12 January 2009

A Lab Practical In Anthroherpetology.

Oh dearie me...

I've been blogging here since August 2006 [seems like no time at all]. During that time I've experienced some remarkable human savagery, witnessed far too many other people doing likewise, yet - generally - managed to keep my affect at "Minimum Safe Distance" for blogging / processing / healing purposes [see Aliens for an explanation of Minimum Safe Distance] throughout.

I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I really have learned a few things; it looks as though I'm going to find out.

I seem to be getting a Lab Practical in Anthroherpetology.

For the record, I don't discuss my profession or my work here in much detail, and I don't intend for that to change. It's not because it's irrelevant. Au contraire - it is just relevant enough to provide inspiration and insight if left in the background, and to get in the way to a major extent if it ever got into the foreground.

However, I have at times discussed my workplace and its dynamics here.

I've decided to try a double experiment. I'm going to blog my way through the Lab Practical with minimal disguising of details - just enough to shield people involved. Comments will be welcome, because this really IS a lab practical, as you will shortly see.

And it has barely begun.


We have recently added a new face to the happy throng at my place of employment, and the Red Flags are a-flyin'.

I was caught off guard at first. This was not because my immediate superiors are enthused about this person, although they are. Their pattern for the past several years has been wild, loud, public enthusiasm for all new hires, right until the poor souls actually show up and start working. Then, the newbies are usually devalued and targeted within three months of their start dates, regardless of actual performance, talent, ability, etc. Unless they've trained in one specific discipline, but even that is no guarantee.

Normally, I ignore the propaganda and wait to see who arrives and what they're like. This time, though, the new hire is a Former-Colleague-of-Someone-Else. And 'Someone Else' has been here awhile, been through the devaluation-targeting cycle himself, survived it in much the same way that I have, and sees very clearly what's going on around the place.

When I set the Supervisory Enthusiasm alongside the Collegial Endorsement, it seemed to me that we'd probably get a savvy guy who wouldn't be too easily fooled.

Our newest Mouseketeer [Mick for short] started work about a week ago. Here's what I've seen so far.

1. Mick can't listen. Literally can't. He'll ask a question, and as soon as you begin to answer it, he starts to fidget; within a few sentences, he jumps in and tells you he knows that already.

Then he asks the question again.

This is a game; it's about you being wrong and him being right/superior/etc. It's also about your time being less important than his. I've been sucked in twice, but now I tell him I'll send him an email. I then send him relevant URLs, titles of SOPs, etc; when he comes back with questions about those, I aim him at the guys who hired him.

2. Mick is a chiseler. This one embarrasses me a little, because the setup was classic but I didn't see it coming. Mick's buddy, "Jon", took a day off last week and asked me to keep Mick company and help him out. I suggested lunch at a restaurant that Jon and I both like, and Mick showed great enthusiasm, even pulling up the online menu and checking prices, telling me the cost seemed very reasonable, etc.

Sho 'nuff, we get there, we eat, he stiffs me with the bill. Now don't misunderstand me: I did not expect him to pay my way. Rather, it was well established that each of us would pay their own way. Remember all that malarkey about the prices being reasonable? Then the check arrived -- and he punted. It wasn't the old 'left my wallet in the desk' trick, it was far more audacious: 'I'll treat next time, OK?' Said shamelessly right under the waiter's nose. Whew!

Not much to do about that except shut my teeth and take it, as the Brits say. But it made a lasting impression.

Today, Jon got back, and wanted to have lunch with the two of us. Sure, I said sweetly, I'd love to. When we got there, I asked for separate checks. When they came up, I handed mine to Mick, saying 'Your turn to treat, now! Thanks so much," then proceeded to tell Jon about all the lovely things we ate on Friday "when I treated, now aren't you sorry you missed it!"

Next time, there won't be a next time.

3. Mick is exploitive. We already know this, see above. But wait, there's more... that lunch today? About an hour before we left, Jon had a meeting to go to, and Mick sat in on it to 'learn the ropes'. On their way to the meeting, Mick tossed me the online menu with his order and Jon's marked and suggested I call it in for all of us, so we wouldn't have to wait when we got to the restaurant at noon.

Hmm. He's been here four days, I've been here ten years, I have two more degrees than he does, twenty more years of relevant experience in this field... and now I'm his secretary. Oh-kayyyyy.....

So I looked up the meeting on the calendar, and my belief in God was reaffirmed.

After grinning evilly for a good 30 seconds, I decided to go ahead and call the order in... placing orders for 12 noon, firm, eating in. At 11:15, when the meeting broke up just as early as I knew it would, Mick bounced into my office and said, "Hey, we're out early, let's go!" To which I replied... "Oh rats, I wish I'd known that would happen; I've already called in the orders - for noon precisely. I can meet you there; I'm going to finish this report now, but you and Jon can run on ahead if you like."

Jon, of course, wouldn't hear of leaving without me. So Mick got to wait. And wait. And wait.

Next time, there won't be a next time for that one either.

4. Mick is a con artist. Yeah, we already know that too, don't we? But wait, again, there's more, again.

This one will take your breath away.

We're sitting at lunch, and Mick starts philosophizing. Remember now, he's been here four whole days.
Our job, he tells me earnestly, is to make sure that our supervisors look good. In order to do that, he assures me sincerely, we need to be really tactful when we present new ideas.

