside that I showed no signs of leaving and no intention of backing down from my demands of our boss either. She’s so used to getting her way by being horrible to people that she was undoubtedly certain I would quit. But I can guarantee I’m more stubborn and unflappable than she is and I didn’t mind at all making her, and probably everyone else around us, uncomfortable all that time just by going to work and doing only the job I was getting paid to do.
She was the one who left the company and the day after her last day, I put in my two week notice. Believe it or not, I hadn’t planned that; it was just remarkably good timing. I knew nothing about her job search, but I had been setting myself up fro some time to try the freelance life, building up my client base, and I had my resignation week picked out long before she announced she was leaving the company. I know I’m the reason she moved on and I also know that my quitting must have really burned her up inside because I heard through the grapevine that several months after I left, she tried to get hired back and no one, not even other departments, would have her. Turns out I’m not the only one who was glad to be rid of that sourpuss, manipulative bitch.
Curious about what everyone else is writing for the A to Z Blog Challenge? Me too! I’m featuring three blogs from my fellow contributors each day. Here are today’s entertaining, lyrical, beautiful, unique, informative, or just plain random discoveries: