Well, Either You’re Closing Your Eyes to a Situation You Do Not Wish to Acknowledge, or You Are Not Aware of the Caliber of Disaster Indicated. Ya Got Trouble, My Friend, Right Here, I Say, Trouble Right Here in River City.

In case you haven’t heard, times are very tough.

unemploymentMillions of people have been laid off from their jobs and the national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent as of January.  In California where I live it’s higher, at 9.3 percent.

The state of California is broke with a $42 billion budget deficit and it’s only getting worse by the day as the state legislature can’t seem to come to an agreement on the budget.

Can we all agree that times are tough?

I’ve known this all along but somehow I guess I didn’t really get it.  I’ve been suffering from “not me” syndrome.  “Yeah, it sucks.  Yeah people are hurting and I wish I could do something, but at least it won’t happen to me.”

Before anybody get’s too worried about me, no, it hasn’t happened to me… not yet, anyway.  For weeks, maybe even months, Douche Bag has been saying that we have to tighten our belts and cut back on spending, but he’s also been saying that we were not going to be facing any lay-offs.  “Senior Leadership” has stated that it won’t benefit The Company that Created the HMO to lay people off because after you pay severance packages you don’t realize any cost savings for at least a year if not longer.

Last week an e-mail went out from the President of Operations addressing the current economic crisis.  The e-mail said that we were facing some lean times.  It said that in an attempt to deal with these lean times they were taking certain measures to ready ourselves for the tough times ahead.  Among those measures was freezing the salaries of the top 500 employees.  This is a good move.  It proves that they are not just out for themselves and that they are trying to take care of their employees.  The e-mail went on to say that while The Company that Created the HMO was still going to give merit increases, they were reducing the overall budget for the increases by 1%.  Normally, my region’s budget is 3% so this year it would be 2%.  Not great news but livable.  In addition they were still going to give out the annual bonuses that we traditionally get in March.

Honestly, I had full expected to get absolutely nothing this year.  Not an idea I enjoy but not surprising, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when the follow up e-mail came today.  While The Company that Created the HMO as a whole is following those measures, it has been determined that some regions will need to take additional measures, determined by the market they serve.  Northern California is one of those regions.  Not only will the top 500 Executives have their salaries frozen, but not a single one of the Northern California non-union employees receive a raise before fourth quarter when they will re-evaluate our financial status.  (Read, probably not then either.)  We will still receive our bonuses, which comes as a surprise to me but, raises will not be happening.  And then the big shocker, the e-mail stated that it will not be sufficient to maintain our 2008 staffing levels.  We must reduce the number of full time employees.  There’s no other way to read that, there will be lay-offs.  I think, perhaps, it would have been good if they’d included in that information when and how many they are planning, but at least now we know that it’s going to happen.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last few weeks, as rumors started flying, about how I could see this playing out and there are a number of scenarios that could play out that would leave me vulnerable.  I have the most seniority in the department, besides Douche Bag, and my function is somewhat unique, in that no one else in the department does what I do.  It could be that the seniority will save me, but on the other and it could be that the seniority also makes me too expensive to keep around.  It could be that the uniqueness of my position will save me, but then again I do have a counterpart in another building that does the same thing and there was a time when our jobs were a one man operation for all of Downtown Oakland.  There has already been a proposition that the functions I currently perform should be consolidated to this other person leaving me free to take on other responsibilities.

I see three possible scenarios with that as well:

  1. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal to consolidate the function to my counterpart and I’ll continue working here fulfilling other responsibilities – and potentially finding a way to like my job again;
  2. Captain Oblivious will deny the proposal with concern that doing this would leave me vulnerable to being laid-off;
  3. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal and instruct that I be laid-off.

I have a peace about this.  There’s nothing I can do to change how things will play out.  I go to work everyday and do the best job I can do (when I’m not reading or writing blog entries or Tweeting) and wait to see what happens.  In the end there’s not much more I can do besides leave it in God’s hands.  I trust that he will lead me through it.

Yes, times are tough, but things will turn around.  They always do

Inform Your Face

They say that children are very perceptive.  That they pick up well on our moods and our attitudes. I believe that tends to be a spiritual thing as much as a physical thing.  The last time I went back to Oklahoma to spend Christmas with Scornful Mother, CPA Sister, et. al., I had a bit of a blow up with SM that resulted in an abrupt change in our relationship.  At the culmination of this exchange when SM had put her hand up in my face, potentially to hit me and I reared back, glared at her and said, “Don’t! You! Dare!”  I looked down at Precious Niece #1 and saw that she had a confused and possibly frightened look on her face.  It broke my heart to see and at the same time, I was just so angry, that I could do nothing about it.

I believe that we never actually outgrow that perceptiveness.  I think if we trust our guts and follow our instincts we will find that we are, as full grown adults, still very perceptive.  It has been my experience, since I started therapy nearly two and one half years ago, that when Insightful Therapist states (generally not asks) that I’m experiencing a certain emotion, she’s almost never wrong.  If I stop and consider what she said, I’ll usually realize that, yes, in fact, I was feeling that emotion, even if I hadn’t realized it before she said it.  She’s a therapist and they are trained, (she’s quite skilled), to be open and really listen and observe their clients during their sessions.  I’ve been learning that I have the inherent ability to pick up on these things.  I think we all do.  Especially when its someone we’ve gotten to know.

The problem is we don’t usually trust ourselves.  As we grow and we are entreated, first by our parents, and then by the rest of society, to behave in certain “socially acceptable” ways we learn to be deceptive and dishonest about our feelings and emotions.  And as we learn this we also become less sure of truth of other people’s feelings and emotions.  You’re interacting with another individual and their tone of voice, their body language, their facial expression or some combination of the three tells you, this person is angry at me.  So you ask them, “Why are you so angry at me?” and they say, with steam practically coming out of their ears, “I’m not angry at you!”