It would be a really good idea, he thinks, for me to share my suggestions and recommendations with him and Jon, and let the two of them present my brilliant notions to our higher-ups, so I don't have to contend with the resistance I'm naturally going to encounter...

just because I've been around so long...

that nobody pays any attention to what I have to say, anymore.
Thanks be to God, and to Saint Robert Hare, Ph.D., and to Saint John Babiak, Ph.D. ... to my amazement, I saw through this as it was being played.

"Oh gosh", I responded, girlishly [ugh]. "Would you believe, that's never been my problem here... My ideas are picked up with so much enthusiasm that sometimes people forget to give me credit for them! Now, I've already started fixing that problem. But it's kind of you to offer to help. I'm sure we'll work together really well as a team."


That was definitely the Last Lunch Ever with Good Old Mick.


I wish I owned a mongoose.

But I don't,

so I'll just have to put the EEO office on speed-dial.


Blogger Meg said...

In what way is this an experiment? Looks to me as though you already have the findings, and are simply doing a training run with the prototype.

Well done you!

High internet five!!!!

Lick tip of finger and place against ass.......smokin'!!!

This young Turk has well and truly met his match.

13 January, 2009 19:09  
Blogger Stormchild said...


Bless you, Meg.

There is a serious challenge here.

It is dangerous to be straightforward and unmanipulative when folks like Mick are in the ascendant in any outfit. It paints a bull's-eye on your back.

I've managed to remain in a stable [if not altogether pleasant] situation by being extremely good and reliable at what I do, and making sure - quietly - that key people [at levels above my immediate superiors] understand that I am, and that they need me to handle challenging cases/projects/accounts ;-).

This is basically a no-bull$hi+, value-for-money approach to Doing The Job.

But: most people who go into upper management do so not because they want to serve the organization in a broader capacity, but because they want to make more money and stop getting their hands dirty with the actual, unglamorous work. Sad but true, especially in the States.

A really persuasive manipulator can talk such standard-issue managers into just about any foolish, destructive decision, including persuading them that they don't need - or even want! - their best people.

I don't know whether I can continue putting spokes in Mick's wheels long enough to convince him to seek other prey. Hope so. It's a test of endurance: can I keep my temper long enough to shut him down, basically.

There is also a spiritual risk to me, in the form of serious temptation to allow defeating him to become my primary focus. My focus has to be on integrity in my life and work - because I don't work for 'me', I work for God. My work is about using the talents God gave me to help others, and make a 'right living' for myself along the way.

I do need to know how to effectively set boundaries, thwart exploiters, etc. and I have certainly not done this enough in the past. So it is good to discover that it is becoming second nature to see, comprehend, and respond constructively.

But if that is all I spend my days doing, then my life and work have been taken over by basic self-protection or by gamesmanship with abusers.

Christ's response to that would be, "Cast not your pearls before swine; shake the dust off your feet when you go from that place; let the dead bury their dead."

Or, the only way to win is not to play.

Somehow, I have to find a way to decline Mick's game or shut it down, consistently and powerfully enough to make it stick. If I can't, then I'll need to find someplace less 'gamey'.

Only time will tell what the outcome of all this will be. But I'm awake, aware and ready, and that makes quite a difference.

13 January, 2009 23:06  
Anonymous Meg said...

I know defeating the enemy in the form of Mick is not your primary focus, but in my humble opinion, our job is one of fighting evil in all its forms, as trite as that may sound in today's post-pentecostal world.

Please remember you have not sought out this battle, it has sought you out...for a reason.

While he determines to attack you, you have very little time for anything other than standing your ground and using the weapons God has given you and you are already doing that.

One day, it will be second nature, as I hope it will be for me, but for now, it takes alot of energy to keep your head while all around you are losing theirs.

And, lest you forget , God has given you these gifts to help others like me to learn from your experiences. To me this is not so much a lab practical, but a battleground testimony.

I firmly believe that those dedicated to serving God are the salt of the earth, and a light set on a hill. You attract enemies like a light attracts moths. We are warned about this in the Bible, and Jesus was very clear, as were his followers, that we are in a battle. We are to put on the armour of God and fight the good fight. No, we don't play games with manipulators, but we deflect the fiery darts of the enemy, because if we don't, if we don't do what we know to be right, then we will surely go down and be amongst the living dead.

I know there is a lot more to life than Mick the Turk, but let me just have some fun and enjoy the fact that you are winning for a change. Your success is a great encouragement and inspiration, and it proves that you can not only talk the talk, but you can apply it well.

So, I repeat...well done you, and go girl.

14 January, 2009 01:09  
Blogger Stormchild said...

"Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth." [Job 40:4, KJV]

Point taken :-D thank you and bless you, Meg!

14 January, 2009 20:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Storm,

Love yr writing & insight. Have you thought of writing a book which compiles your insights? Could be a best seller.

Love Mickey, the newby, lunch check chiseler, then the moral dilemna of "Oh, Lord, let me not play this game". It's funny, spiritual & real.

16 January, 2009 11:50  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Thank you. I'm thinking of writing several books, actually, but not just yet. I've got a bit more figuring out to do, and a lot more practicing, first.

Alas, poor Mick... so conniving, so full of himself, and so terribly transparent. To thems as knows the signs, anyway.

I'm not sure you'd love him if you actually had to deal with him on a daily basis, though. I'm not sure I'm going to manage it, in the Christian sense, myself.

We'll just have to see how it goes.

To be continued...

17 January, 2009 00:07  

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