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Workplace Worry

November 19, 2015


We all do it. We all dream about work from time to time. Sometimes it's because we're spending too much time thinking about work. Sometimes it's because something about work has us worried or upset.


The association management company where I work takes up two floors in our building. The east side of the twelfth floor was just leased and remodeled last year, and those of us who moved upstairs from eleven moved in June. Now they are working on some badly needed remodels and upgrades downstairs, and one of the partners and his assistant will be moving to twelve for the duration. He's taking over the best small conference room (full windows on the south and east with a nice view of the lake), which is a bummer since that's where everyone likes to have team meetings. It's also a lot closer to where I sit than I would like.


I joke a lot that I'm on Dave's shit list because I am an agitator. After all, I am the one who insisted that the drawer that was stupidly installed in the middle of the desk instead of next to the cubicle wall in the new cubicles was a) in the way of the chair and b) useless because the chair was in its way. I was the one who mobilzed my client's personnel to complain about it, and I was the one who nagged our poor operations manager until he got the company that sold and installed the cubicles to admit they did it wrong and came back to move every single drawer. I'm also the employee who stuck things on the metal frame of my cubicle and put them back after someone moved them when I took a day off, and finally took them down myself a couple of days later under duress (my argument: it's powder-coated--the paint isn't going to come off because it isn't paint) and only after a personal talking to by the operations manager on Dave's behalf.


Dave and I have had our good moments. He generally speaks pleasantly and smiles when we pass in the hall, and last year we had the Great Earmuff Debate on the company's intranet: I had some really nice, baby blue behind-the-head earmuffs that I bought on a chilly day in Chicago several years ago. They were GREAT. Not a color I would normally have chosen, but that was my only option and I was desperate. I continued using them becauase they fit well and were warm. I dropped them when I got off the elevator last year coming into the office and someone gave them to the HR manager, who posted a notice on the intranet about them. Dave posted a silly response about someone being brave enough to wear baby blue earmuffs and the back-and-forth joking went on for a couple of days, culminating in my purchasing a pair for him.


The bottom line is that I'm not still sure where I stand with him. He likes to joke a lot during all-staff meetings. He has a very good sense of humor. But he's also rigid and unbending about things that directly affect my workspace that shouldn't matter to him or anyone else. He's a strict uniformity kind of person, and that flies in the face of my need for flexibility and uniqueness. Needless to say, having him thirty yards from my cubicle for an unknown period of time is a bit unnerving for me.


And so I dreamt about it last night.


In my dream, the office was set up quite differently. We were all in small desks that were set up in rows like primary school--no cubicles. I was front row center, facing the glass walls of Dave's office. Even when we were told to move our desks around, I was always placed in the middle of the front row. I remember making his assistant laugh a lot (in real life she barely smiles), but he was never amused. It was a dream where nothing bad happened at all, but I was uncomfortable through the whole thing. I remember being frustrated--I couldn't accomplish much at all because I felt like I was being watched all the time.


What does this tell me? Well, for one thing I'm clearly worried about Dave's temporary move upstairs. On the whole, I am a pretty well-behaved person. I'm not a chronic rule-breaker and I'm a good worker. I'm not an anarchist and I don't have a problem with authority figures, for the most part. So why should this impending event bother me so much that I would have such an uncomfortable dream about it? I'm still trying to work that out. I suspect that I just feel like it's one more person watching me--even if he's not. I find that as I get older I like supervision less and less. I'm 50 years old. I don't need a babysitter. I know my job, and when I need help I ask for it. I'm not afraid to ask questions until I understand parameters or expectations. My attitude more and more is "Just leave me alone."


I have the usual stresses and concerns about my job, and those don't bother me. I'm sure I'll get it together one of these days and know the job inside and out (I'm new in my current role--about six months into it), so I'm not overly concerned if I don't know things now. Add another boss into the mix, though, and the stress ramps up considerably. I want to like Dave but I'm pretty sure I'm not really "his kind of person," and that makes me a little anxious about his arrival, for an unknown period of time, on the twelfth floor.



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