Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ghosts of the past

Sometimes you really have to tangle with a ghost or two to realize that things really aren’t as bad as you think they are.

Back in 2004, I left the comfort of my long-term position within the company to take on the new challenge of working with Eeyore. Before Eeyore (which shall henceforth be referred to as B.E.) I worked in our company’s retail division handling some large national clients. It was pretty satisfying work for the most part – the best part being that I had a boss who wasn’t exactly incompetent, but willing to let me do the lion’s share of the work because he was better at the field operations side of the business. I loved the challenge, but hated the fact that I was doing all the financial stuff (writing contracts, purchasing, job cost, change order negotiations, etc.) while he was collecting the big fat paycheck and all the bonuses and glory. I’d been working for C for 7 years and at one point I decided that I really just needed to get the hell away from him if I was going to maintain any semblance of my sanity.

Part of the losing my sanity part was this guy that worked in our unit named DH. He was hired on as a project manager and it didn’t take long to realize that while the guy was almost an idiot savant when it came to dealing with math and numbers, he was a total idiot in everything else. Put it to you this way – once we sent him up to one of our northern jobsites to do an owner visit, and when he got to his hotel he was so exhausted that he ended up brushing his teeth with Icy Hot and then had to be rushed to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. All I have to say is that he must have been trying Suicide by Icy Hot to have had his stomach pumped. Oh, and then there was the time he thought he had this rare African lung fungus that would eat your internal organs slowly….

So you can imagine – working with a guy like DH could really wear on your sanity. They finally gave him his own assistant, a very sweet girl who was honestly as bright as a box of rocks. The two of them were a recipe for disaster…we are STILL trying to fix stuff that they screwed up three years ago. Anyhow, DH ended up becoming big buddies with our largest retail client and got a little too big for his britches. He got into a fight with one of our company owners one day, handed out the ultimatum that either they could do things DH’s way or he would leave, and he was handed his walking papers along with a big slice of humble pie. And irony of ironies, he got a job managing construction for that very same client of ours, and we haven’t gotten a single project from them since then.

Meanwhile, while all of this drama was ensuing I was making my break into Pooh’s Corner. My boss C completely flipped out and basically turned his back on me and to this day won’t even speak to me. But part of the fun (fun if you enjoy torture) of the whole process was hiring my replacement – and I wish y’all could’ve seen some of the priceless resumes we got in here. We weeded the resumes down to a select few, did some phone interviews, and then selected two people to bring in for interviews.

I will never forget the day we interviewed Dave. He was a guy in his upper 40's who had been laid off from his job in an engineering firm for three years and hadn’t been able to find a job – which was the first warning signal. Engineering firms at that time were just dying for good, qualified people so the fact that no one snapped him up should have been a sign that he was the wrong guy for the job. He bumbled and stumbled his way through the interview, and after it was over C and I were dismissed by our Big Boss and we headed back to our offices….

C: So, what did you think? (this was the first conversation we’d had in 2 weeks)

Me: I think he’s totally wrong for the job.

So what did they do – they hired the guy. I spent three weeks training him full-time. He made it six months, called me out on the jobsite and admitted that he had been struggling the entire time and had decided to leave the company. They hired a replacement for Dave – who ironically enough, was let go from the company last week due to the elimination of the position. You see, my boss C had trouble once I was gone trying to hold the financial end of things together, so he was “relieved” of his position and therefore there was no need for him to have an assistant. (Score: Liz, 2; Replacements, 0)

This morning, I was standing in the doorway of Chachi’s office discussing the latest debacle with the HVAC situation at The Big Project when out of the corner of my eye, I spied Dave coming around the corner. Apparently he was in the area and decided that he was going to come by and visit everyone…kind of odd considering that he only worked at the company for 6 months, but since I was working out on the jobsite I really didn’t know how involved he’d gotten at the company. He plopped himself down in my office and yammered on and on for 30 minutes while I tried to work on a billing (secretly hoping that he’d catch a clue and leave me alone), and finally he skulked on out. And surprisingly, as is true to form for Dave, I knew even less about what he’d been doing after I talked to him than I did before he showed up. Hmmmm.

Later in the afternoon, I was over in the accounting building telling my cohorts about the mysterious appearance of Dave, when who should walk through the door but DH. I’m not exactly sure what he was doing there, but he was his normal, bumbling, Icy-Hot-ingesting self. I hadn’t seen him since the day he walked out the door, carrying his possessions in a cardboard box.

I drove home tonight thinking about all the crap that went on during that time – honestly, after working as C’s right-hand for 7 years, it almost felt like we were getting a divorce when I decided to leave and work for Eeyore. There were many days during the transition period when I would cry the entire way home from work, stinging with the pain of how cruel he was acting toward me and also wondering if I was making the right decision for myself.

Despite how rough the past few months have been at work, I know I did the right thing. There are times when I miss the challenges of managing millions of dollars and feeling like I had a big hand in the company’s bottom line. I miss my clients. And I miss the relationship that I had with C, who always trusted me to take care of things and never questioned my judgment.

In a lot of ways, I took a huge leap in a good direction. I have a lot less responsibility now, which has taken a lot of the stress out of my life and let me enjoy the social aspects of my job a lot more. I gave up the comfort zone of the office to be out on a jobsite as the only woman among hundreds of men. Yeah, it was lonely as hell at times, but I made some lifelong friends that I never would have had if I hadn’t had that experience. And it was a huge confidence booster to realize that I could do it and be successful. Once I got back to the office, it helped me treasure my relationships with my female coworkers and opened my eyes to nurturing those friendships instead of remaining so insular. Eeyore, even though he can be an ass at times, is really a good boss who cares very deeply about the people that work for him. I could go on and on but I’ll spare you the verbal Sominex.

Sometimes I need to have days like today to give myself a little kick in the ass. It could always be worse…at least I haven’t had any of my guys come down with a rare lung fungus or have their stomach pumped lately. There’s always that, right?

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