Saturday, January 14, 2012
my first publication
We always enjoy sharing ROWE stories with you. However, we also receive stories from non-ROWErs, which are often oozing with Sludge. Following is a Sludgey story with an optimistic ending.Kat Coolbaugh-Steiner, from Drums, PA, shares her story about Sludge, timing, and moving on….
Sludge. What a spectacular term for what I have been swimming in for the last few years at work. It wasn’t until I started reading “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it”, that I realized there was a name and a face for this monster.
Over 10 years ago in a college lecture, a guest speaker’s words resonated so strongly with me; I still recall them vividly. He explained that the way we work in this nation is tiresome, inefficient, almost barbaric and the opposite of family friendly. He spoke of siestas in South America, shorter work days and weeks in Europe and a high focus on family time with lengthy paid maternity and paternity time in the Netherlands. This lit a fire in me, but as I entered the real world, I quickly understood the way to get noticed was to be fake, care more about work than family and be willing to be anywhere at anytime. Work was life. When I voiced my concerns about the erosion of family and self worth because of high demand low control professions, I was criticized and called lazy. I was swimming upstream, which is cool with me, but I also realized I needed to buy into this “work myself to death” mentality to make any money.
The last 7 years of my life I was a social worker in a nursing home. I was really good at my job and had 4 promotions in 6 years. I loved my job, my clients, my coworkers but mostly my boss. She never micromanaged me, I didn’t have to punch a clock and she told me as long as my work gets done I could be wherever I wanted to be. Of course I never took advantage of this, it would have been stupid to do that. I worked hard, and most weeks, more than 40 hours, but it was because things needed to be done. I had even negotiated a 4-10 hour day work week when gas prices were astronomical.
Two years ago, another social worker was hired as our clientele was growing. She was nice and a fast, efficient learner which helps me – since I was the one training her. We became friends and enjoyed working together. About a year later she completed her Masters degree and because of this piece of paper, my boss decided she would make the women I trained…..my supervisor. I voiced my concerns saying that things were great as they were and I just didn’t feel the change in dynamic would work. I warned her of what would come. Sure enough as soon as my coworker I trained became my supervisor – everything changed.
I was told I would need to punch the clock and have a set schedule with a set time for lunch. My office was moved from a bright space with a window to the middle of the medical records room without a phone. And then the menial tasks were thrown my way. I was given the work she felt too superior to do. I could go on, but in short, she was enjoying breaking me. Being a stubborn, optimistic and overall good hearted person, I did the best I could to have a good attitude.
Things became unbearable about 8 months into this arrangement. She was a miserable person and her bad attitude spread like a cancer throughout my coworkers. Instead of shunning this behavior, it became like a mob mentality, a pack of wolves who would discard the weak or non conforming ones. If there is anything I am not, its a conformist.
These people made it their jobs and took pleasure in tearing people down, spending hours at a time gossiping and forming alliances to shun people. When I refused to take part and even numerous times voiced my concern, I was ostracized and in the end my job was sabotaged. I am not attempting to make this sound dramatic, it literally was like watching an animal hunt on National Geographic. I ended up being fired because my supervisor lied and I had no recourse. I had never been fired and it was a blow to my ego, but now I see it as the best thing that could have happened.
Without knowing my circumstances, Michael Barata and I got to talking about ROWE and he sent me “Why Work Sucks and How To Fix It” the very same week I was fired, which I believe to be serendipity. This book not only validated feelings I have had for years, but lit a fire in me to pass this on to as many people that will hear me. I am thankful for the book, Cali & Jody, the people willing to give this a try and all of us who choose to think and live in ways that make our hearts and spirits grow.