spiralI’ve been having work issues and work anxiety. Depression is down to manageable crankiness once again, and I am up and about. Anxiety is uppermost now. I’m going to try and write it out as best I can. This might be horribly boring if you are not interested in office jobs.

First of all, as a contractor, I’m vulnerable to being let go whenever the mood strikes someone higher up. It’s happened to me before, and it wasn’t a fun experience. Contractors don’t get ‘feedback’ or talks with a manager when some aspect of job performance isn’t good. We just get bumped. That’s a cause of anxiety right there – my livelihood can be at risk.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my actual work. I’m fast, accurate, and I don’t stew over projects – I can churn them out without much trouble. I also can take charge of my own projects, calling meetings, handling reviews, getting manager input if needed.

What I run into is people problems – not fitting in, saying awkward things, getting people’s backs up on occasion.

The latest trouble is with the new boss / client. He’s not a bad guy. He’s fairly open, friendly, and with years of manager experience, though none with documentation, which is his new role.

Just – we’re clashing. Somewhat. It’s making me uneasy. I’ve apologized once, I’m trying to monitor my behaviour, but under stress, it’s not working well.

He has inserted himself into all my projects and all my meetings. This means, in addition to dealing with the client who I’m trying to assist, I have this boss, with his free-wheeling comments, to consider. He has no experience with this type of work. I know he’s learning fast. Just, he is not helpful at present.

Yesterday for instance I had two meetings. The first was lovely – it’s a well run project, the client is not neurotic about the project, everything is working pretty well. So it was fine having the boss, J., there. We were both professional and on the same team.

Then meeting two. Yuck. A project I’ve been on for months, before J. came along. It hit a roadblock. We had a meeting, discussing where this project should go. This meeting was kind of chaotic, with the main client basically having major anxiety about the project and wanting to re-do the entire thing. Which it didn’t need, she just needed reassuring. Then J starts making one silly suggestion after another, while I’m trying to deal with the client who is having the anxiety attack. And I firmly dismiss his suggestion, saying I don’t think that’s what I should do. I know it’s a waste of time (I don’t say this part). The fact is, I should have tact here, and I don’t. Really, if I just said nothing much, and let everything stay chaotic for a while, I think they’d all get tired of it and let me fix it.

The meeting ended. I left, it being end of day, and everyone else remained seated. I assumed they had something else to discuss. Me not being full time, I’m often not included in various matters.

Of course afterwards, I worried about what they wanted to discuss. Today I had anxiety all day about losing my job, about trying to do better getting along with J.

There’s an element in my struggles with him of a defiant teenager, exasperated at a parents’ slowness and wrong-headedness. That exasperation kicks in for me under stress. It’s great I’m aware of it, but awareness is not enough because it’s so automatic. In the moment where it’s triggered, I just want to fight and prove him wrong.

The fact that he is wrong is kind of beside the point. That would become clear anyway. But if I start arguing with him, especially in front of others, that is what is noticed and remarked on.

I feel if I had more practice dealing with him, I’d eventually get a grip on this whole thing. We have a meeting once or twice a week though, and they’re not always difficult, so it is not enough for me to practice.

I was thinking what would help is if he discussed with me ahead of time what he is wanting to get across for a particular project, I could back him up, and not be surprised. I’m not sure he thinks it through ahead of time though.

I work for a large conservative corporation, and the culture is fairly hierarchical. For most, it seems like second nature to not question their manager. If they disagree, they do so quietly, or perhaps with colleagues privately. So my way of saying what I think is not normal there.

My meetings are working meetings. So I have to produce based on what is discussed. So if it’s unclear, it affects me most directly. The others are not trying to produce anything. So I do have a reason for wanting things clear, so I know what to do.

Phew. I’m trying to think of other things. There’s nothing much I can do about this boss. We don’t meet much on our own, so there’s not much room for discussion of what he’s expecting.

With my last boss, I ran with projects on my own more. Or I had some where she was the client, so I worked with her on that basis. I haven’t had a boss sitting in on all my working meetings before, and it’s proving a difficult experience.

It could be I’m worrying about nothing much. Or it could be a big deal. It’s really hard for me to tell, as I am prone to anxiety. I’m sure it’s a problem actually, because by the time I think there’s an issue, it’s already a pretty big issue. But it could be it’ll work itself out. I’m certainly willing to work on it.

I sent an email today to the client asking her if she wants to tackle a specific issue J’s way, and copied J. This will just delay things, but I want to show I’m taking J seriously. Now she hasn’t replied, so I don’t know what to do at this point.

Sometimes with anxiety, it’s an endless spiral, and trying to fix it gets you sucked in ever deeper.

Art: Spiral Staircase, Elizabeth Anne Babb

  1. Hi…I know what severe anxiety is like. I send you lots of hugs and I hope yours lessens soon. I’m sure your anxiety is preventing you from being ok around people, I bet its not that your just not a people person. Sending positivity your way! XX

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, it is anxiety getting in my way. Sometimes people interpret that as rudeness. I do actually like (most) people. Thanks many

  2. Gel said:

    Wow it sounds like you have looked at this work situation from many angles. I can’t think of anything to add or suggest (not that you were asking for that).

    The thing that stands out to me is that you feel you are very competent at your job. So I’d think that an employer would really value that and have some latitude for “odd” behavior that might come along with it.

    Also from other stuff you’ve written it seems there can often be a difference between what you feel inside yourself and how other people see you or your behaviors. Maybe they aren’t having as hard a time with you as you fear. And it seems like you being anxious about all this might increase some of the behaviors that you are concerned others won’t like. So anything you can do to decrease your anxiety seems like a help.

    I think you apologizing to your boss was probably a really go move. It could show that your intentions are good and you have awareness of how you impact others and that you desire to get along. That should go a long way unless they are idiots.
    I’m glad you are feeling better.

    • Ellen said:

      It is hard to judge sometimes, what’s my anxiety and fears about how I am perceived and what’s real. There definitely was a problem, as my boss knew exactly what I was talking about when I apologized. After talking about it in therapy three times now, it’s calmed down, and I feel I’m doing better once again. I was thinking of medicating to reduce the anxiety, because it does make everything a lot worse, but have evened out again.

      Thanks Gel.

  3. weareonebyruth said:

    Hi Ellen. Hugs, anxiety can really suck the life out of a day. Recently I found out that my anxiety was being increased by my medication. I am now on a different dose and doing better. I had a boss that was difficult and I discussed it with my counselor. My counselor actually gave me different scenarios and let me practice in my sessions on different ways to reply to different situations. Totally cracked me up when my boss actually did exactly what my counselor had me practice the week before. I realized that human behavior can become fairly predictable. Thanks to my counselor I learned a lot about healthy ways to interact with people. You have looked at this many different ways, hopefully a solution will come to you that works for you and your situation.
    Take care,

    • Ellen said:

      Practicing seems like a great idea. Thank you Ruth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: