Friday, November 9, 2007

and no play

I have, depending on how you look at it, a wholesome fear or an unhealthy paranoia about being dooced or worse, so I try not to say much about my job. But I will say this:

We had an office wide meeting today and it was, without question, the most harrowing meeting I have ever attended. Which is saying something way more than a lot. Not-quite-visible threads of rage, hatred, fear, and shame wove a fiery fabric just over our heads. Voices stuttered and stopped. I saw someone's hands curled in on themselves, the nails pressing into the skin. I could hear people gulping mouthfuls of air. I had to remind myself to breathe.

What stands out in your memory as one of your most stressful work or school experiences?

31 comments:

Bon said...

just reading your post brought back that shaky, remember-to-breathe feeling for me...first encounter with it was in seventh grade, up against the immovable wall of power misused. most recent? staff meeting in September where much shouting ensued, none of it mine...but all about me and my position and whether i should have been hired in the first place. good times. luckily, angry person was given just enough rope to hang herself...but, ack.

my sympathies for the stress.

Cate said...

Being in the military, hands down. I was accepted into an elite program that had only begun allowing women in about 6 months before I got there. So much hostility towards me because of something I couldn't help...my gender. The military would like you to believe that hazing and sexual harassment don't exist anymore, but I witnessed these things first hand. I always felt like I had something to prove to people whose standards of acceptance were always changing. I was hated and despised without even really being known. That was the worst part for me. I can still see the looks on their faces when I would walk into a room sometimes. *shudder*

Lori said...

I can't think of anything as awful as you described.

My worst would have to be a meeting with my siblings, in laws, and my mother after my Dad died to discuss the family business and the distribution of shares etc... My SIL chose that time to unleash some of her real, and not so nice, feelings about my Dad and all of us (my older brother, her husband, excluded). Never mind that she and my brother have benefited the most from the luxury of being born into a family business... but whatever. I will never look at her the same again.

I know you can hear me... said...

Ugh - those moments are the worst, because you can't even get up and take a break.

I don't think that I could pick a 'most stressful' moment - I used to be an OB RN, and dealing with other people's emotions could get really stressful.

DD said...

Running to catch the bus from school to home and being so fearful of missing it that the vision in one of my eyes would black out and the other would turn to "tunnel" vision.

I've heard that that kind of reaction is preemptive to a stroke...

Eva said...

I was in a meeting like that once. There was an older know-it-all bitch kind of lady and her former supervisee, who had to be transferred from her since they were always clashing. This younger person was then going through a divorce and was even more...combative...than usual. Anyway I can't even remember what it was all about, but they got INTO it. It was horrifying--like watching your parents fight.

Yankee T said...

Can you quit that job? (I know, it's easy for me to say from a disance-I could not quit mine just like that, for sure.) There is no excuse for that. What's the matter with the management?

niobe said...

Yankee T: The meeting OF DOOM is not in any way representative of my normal work environment. My job is actually pretty great.

charmedgirl said...

i've had no such times at work or school. work- never cared enough; in fact, it took a full 6 months of active trying to get fired before it actually worked, and then just on a technicality w/ HR. school- always good feelings there.

my worst experience, then, took place at my current job (homemaker). one day, when i was nine months pregnant, my baby died! holy sh*t, that was pretty ugly...

Amelie said...

mmh, group meetings. We all used to dread those. Visitor after the first meeting he attended: "The boss can be quite harsh.." Colleague, not entirely serious: "Hey, he didn't even yell this time!"
Right now we're hoping things have improved. Also, the "balance of power" has changed. Anyway, such meetings should never be the normal work environment. No good for anyone.

ms. G said...

Mmmm..not sure I have actually had one work experience that would live up to that. I did have an awful, awful job for a short while where the manager was the ultimate in bitchiness. She was going through a divorce with a man who would do things like leave pennies on their table with a note saying, "this is what you are worth" so, I guess she had her reasons, but I left within 2 months. When I was a child though, school was hell for me. I was such a homebody, mama's girl, and I never understood playground politics. The dread I felt every morning was hell. My parents use to sit in the car, in the parking lot with me until the last final moment before I had to go in.

Lori said...

Thanks for adding to my vocabulary. I'd never heard the word "dooced" before.

The Oneliner (Christina) said...

right before a trial when i really think the state has falsely accused my client.

LIW (Lady In Waiting) said...

The worst was absolutely when two members of the 3-member committee reviewing one of PhD comprehensive exams were clearly taking verbal jabs at each other through their discussion of my answers. And then one of them - a typical ass of an old political scientist -tells me (in a crowded hallway)that the prof he was fighting with wanted to fail me but he convinced her not to. I learned soon after that that the two had been fighting over who to hire for a position in their department - one wanted someone advocating the approach that I discussed in my answers and the other wanted anyone else because she believed it was not a "legitimate" approach to the subject matter. To make things even worse, the one faculty member on the committee who clearly supported my work was sued by one of the angry professors for racial and gender discrimination a few years prior to my exam.

I cried for hours afterwards but now understand that that really didn't have to do with me. I am just grateful that I did not have to re-take the test!

But the problem for me with meetings like the one you describe is that I tend to internalize all the feelings in the room. Even if I am not upset or nervous, I end up an emotional wreck because I sop up all of everyone else's feelings like a sponge. Congrats on surviving that meeting intact.

Rebecca said...

The day I went to get a sick note, when Bosslady had a go at me for something which totally wasn't my fault, where Manager should've stood up for me, and didn't. Horrible.

I hope you're okay now, though <3

LAS said...

Hmm - not sure. I'd really have to think about this because over all - I love my job and I love the place I work. Except - now I am feeling paranoid about my blog and whether I should take down any posts that ever mentioned work. I've never really said anything bad about my job - only a few comments here and there about my profession...I'm definitely paranoid now. Yesterday I walked into a partner's office and he said - do you blog? I almost fell over. Turns out he was asking (not because he found mine) (I lied anyway) but because we have a project related to blogs that he was giving to me. Anyway, I've been feeling uneasy about it since yesterday - so it's funny you mention that. I seriously hope he didn't find it. I might have to take it down - that's overkill probably.

Tash said...

The time I taught a 101 course at a rather major state university, with 150 kids. I developed stress-related mild hypertension, and frequently thought about quitting, and I had never, ever quit a job in my life -- even my stupid ass work study ones. The kids were unbelievably awful, to the point that the good ones did not balance out the bad. I got creamed by the department head who sat in my class for 10 mintues about 2 weeks in -- a bunch of stuff that I would've preferred to hear from my students but she didn't allow me to hand out my own evaluations (let it be known, I had excellent attendence for a 101 -- really the factor by which profs are "graded" as it were, because if you suck the kids just stop coming, and glowing student reviews at the end). Two other profs had to run interferrence to keep me from quitting, both of them sat in and insisted I was fine and the head was on crack, but not great for my confidence. I had a recurring dream about being arrested in the hallway outside my office.

I guess compared to the stress of last February, I'd teach another 5 years of 101.

Becky said...

I worked as a nurse for an insurance company. Our office had recently been taken over by the bitchiest hatchet-faced woman on the planet. While my job was to extend benefits for people (yes, really) in hospice or with private duty nurses, she decided that it would be in the companies best interest if we completely STOPPED benefits for private duty nursing (and dude, if you NEED PDN, you need it. Period. No MD is going to write an order for this if you don't.).

We were given about 22 days to inform people that oops! we weren't going to cover this anymore, so sorry. And oops! you have very little time to find a new nurse/agency OR apply for medicare/aid. I have never felt like such a horrible ogre in my whole life.

I encouraged people to sue the hell out of my company, because this was complete bullshit.

My blood is currently boiling right now.

Julie Pippert said...

The day (weeks, months) before I left the job in which I was horribly harassed (including sexually) felt like that every day.

Yes, I know the lung-compressing, tear-squeezing, voice-shaking, nail-digging feeling well.

If I try to recall it I feel it exactly, still, and the impotent rage.

I hope all is okay at your office.

Julie
Using My Words

meg said...

I think the worst school thing was someone cutting themselves by walking past and catching their arm on a metal sculpture in the sculpture studio. A pretty big gash and quite an upset girl.

