Working at Work

Have you ever worked with someone who was so frustrating that it actually caused you to question whether or not it was worth keeping your job?

I have. Twice, in fact. It’s not a good feeling; rather, it’s downright destructive.

The first time it happened, I nearly had a heart attack. Imagine being 25 years old and being rushed to the ER because your chest felt as if it were imploding in on itself. Imagine, wondering how your body could produce such immense pain, and wondering if this moment was indeed, “it.” Imagine staring into the face of a nurse – a nice woman, but a complete stranger – and wondering if this is the last person you’ll ever see.

My problem was stress – I’d buried that stress down deep. So deep, in fact, that it took years for me to finally let it all go. I could write at length about my then-colleagues; people whom I marginally liked, but with whom I never really associated, but I won’t. I will likely never forget their nastiness – like how I was accused of stealing from the company or “deliberately” leaving assets unsecured and available to be stolen. The fact that I was nowhere on site and video cameras proved that I had been somewhere else was irrelevant. Then there’s the time that the supervisor scheduled a festive event to run concurrent with my work schedule, not because it was convenient, but solely for the purpose of preventing me from attending.

Think about that – someone who deliberately schedules a party specifically so you can’t come.

Wow. How do I know? She told me. Double-wow.  She later confessed that she genuinely hoped that I’d have been bothered by this.

Fortunately, I don’t particularly care for parties (I’ve got other things to do), and when she realized this, well . . . let’s just say that some of that festive attitude immediately evaporated like a glass of water in the Sahara.

When I get wound up, I don’t burn bridges; I set the water on fire, the embankment, and the path that leads from it.  I can go full nuclear like the best of them, but I don’t feel that’s conducive to happiness. I bury my stress; I hide my anger.  It’s not good – physically, mentally, emotionally – that type of internment will lead to some serious damage.  Friends feel that I’m not interested in confrontation; that’s not true. I just fear going all nuclear over things that don’t require it. I should have stood up for myself, but I foolishly didn’t feel that was the right thing to do.

There’s more – oh, so much more – but it is irrelevant now. I awoke one morning after the hospital visit and asked myself, “What the hell are you doing?” Within hours, I’d decided to quit, and two weeks later, I was a free man. Didn’t stop the harassment, though that continued in one form or another for nearly eight months after I left and but for the fact that I wanted a clean break, I would have sued everyone involved. Still, removing that weight – that horrid burden – was far more important to me, so I cut my losses, kept my chin up, and I walked.

I’m an ardent believer in the idea that even bad experiences can teach us valuable lessons. They teach us what we’re willing to tolerate, and what we won’t. What type of people we want in our lives and which types to avoid. What‘s really important to us, and those things that are frivolous or even destructive.

This experience taught me that there are limits to the amount of BS I’m willing to tolerate . . . which brings me to my current situation. I’ve got a colleague – someone whom I’ll just call, “Chris” – who happens to be working my last nerve. Chris and I have known each other now for about fifteen years, and if I were to capture every conversation we’ve had and put them to paper, they’d likely fill up three or four pages.

After fifteen years.

Chris has never really liked me; I don’t know why. I can’t think of anything I’ve said or done to provoke offense, but then again, I have an off-beat sense of humor, so maybe I once did. Whatever it was, it had to have been very early in our association, though. At first, I thought that Chris was one of those people who happens to be uncomfortable around others. I get that, as it takes me a while to warm up to new folks. But I’m never deliberately rude to them, and that’s the big difference between me and Chris.

For the longest time, I reasoned that I had somehow insulted Chris during our early dealings; that I’d said – or failed to say – the appropriate thing. But it’s been fifteen years, and I’ve pretty much had it with the tip-toeing around and generic small-talk. What really pushed me over the edge was waking up just recently – literally two weeks ago – to realize that I’ve been mulling over something Chris said to me a year ago.

A whole year! I’ve been bouncing this crap in my head for twelve months! And for what? When I last ran into Chris, I tossed out a harmless comment – something harmless like I’d seen some item on sale over the weekend, and Chris quickly blew off my comment and looked at me like I’d just snatched the last Pop Tart from the shelf. I retreated, as I always do, and said nothing else during the engagement – not that it mattered, as Chris deliberately directed any and all comments towards everyone else present. I’m not sure if they picked up that I was being frozen out, but I don’t know how they missed it.

Not knowing why someone’s seemingly got it in for you is not just a pain in the ass; it’s just annoying as crap. Had I done something, I’d own it and apologize, but this has gone on for so long that I’m doubtful any act on my part will resolve the issue. I sent out an e-mail asking for suggestions in addressing a recent issue, which Chris ignored. Funny, how the two e-mails sent out on the heels of mine were immediately answered.

I’m actually questioning whether I want to continue working here. Stress is some heavy crap that no one really deserves to carry around, especially if there’s no apparent reason for it. I’m tempted to file an HR complaint, but I don’t know what I’d expect it to do. Sort of a shot across the bow, I’m guessing, to tell Chris to knock this crap off. I’m rather sick of working in hostile environments, to be honest. But I fear that such an act will only make things worse. I’m not interested in anyone liking me; I just want to go to work and not have to put up with high school level shenanigans. I’m also tired of burying the stress. My chest is killing me, and I’m headed to see my primary physician for relief.

Really? I’m in such discomfort over this that I – me, of all people – will consider a doctor’s visit?

Oh . . . don’t mind me; I’m ranting again. This will work itself out.  They always do.

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