Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tales from the Office...

All blog jokes aside, I don't consider myself a confrontational person.  Certainly not in real life, at least.  I've always considered myself meek to a fault, and especially shy in person.  I've even kicked myself for being far too much of a pushover.  A wallflower, meek and mild.  I worry I suck up too much to the boss and I let too many things slide from my coworkers.  I've always considered myself in person to be very much the opposite of my online persona.

Last week at work, though, I got a surprise.

I understand completely why I have a reputation for tactlessness at work.  I've seen the memos these guys write.  Full of extra wording and platitudes around the point and--to quote my coworker who told me my memos were tactless--"buttering up" the other party to get what we want even after the matter has been agreed to over the telephone and the memorandum is merely a formality.  "Sir/Ma'am, Due to events entirely beyond our control we no longer have running water in the bathrooms.  According to regulations, we need to be able to wash our hands before we eat in order to prevent dying from some horrible disease.  If you could find it in your heart to send a plumber, we would be greatful.  Help us, Civil Engineering, you're our only hope."

I find that to be an utter waste of time.  I also think something like "Please repair the bathroom plumbling at your earliest convenience" is far more polite than necessary and should be sufficient for asking someone to do their fucking job anyway.  It also saves ink.

So it was no surprise to me that--after I asked Blunt Boss to brief the office on how to fill out a certain form and had been told by him to brief them myself because they'll listen to me because "women are scary" (I'd responded that my coworkers aren't afraid of me, they just assume I'll burst into tears if they push me too far and he'd insisted that was good enough so there was no getting out of it)--I was gently chided by Diplomatic Boss because "you get more flies with honey than you can with vinegar."

Now anyone who knows how much I fucking hate that turn of phrase will appreciate how nice I was when I disagreed with him.  I said I had been nice but promised not to use any profanity next time.  He told me i shouldn't start a lesson with "You've been doing it wrong" which made no sense to me, because the whole point of the briefing was they'd all been doing it wrong.

This conversation took place at the end of shift in the middle of the office and led to my statement that I wasn't confrontational.  This statement was greeted with laughter.

Naturally, there was a bit more arguing and Diplomatic Boss declared no progress would be made on either side once I'd narrowed my eyes and repeated "...female logic..." in response to a description ("Here is male logic, here is female logic, and WAY over here--") by a coworker.  This coworker was the next person to talk to Diplomatic Boss about effective communication.

And for the record, earlier that day that coworker--who had indeed read comics in his life--had been insisting that neither Steve Rogers nor Bruce Wayne would return from the dead so his opinion is suspect.

I did get Diplomatic Boss to concede that I was a pushover about "some things."

All in all, I ended up thrown into a minor identity crisis by the entire incident before the weekend was even underway.  I understand that humans have these internal views of ourselves, and its naturally disconcerting to find out just how different others see us than we see ourselves.  But that wasn't it entirely.  See, I've been keeping this blog for some time as an outlet and I suspect its led to a personality change.  But exactly what sort of change, I'm not sure.  I chose the nickname Ragnell the Foul on a whim, after a funny description I'd read of Gawain's wife in some Arthurian encyclopedia or another.  I wanted to indulge my monstrous side a bit, I wanted to have a chance to be the sort of person who doesn't let shit get flung on her and the name seemed to exemplify that.

And there's an idea in the Wiccan community--a small shadow of an idea that doesn't always surface but its definitely something to be kept in mind when chosing a name (Wiccans often take a "Craft Name" for their religious life)--that we conform to our names.  That if you pick the name of a story character you end up living out that story.  (Think twice about naming yourself for that tragic hero who lacked self-awareness.)  That if you take a description, you end up living up to it.  (Be wary of using modifiers such as "sometimes" or "not exactly" in front of virtuous descriptors.)  I've noticed it borne out enough online, some people just fit their handles.  I've wondered at times if this is putting the cart before the horse--if we just unconsciously choose a good description of ourselves when we choose a name--or if human beings really are such pattern-seeking monsters that we unconsciously mold ourselves to fit the front we put forth.  And that little incident at work, and the realization of how much I've changed over the last decade as well as the realization of how differently I see myself compared to how I act has me mulling it over.  Did I become Ragnell the Foul somehow, or is it just the real me leaking into my professional life?

And why are the guys I work with so damned sensitive?