One of the worst work things ever was working on the weekend (late at night), I had to get something from an office that had a glass window to another office. I know, for sure, that the people in there were ummmmm...doing something other than work that night. I had to crawl on my stomach to get the cds I needed, and then crawl out again. I guess there's other stuff too, sleep deprivation, for one, can result in a lot of pretty wacky stuff.

Monica said...

I don't really have meetings that are that bad, just mind-numbingly boring. My favorite meetings are the meetings about future meetings. Yes, a meeting about a meeting. Dilbert fodder indeed.

Bad experience at school.. definitely getting my period and staining at school and having a boy point it out to me. I'll never get over that, which is why I wear a tampon and super maxi. Sorry Niobe.. TMI.

slouching mom said...

Being a first-year graduate student, and having my advisor casually mention on a Tuesday afternoon that he was going to Europe, and could I give a lecture on Gestalt therapy to his Intro. to Clinical Psych. class that Thursday morning? Class size = 150 students. Topic = something totally unfamiliar to me until five am the morning of the class.

My heart is racing just thinking about it.

Julia said...

It would have to a the time I found out I was blackballed by the department chair from the job this past summer. But the joke's on him-- the job I start next week is probably going to be much much better for my career. Ha-ha-ha.

Before that? Having to deal with a student who cheated. It sucked.

painted maypole said...

wow, niobe, that sounds awful.

hands down - a final dress rehearsal where just before we began the run the producer came in and tore the director to shreds in front of all of us, blamed us for the low reservations and the crappy set (since when were either one the actor's job?), basically told us the show sucked, and left. Angry cast, crying director. That was one heck of a fun rehearsal!

(but the best part? we got great reviews, were nearly sold out most nights, AND won awards. Take that mean producer man!)

oh, and I did go and talk to him and tell him that what he did was really crappy and that he owed the director an apology. He never did it, but I was glad that I went and spoke to him. And haven't worked at that theatre since.

Aurelia said...

Charmed Girl has the best comment hands down. Sigh...can't beat it.

I hope your office gets better. As for my worst? Anytime I ever had to go back to work after a pregnancy loss, like when my boss tried to fire me and then cut my salary after having a miscarriage. Or maybe when my co-workers treated me like dirt after I lost my baby? Yeah, one of those would fit the bill.

jen said...

ah. too many to count. dead homeless people. assaults. abused kids. hungry kids. utter despair. babies sleeping in uninhabitable places. all of those days suck.

(aren't you glad i decided to comment? you can blame Slouching Mom for turning me onto you)

Caro said...

eeeek sounds awful.

Luckily I've managed to avoid this so far but my last post doc boss was extremely passive aggressive and played favourites which was less than fun.

Katie W said...

The most panicked I've ever been was when I was taking my music exams. It's a sign of how young I was that I didn't just go, no I hate doing these, I love playing my flute, but trying to learn scales and placing myself under this much pressure is not for me!

Renae said...

Niobe - sorry you had to deal with that. It stinks no matter how short the duration.

All the comments brought back memories - the first was when I was a new manager and my boss came to my office and basically told me I was a horrible boss for 1/2 hour. Six months later when he came to do my end of year review he couldn't understand why I was so nervous - he had totally forgotten he did that. Eventually he apologized and expressed mea culpa. Funny thing, he helped me immensely when I was wrongly being accused by my board. He helped me get around things - I now hold a much better position and love my job again.

The second was when we had an interim supervisor and 2 co-workers got into it a staff meeting. And the interim dude did nothing. I really hate conflict anymore and still almost throw up thinking about what could have happened that day - and what did happen.

L said...

I second Julia. Having to deal with students who plagiarize is awful. I am better at it now, but when I first started teaching, I think I was more nervous than they were.

I failed one student and her MOM started harassing me via phone and e-mail, even after I explained that the case had already been forwarded to the Dean's office. She told me "I ruined her daughter's life" and that her daughter was "honest to a fault" and she did not know how all that stuff from the internet ended up in her daughter's paper.

Oy.

MissedConceptions

Yankee T said...

Circling back to say I'm glad you don't hate your job for the most part. You could use a break.