Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Workers Guide to Sanity: Ode of Blue Falcon

Work is a four letter word. It will drive you bonkers quite literally if you're not careful. Personally, I don't like work. I like having a job or a career, but not work. And yes, there is a difference between a job and work. I'll break it down for you here.

Work is not something you enjoy. You don't have to hate it, but most people who "work" dread it. Bascally, it's what you do to pay the bills. It can have a negative impact on your health, or even your attitude. Quite frankly, work makes you hate life. A job (or career) on the other hand, is something that not only pays the bills, but is something you like doing. And lets face it, we all can tell the people who actually like their jobs, from those who are merely showing up for work. Two sides of the same coin. Good versus bad, light against dark, employee of the month in contrast to the idiot you want to throttle.

So this blog entry, in a way, is related to a previous post in which I spoke about life changes, and knowing when to change what you do for a living. I'm currently going into my final stretch before I start a new position I accepted elsewhere. Not because I don't like what I do, or where I'm at, but rather because I need to make some positive changes in my life and put some of my education to work for me so I can provide an even better life for my family. However, while I'm not going to bag on the employer I'm leaving, I will address something that I know everyone can relate to. Trust in the workplace and keeping some sense of sanity.

Step #1 to keeping your sanity at work, don't completely trust anyone. Now, being a Marine Corps and law enforcement veteran, I'm not talking about don't trust anyone at all. There are plenty of places where yes, you have to be able to trust anyone you're working with, with your life. However, outside of those moments you'll find co-workers just as willing to push you off the side of a cliff to further their career as anywhere else. So know you're boundaries.

Step #2, don't take it personally. If you take it personally it will impact how you view your workplace. Everyone wants to get ahead. And we all have different ways of doing it. Unfortunately, some people have no personal ethics when it comes to trying to throw others under the bus.

Step #3, your boss is not your friend. Regardless of what kind of relationship you have with your boss, if they are a leader and not a "boss" it won't matter if you're related to them, they will put the business first. Sometimes that will leave you with the short end of rope. It they're a boss and not a leader, they'll hose you quickly in order to make themselves look good, or position someone else where they want them.

Step #4 a good co-worker is a friend, and ultimately family away from home. These are people you can talk to without worry, will work with you, and can be counted on to catch a drink or bite to eat with from time to time outside of work. Maybe even a BBQ or ball game. If you can't relate to someone like that, don't let your guard down even a little.

Step #5 don't trust the big mouth. Every workplace has them. Those who talk at length about everything, and everyone. And those who try to be in everyone's business. If they're willing to run their soup cooler about someone else's private business, they'll do the same about yours.

Step #6, if it's written, don't delete it. Keep archives just in case.

Step #7, if your a supervisor, make it clear that you are. Don't try to be everyone's friend. A real friend will understand and back you up. Everyone else will respect you for it. Be a leader, not a boss.

Trust in the workplace is critical. Just as it's critical to know where the lines are drawn. If someone violates that trust, forgive them and understand, but do not trust them again.

So here is where I'll give some back story on some events that have re-enforced these beliefs with me.

A ways back I had a co-worker, we'll call them Blue Falcon. Over time I thought I had built up some good trust with Blue Falcon. We could talk about various things, give creative criticism, and life was good. Then Blue was at a point where he knew when he was leaving our workplace for another job. He had a ton of vacation and sick time still on the books and was looking for advise on how to use it best. And we're not talking about a couple of brief conversations. We're talking well over a month of planning in advance. So I offered my suggestions on how to use his time. I also specifically said, to talk to our supervisor about it as well as they're the one who would have to approve of it. I showed Blue where our time off policies could be found. Then just before he left, he said he was going to use some time up. I said go for it. He said he might still cancel some of it and come in. I said that's cool, it's up to him. And then I reminded him to make sure he talked to our supervisor about it. Then he said it was arranged, and that there would be someone else coming to cover his shifts.

At this point, I'm thinking great, he's taken care of business. Everyday that weekend, nobody came in to relieve me for his shift. So I was stuck calling the boss so find out what was up. The boss said they'd take care of it, and left it at that. So I'm thinking maybe it's status quo and people were backing out of their over time. It happens a lot at this place.

The next week comes around, and I get called into the supervisors office. With a finger pointed at me, saying that I orchestrated the whole thing. Shock and awe in the workplace sucks. The boss had an email with fragments of a conversation cut and pasted into it. Luckly, I stand by the archive everything rule. I pulled out my phone on the spot, opened up my MONTHS worth of text back and forth, handed it over and said, "No, that's crap. This is the full length of conversations." I even offered to login to my email right then and there in front of them so that they can see the full email conversations as well, without any alteration before forwarding them. Then I threatened to walk until I had union representation. Yes, I kept my evidence intact. So the boss finally cooled off, and had to admit, they'd been played too. I found out that I had been Blue Falconed. Not only did Blue not talk to our boss as he should have, he had shoved me off the side of the cliff. Lucky for me, my bungie was already wrapped around me.

I had everything I needed to protect myself. And it worked out for me. And Blue Falcon, well I forgive him, because I know he was just looking out for himself and didn't care who he hurt. But I will not trust him.

The workplace can be a great place to hang your hat away from home. Ultimately it is not home though, so watch out so you don't become the next victim of the Blue Falcon.

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