Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Grinch Alert

I guess I was pretty cranky yesterday, because Bee and both the cats avoided me like the plague. Can't say I blame them. I would have avoided me, too, if I didn't actually live in my body and head.

There's nothing like being laid off to set the tone for the holidays. All my plans for gift giving are out the window since I'm back to pinching pennies again.

My cup of gall runneth over.

I want to kick the cat. Repeatedly.

As Viscountess Nancy Witcher Astor once said to Winston Churchill, "Sir, if you were my husband, I would put arsenic in your coffee."

See what I mean? Grinchiness has set in.


I don't (and won't) miss my job or the person who supervised me, but I might miss a couple of the people I worked with. More than them, though, I know I'll miss saying hello to Jeremy, the parking garage guy. I'm going to have to make a point of stopping and seeing him the next time I go downtown to meet my brother for lunch. And I miss passing the woman hawking newspapers at the intersection of Massachusetts and 9th. Of course, I've wanted to interview her for some time now and haven't had the time. Now I do, so maybe I will.


I keep trying to figure out where I've gone wrong as an employee in this town for three different types of organizations. I haven't had your typical Washington career track. I didn't start out as a legislative assistant or intern on the Hill. I haven't specialized in one pixel of the period like so many do around here--start out focusing on solving world hunger / ending nuclear proliferation / fighting for women's rights / curing AIDS / whatever and end up specializing in minutae.

People keep telling me I'm highly intelligent and destined for great things, but those are becoming words, as Shakespeare wrote, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nothing. I can't do anything with that. I've tried three times now and three times I've failed.

I was smart and intelligent and driven at a trade association where my team and I accomplished forward momentum on recycling policy, achieving things that hadn't been for more than three years. And yet, I'm told I'm redundant and I get laid off.

I was smart and intelligent and a bridge builder at the non-profit where my team and I increased contributions as much as 67% over previous years. And yet, I'm told I'm tedious and I get laid off.

I was smart and intelligent and a great fill-in-the-skill as an independent consultant. And yet, I can't get my clients to pay their bills on time or return calls.

I was smart and intelligent and highly overqualified at the lobbying offices for a Fortune 500 company, hoping to move from an administrative setting to a policy position. And yet, my failure to grasp the heady world of booking travel, scheduling meetings, and filing papers precluded me from the possibility of participating in the more mundane tasks of working on environmental issues and I get laid off.



Do you know my favorite part is in all of this?

When the person who's laying me off starts out by saying to me, "I just want to say that I've always really liked you. You're an incredibly intelligent woman, a lot of fun to be around, and you have a great sense of humor."

And? That gets me what?

Oh, I know. These situations are difficult for managers. I've been a manager. Human relations and dealing with people's feelings is never cut-and-dried easy. But still, don't patronize me. And don't say that shit, because you're only saying it so you'll feel better about yourself. Like you're a decent human being or something.

I believe, unless an employee is egregiously insubordinate, embezzling the company, or going postal, or the company is going belly up financially, that there should never be a reason to lay off any one ever. Laying someone off is as much an indictment on management's performance and vision as it is on that of the person being sacked.


This is a town that requires kissing ass, snapping smartly to attention and saluting, and not asking any questions but just doing what you're told. Even if you're hired because you think outside the box or you're highly intelligent, don't believe it.

The bottom line is, in today's McKinsey'ed, corporate, dog-eat-dog world, managers and bosses don't want you to be forward thinking or innovative or practical. They'll tell they do, but they don't. They want you to march to the beat of their drum, even when there's no sound coming from that drum.

Oh, I know. I know. It's not unique to just D.C. This kind of crap goes on everywhere. But guess what, boys and girls and managers and decision makers and power mongers of the world? Guess what? That doesn't make it right.

Let me repeat that.


Somehow, somewhere, we've become a working class that values politics over delivery, ass-kissing over actually getting the job done, arrogance over humility, backstabbing over collaboration.

We're squandering the time, talent, and abilities of hundreds of thousands of people with this negative, counterintuitive, counterproductive behavior and culture.

What a sick, sick culture and attitude. Sick. And wrong.


Okay. Climbing down off my Grinch peak.

It's a beautiful day. I'm going to update my resume and start looking for my dream job. Whatever that means.

P.S. FWIW, the only true and living version of the How the Grinch Stole Christmas worth adhering to is the original. The Ron Howard/Jim Carrey/VISA version: sacrilege.

P.P.S. I think I'm going to watch all three of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies next week. I think what corporate culture needs is a little more Jack Sparrow and a little less Machiavelli. "But why is the rum gone?"

P.P.P.S. No, I am not falling off my rocker.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Scratch what I just said about Ron Howard/Jim Carrey/VISA and their version of the Grinch. It was hypocritical, given everything else I just wrote. They're version is fine. It was innovative and outside the box. And it worked. Now, where's my rum?

Photo/image copyrights: Who knows. They were scattered all over the place on Google Images. Ultimately, ownership belongs to Dr. Seuss and his illustrator. They did the work. Let credit fall where it's truly due.


Cele said...

