“The best gifts are never given, but claimed.”
I have presently found myself in a disconcertingly similar situation to one I had 6 years ago. Not only is the situation so uncannily similar…but even the person involved looks physically like the one I dealt with before.
I have written an article about this phenomena, which I call “re-cycles.” And the TL;DR of it is that these startlingly similar events happen to us to pose a question to us: “how could you have done this differently?”
That is also, in part, the premise of the “Choose Your Own Adventure”-type extended episode of Black Mirror called Bandersnatch. Through your remote control, you can select what moves the protagonist of the film can take. Every move you make has consequences. And sometimes you really fuck up and make a shitty move & then suddenly get “rebooted” back to that moment of decision to choose again.
In the first “version” of my current situation six years ago, I had my boss suddenly call me into his office to tell me that my job as editor/writer/producer of a top-3 MTV.com website was being replaced by a fellow who I had brought to the company and mentored. No solid reason was given for this demotion, but my boss helpfully suggested that I could stay on as a “den mother” for the almost completely male staff.
I responded to this situation by emailing a polite resignation letter to my boss the next morning. I decided to not make a “fuss” about it or talk about it beyond him—because that’s not “professional.”
So what I essentially did was make it *easy* for him. My career took a massive hit with no explanation, but I would just slink off passively. Since I never brought the matter up with his superiors or my work-peers, he was free to contextualize my leaving any way he wanted. (About six months after my departure, the once-successful site would get shut down; because apparently, maybe I *did* have some talent running a website and they didn’t know what the fuck they were doing.)
I did not confront the situation. Instead: I just wanted to crawl in a hole and be left alone to lick my wounds.
And so this morning I was faced with a similar situation. And I asked myself: “how could I do this differently so this particular lesson never happens again?”
So I decided to not quit, but instead email an official complaint letter addressed to someone else at the company. Instead of wallowing in this sense of failure and incompetence (because my self-esteem there was taking a hit for quite a few months now, and played a large part in my anxiety-filled mood by the end of the year), I stood up for myself.
And that was hard to do, and it might be messy. I might lose my job (though I was feeling like I was being pushed to quit, anyway). There will probably be some bad feelings, shit stirred up. Etc.
But one thing I’ve learned in over twenty years in the workforce is the following:
You will often be given the advice that if you are simply “professional” and agreeable, you will go far. If “something” happens: don’t make a big deal of it! Let it be like water off a duck’s back. Because you don’t want to be a “troublemaker.” If you just keep things quiet and be professional, more rewards will come your way.
And I have NOT found this advice to be true.
Instead, I have found that if you project passivity, you get taken advantage of. If you project this always-agreeable attitude, there are any number of people who will take that for weakness and actually not respect you.
No: let me amend that.
There are people who are genuinely nice who will not take advantage of you being nice. Robert Anton Wilson said you can’t make these blanket statements about people, and he was right.
I’m just saying: you have to stand up for yourself. And you may have to stand up for yourself a lot in your lifetime; it’s not like this one-time thing that you cross off the list and that’s it.
At the end of that letter I sent this morning, I said that I am an excellent writer. That I’ve had it hammered into my head by my boss for the last several months that I’m a shit writer—but I’m an excellent writer.
I’m an excellent writer.