Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ms. Tyrant: Bossland Diaries

Today HB said I could write about whatever I felt like. I guess I could proclaim my love of the not so loved radical film maker (again), or talk about how I am sad about women being treated as chattel in many foreign lands. But instead I think I'll write another installment of bossland diaries. In honor of HB having a better job.

To help her to feel even more happy and grateful for her new employer, lets share some more nightmare stories.
Ok, imagine a wide eyed, bushy tailed Sassy who had just graduated from graduate school. She is working a temp job with a research institute for children, something she really would have loved and enjoyed to stay at, but sadly it was just a temp spot.

While job searching I came across a job working with a Native American tribe in Northern Michigan. Not only Northern Michigan, but about 20 minutes from where HB lived and an 1.5 hours from where JimmyEW and I originally said we always wanted to live. It was a Program Coordinator position for their Tribal Housing Department and I was SO excited. See, we're part native. Just enough to know it, but not enough to access any of the culture. 1/8th. So barely. So I had always had a dream of working with tribal populations so I could someday have a way into the culture without being a big fat poser.

I hounded the HR department, I went down for an interview. It seemed nice enough and the pay was fine, she told me she really liked me but she'd have to fight Tribal Council on it since I was non-native. That was fine. Then I went into a very long wait. I'd call the HR agent and ask for updates, he'd say something like "well, she really wants you, she's impressed with your degree (eye roll, waste of a gazillion dollars) but they don't think they can hire you for this position. BUT there is another position they'd like to look at you for." That happened twice and it was finally the Agency Advocate position that made my eyes grow wide with excitement

It sounded awesome, I am the consummate advocate. After much waiting and hand ringing, they offered me the position. I jumped at it, took the job and moved to Northern Mi. JimmyEW stayed in Detroit (not the burbs, we lived in the city) and waited for the right job to come along for him (it took its time, he came 7 months later).

I started working, but I immediately noticed it. The atmosphere. People were on edge ALL.THE.TIME. And I noticed that people seemed to have a different idea of what my job was than I did. They kept treating me like I was a grant writer. Let me tell you, writing grants makes me cry. I was a social worker, I wanted to work with people, I wanted to empower people.

The boss, we'll call her Ms. Tyrant (which is what people in other departments referred to her as) would constantly try to squelch any effort I made to try to help a tribal member. She forbid me to do it. So I'd resorted to meeting people on my lunch hour to help them.

Finally, I talked to Housing Consultant, he was like the "real" Housing Director who was training my boss to be a better leader. He showed me the job description and as I read through it I kept saying "mine didn't say this, mine didn't say that, wait! Mine said this and this." Thankfully I had a copy and showed it to him. He just shook his head and muttered something about Ms. Tyrant changing it.

Fine. Whatever. In the meantime she, after having interviewed me twice and having seen me every day for two weeks, decided I shouldn't have a nose ring. This infuriated me! My nose ring is so dainty and hardly noticeable. And it was only because of a toxic co-worker who complained about it, that she decided to have a problem. Ms. Tyrant had NEVER EVEN NOTICED IT until Toxic Coworker got loud. So I tried in vain to cover it up and finally had it removed. I cried a lot. I had gotten that nose ring with one of my best friends as a grad school grad present. ...sigh

As if that wasn't enough, she'd go into screaming tirades and she had a weird relationship with her was reminiscent of a batterer and victim. It weirder me out. I guess she once went over the edge and thrown files at her cowering secretary. That was before I came. I was miserable, alone without JimmyEW, no friends really and in a job where my pulse would stop whenever I heard my boss clopping down the hallway toward me. On really bad days I'd stop by HB's house and hold a crying Logan, whispering into his ear that I understood how he felt. lol.

Other things Ms. Tyrant would do was purposefully try to break my spirit. We'd have a presentation by the Domestic Violence group, they'd ask for some volunteers to help organize stuff. Ms. Tyrant would say "Does anyone want to help out?" I'd raise my hand and she'd say "anyone besides Sassy." Just so I couldn't do something I enjoyed. She did spit like that a lot.

Finally a position in the department came open that really was working with people. I applied for it. My boss would be my friend Deb, and a buffer between me and Ms. Tyrant. Deb had to fight Ms. Tyrant on it, but finally she acknowledged I was the most qualified to work with the membership. Big sigh of relief.

Not long after I moved over into the new position, Toxic co-worker declared war on Ms. Tyrant, filed a grievance and got her fired. Ms. Tyrant appealed, they had a hearing, they wanted me to testify. I was terrified. I did testify, but I wanted to throw up the whole time. And I sort of lied. They asked me if Toxic co-worker had talked to me about the situation, and she had, but I didn't remember when it was and it had no bearing on the truth of our work environment, so I said no. But I still felt bad.

Afterwards Ms. Tyrant got in the last jab.

She said, "Sassy, its ok. I understand"

I was like, what hell?? I'm certain she was trying to make sure I would feel guilty forever. Certain. It sort of worked.

Anyway, my job got considerably better. Housing Consultant became in the interim director and he was a great nice man. I was able to work with the people, connect to other helping agencies to assure the members had resources for their needs and even helped start and facilitate a neighborhood improvement organization. I was most proud of that.

I was always treated well by the people there, I made some good friends and had access to the culture I had so longed to learn about. But, alas, all things come to an end. The tribe started having money problems and they had too many members out of work. They started to bump people who were not native so they could employ the tribal members. My name appeared on that list.

Housing Consultant guy went to bat for me, he lobbied to change my position to require a masters degree so I wouldn't be in danger. Even though he succeeded with that, I still didn't feel safe. So I told him I was looking for work elsewhere. That was hard. I found a job shortly after working for a woman who was my boss but became a much loved friend. But that is another story.
I'd like to thank Ms. Chic for letting me take and doctor the above photo. Of course she doesn't know I'm sticking it up on the blog. Sorry Ms. Chic.

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Valarie said...

I don't see how you could stand it. That made my stomach go in knots just reading about it.

High Hopes said...

OMG how you stuck in there for so long is beyond me. I think I would have gotten so tired of it and just quit. No one deserves to be treated that way and employers wonder why people want to unionize.

Cristan said...

Bleck - at least it's always best to have your worst boss first. Every one after her will look positively rosy!

Ashlee said...

Working for a tyrant...sounds familiar. So glad she got the can and you got a better job! It's called Karma.....