Here is to hoping better is just around the corner. Here is to a smarter employer on the horizon. And here is to you, because you deserve to be celebrated, not dumped on.

Wicked H said...

Cele said it much better than I was trying to, so I second that.

Thinking of you and sending good karma.

Liseysmom said...

Sounds like it is time for you to open your flower shop and for me to come work for you!

We are both having a sucktastic week. I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling Grinchy too. I've decided to dedicate the rest of my blog to Grinchy Scroogy themes,

and to cats, of course.

Don't make me come over there. I LOVE your cat!!!

Feeling sympathetic to your feelings of suckitude,


The Faircloth Five said...

Wow... you managed to stumble upon your polar opposite when you found the 'faircloth five' blog. You -- as best I can discern -- an impassioned, principled, San Francisco Chron/Huffington Post reading, Shakespeare-quoting feminist. Me...while equally impassioned and (I hope) principled... a Drudge Report/Washington Times reading, Ronald Reagan quoting conservative.

Yet, regardless of the obvious differences I immensely enjoyed reading your blog ...and you are indeed very intelligent. Keep your head up and don't let "the man" keep you down... (and, for the record... much of the "ford" thing was posted in jest and...yes, I specialize in minutae, too..I'm part of the evil "machine")...

this is wwwwayyy too of luck!

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Cele: Thanks! Here's hoping, too.

Wicked: Much appreciated. I'm not proud; I can use all the good karma I can get.

Lisey's Mom: Sucktastic sums it up. Ironically, I just applied for a part time job with a florist. Found the listing on CraigsList. I figure, what the hell? This way, I can learn a little about the business, while working flexible hours (8am-1pm), and still look for another job in the event I discover that owning a flower shop should just be a pipe dream. (I'm hoping it won't be though. And if it isn't, you're hired!)

Phoebe: Glad you love the cat. I have another picture I'll send you in a few that I think you'll also enjoy.

Faircloth: Welcome! Polar opposites is right. But, your writing was good and witty. I went into it thinking you were going to say your friend had cheated on his wife, but reading that he'd cheated on you by buying a Honda was actually a lot funnier. Drop in anytime. We may not always agree, but as long as we're civil, it's all good, right?

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I think you would rock at doing flowers in your own shop. How cool would that be??

Sideon said...

**big hugs**

Let's talk the next few days. If I can network and find resources or call in favors in the Bay area, I would love to send you anything you'd be interested in.

Tangentially, I can easily see you with that dream of your flower shop.

ME said...

Ah, Tewkes. Sucktastic is right. I'm sad this has happened again, but I also know these experiences do not define you as a person or as a professional. You're more than the sum of your layoffs.

Methinks your heart is three sizes too big to stay Grinchy for very long and that you'll be on to better things.

We're rooting for you!

Adriana Velez said...

Ah, so it happened.

I read the Grinch to Jasper tonight. You know what happens, don't you? Hearts growing, slicing of roast beast. Time to pull out that dream! I'm getting us ready to visit you and Brenda in CA -- see your new flower shop! Or bed & breakfast! Or, something!

Oh I know, getting laid off kind of kills your enthusiasm for new ventures. Kind of takes the wind out of your sails.

Still -- I second everything ME says. Big hugs to you.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

SML: As luck would have it, on Tuesday morning I found a listing on CraigsList for a "Floral Assistant Wanted"! I don't know if it's total coincidence or divine providence, but I didn't need a bigger sign to know that I should apply. So, I did. I'm just waiting to hear from the shop. I figured, what the hell? What have I got to lose? And if this is something I really want to do, what better experience than working for someone else first and figuring out if this is what I want, too?

Sid: See flower shop info above. Definitely give me a call. (Or I'll give you a call. Or we'll both call...) And thank you--I love your offer. You're a gem.

ME: Thanks! And I'm sorry I keep missing your calls. The phone in the family room, which is in the basement, is busted. I need to call the phone company about that.... Anyway--I'll try to call or Skype you this weekend. xoxo

AV: Roast beast. Yum! Maybe that's what I need to start my heart growing again. Meeeeeeeat. Seriously, though... I'm hoping the flower shop gig comes through and that I discover it's TOTALLY what I want to do. Then I can follow some bliss for a change. Sending positive thoughts your way for you and Lane, too!

ME said...

Grinch antidote: massive doses of Pink Martini. "Hang On, Little Tomato" is especially apt.

We'll connect this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Please don't kick the cat. Pleeease.

Terri@SteelMagnolia said...

Oh no.. that's awful...
I'm sorry....

I've worked for the same employer for 28 years ... I can't stand them anymore.. but I work about 9 hours a month just to keep my 401 in place...

One of my "heart friends" here in Vegas called me today...

her husband was laid off after being employed for 10 years by his company. I feel so bad for them, Christmas is a few weeks away..

and their baby just got back from spending a month up at Stanford (he had his 2nd open heart surgery)

I don't know what they'll do.
We all feel he was let go b/c of the baby having this heart defect and the cost of insurance.

So sad.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Terry: Unbelievable about your friend. I'm getting to a point where I think corporations are just evil incarnate. I hope your friends will land back on their feet quickly.