It’s the very foundation of our perceptions and our faith in our own understanding of them.  Evidence tells me this, but the person says that.  Either they’re lying to me, or I’m wrong. And even at that, it’s generally not “socially acceptable” to assume someone is lying to you – especially not your own parents – so you must be wrong.  Eventually, as you age and branch out more and more into the world, you begin to assume that your perception is wrong and that you can’t know what the other person is thinking and feeling and therefore you should not assume you’re perception has a chance of being accurate.

I can still remember, on occasion when I was but a wee small lad, Scornful Mother would tell me to stop being angry (yeah, because that works) and I’d tell her “I’m not angry.”  She would say, “Well then, inform your face.”  Clearly she was presuming to know what I was feeling.  But you see, she was in front of me.  Looking at me.  Seeing my facial expressions and my body language.  More than likely, she was right.  “Inform your face.”  That could just as easily be “inform your tone.”

I was reminded of that phrase just the other day in the Tuesday Morning Torture Session. Douche Bag was acting particularly confrontational and accusatory, particularly toward me.  In the last month or so, he’s handed out random assignments, willy-nilly and without much thought to how appropriate the tasks are for the person he’s giving them to.  He’s given me a number of tasks that are not within my bailiwick.  I used to speak up when he’d do this but he’d just make light of it, crack a lame joke and then move on without acknowledging his blunder and reassigning the task.  So there were two items on the agenda for which he had asked me to get quotes from various vendors.

He wants to replace the Elevator Lobby Directory signage on several of the floors of our building.  He’s pushing for this to happen before the end of the year, for budgetary reasons, but he hasn’t given enough time to make this happen.  He’s also been talking about replacing these for three years so it’s a little hard to get fired up about them now, but he’s been pushing me to get a quote from our signage vendor for that project.  The price per complete unit is set, regardless of the text, and I’ve informed Douche Bag of the approximate cost, but he wants a formal quote in writing from the vendor.  So I informed our contact that I didn’t have all the information I needed to place an order yet, but I needed a quote for this many of that product, installed.  The contact replied that I needed to fill out the order form and then so-and-so in the home office will price it out for me.  I replied that, as I had previously stated, I wasn’t ready to place an order but that my manager was requesting a formal quote.  He told me they don’t generate quotes based on an e-mail and they needed the order form.  So I advised DB that I couldn’t get a quote and of the reason why.

He then went on to ask about the removal of an out-of-service HVAC unit in a storage room.  This is something that has been in his hands for a very long time.  He asked me to get a quote from a certain vendor to remove the unit, to ask our engineers about who can remove and dispose of the coolant and he stated that he would put in the construction request for our in-house construction people to remove the duct-work.  That construction request comes to me and he hasn’t done it (in over a month) so I didn’t see any sense in rushing the rest of it.  He came down on me in the TMTS for not having taken care of the HVAC unit.  When I reminded him that he had said he’d do the construction request and he hadn’t done it, he back pedaled a little bit and I said, “You understand that these things are not in my hands, right?”

“Yeah, I understand,” he said.

“Because you’re acting like this is all my fault!”

“No, I’m not.  I know it’s not your fault.”

Then inform your tone.

Douche Bag stepped into my office yesterday morning with a stack of papers in his hand, pertaining to a “spring cleaning in the fall” project he was pretty much single-handedly working on, and asked me, “What’s your schedule look like today.”

“Well, I have a meeting with [Furniture Vendor] at 11:00.”

“Good,” he said, “I need you to coordinate all this stuff with the vendors today.  They’ll be here at 1:00.”

“How am I supposed to know where this stuff is?”

“You know the contacts,” He said, “ask them,” and then he walked away.  I don’t know the contacts.  I know people who may or may not be the official contacts and who may or may not have submitted the paperwork for the clean up.  Just asking the contacts, wasn’t going to do the trick.  The vendor didn’t show up until 2:00.  I gave them the paper work and the names and phone numbers that I knew and sent them out into the world.  They never checked in with me again.  I was at work until 6:30 and I never heard from them.  I could only assume they were done.

This morning about fifteen minutes after I arrived, DB came stomping into my office flopping copies of the paperwork in his hand and said, “I need confirmation that all this stuff was picked up.  There were fifteen boxes on the sixteenth floor that didn’t get picked up and the department had them stacked up on their conference table.  Oscar (one of our janitors) and I had to go down and move them ourselves, into the hall.  I want those picked up today.  And I want a quote for that HVAC unit (which he still hasn’t put in his construction request for) by tomorrow.”

I called the vendor to inquire about the work and before I finished explaining why I was calling the contact said, “Oh yeah.  They’re not finished.  There was way too much stuff to pick up in the time frame that was agreed upon by Douche Bag.  They’ll be back out there today to get the rest.”  They did not talk to anyone about that when they left yesterday and so it is largely on them but either way it’s not my fault that this thing I had nothing to do with untill he dumped it on me didn’t go right.  I asked about the HVAC unit and the contact stated that they could take it today, too.  I explained that it wasn’t necessarily part of this program but that DB had instructed me to get a quote from them to uninstall, disassemble and remove the unit.

“Oh.  That’s not what he and I discussed before.  I told him a couple weeks ago that we could haul it out, but we don’t have the ability to uninstall it.”  So first of all, DB had me spinning my wheels on this for nothing because the people he told me to talk to about doing the work can’t.  But even worse, DB has been talking to them directly about it without my knowledge and I would just have been doubling the efforts.

I informed Douche Bag of all this information and reminded him that, again he’s acting like it’s my fault.

“I know it’s not your fault,” he said.

Well then inform your tone, dip shit!  Inform your tone.