Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lesson 10: I'm A Big Kid Now

I got my ass chewed out at work today.

Not just chewed out, but completely shredded. Now I've been in situations where I've had a boss yell at me, critique me, and sometimes flat out demoralize me, but today was different. I was completely unprepared for it, and to put it bluntly, it pissed me the hell off.

Now before you go off reading with a horrible taste in your mouth, know this; I do appreciate my boss's directness. She doesn't sugarcoat, and while I'm sure she's never even heard of a "compliment sandwich", I think those kind of people make the best supervisors. I'll summarize, but this is it. Quotes are authentic, and I promise you, there is no exaggeration.

Boss: "We need to talk."
Me: "Okay, what about?"
Boss: "I have some concerns."

Point 1: "You are inappropriate in your comments with staff. It is apparent you have no filter, and it leads me to believe you also have no filter when associating with clients."

Point 2: "You are completely unprofessional in your attire. You dress yourself in a manner that leads others to assume you don't know what you're doing."

Point 3: "You're lack of knowledge about the DSM-IV and the (guidelines for residential treatment) is astounding. After your internship here and your orientation I would've thought you would be more versed by now."

Point 4: "You are clearly unable to build any kind of rapport with the clients. I have serious doubts about whether or not I can even put you in the schools in the fall. I think you need to go home and do some soul searching and figure out if you are even capable of being in this field."

Boss: Okay?
Me: Yup.
Boss: Okay.

Wow. Am I on American Idol and did Simon Cowell just tell me my singing voice could be used as a biological weapon in a third world country? No? Are you positive...because I'm pretty sure every egg I had in my employment basket was just crushed by the weight of my future hopes and dreams. See, there are basically four aspects of my job: working well in a team setting, professionalism, knowledge of mental illness and addiction, and building rapport with clients. I not only just miserably failed in each and every category, but I also left no remaining categories untouched for me to think I have at least done something right in my time there.

What confused me even more, is that fact that during my 10 week internship, counselors asked me daily if I was hired yet. My internship supervisor was the one that pointed out this job, stating I would be fantastic at it. Furthurmore, I've never, ever, even gotten so much as a talking to in previous jobs. Typically, I'm commended as one the best, hardest working employees they have. In graduate school, I've maintained a 4.0 GPA while working full-time night shifts. It seemed odd to me that within 1 1/2 weeks of being hired (at the same place I've been interning at) that all of a sudden I would let all of my professionalism, appropriateness and work ethic go completely out the window.

Nonetheless, she is my boss, and if she feels I'm lacking I need to take care of it.
So I went back to the main treatment campus and checked out some videos on the guidelines of treatment. Seven hours worth. Think I don't know my sh*t? I sure as hell will by tomorrow. Then I cried in the car, dried my eyes, and headed back to her office 30 minutes later. Let's do this.

I caught her on her way to her car:
Me: Hey! Can I talk you a second?
Boss: Um, sure.
Me: No, not here. In your office.

That's right, I had some stuff to say damnit and I'm not doing it out in a parking lot. Professionalism, what? Point - Marlee

Me: "First of all, if there has been any comment that has been made, I deeply apologize for it. Never at any time while I have been here have I even remotely thought I was being out of line. I guarantee you I have never over-shared anything about myself with a client, and I pride myself on that. Can you give me an example of what was said?"
Boss: "Well it's just hearsay from staff."
Me: "Have I ever said anything inappropriate to you?"
Boss: "No."
Me: "Well then I'm sorry, but I can't recall saying anything inappropriate to anyone else either. I really need to know what it is so I can fix it."
-Skip to the point, basically I had told a staff member I thought I had been pregnant once, but I wasn't, but I was glad my boyfriend reacted excitedly rather than upset. However, that particular comment was said after a pregnant woman (in a group of five other pregnant women) asked if I planned on ever having kids. I replied with, "Maybe someday. I thought I was once, but I wasn't. I'm glad my boyfriend was excited about it though!"

I apologized and explained maybe this comment was out of line, but it was after working hours, and I was probably just trying to fit in. 90% of the conversations in our office are about being pregnant, raising kids, giving birth. I figured I'd never be able to say anything as inappropriate as an employee describing her sister's C-section in extreme detail, so I said the one thing I thought I remotely had in common with these women. Plus, hey, they asked.
Boss: That's understandable.
Me: "Second of all, if there is anything I have worn or done that has been deemed unprofessional, I need to know what it is. This is the first time this has ever been mentioned to me during the 10 weeks I've been here, or at any job, for that matter. I don't have the money right now to go out and buy a brand new wardrobe, so I've been trying to make what I have work. I have also been basing what I wear on how I see other people dress in the office, so if my perception is off, or there is a specific article of clothing that is out of line, I need to know about it."
Boss: "Actually I think you dress really nice."
Me: "But you said earlier that I dress unprofessional..."
Boss: "Well, maybe your top."

(I was wearing a sweater with a tank top underneath. You could see roughly a 4-inch triangle of cotton fabric underneath the sweater, and the top 1/4 inch of the tank top was lace."
Me: "Is it too low cut?"
Boss: "No, not at all. I guess the top of it is kind of lacy?"
(Update: on the day she let me go, the other woman in the office was wearing an complete lace tank top layered under a lace sweater. Hmm...)
Me: "Nothing lacy. I can work with that. Third of all, I do know the DSM-IV. I know that book front to back, inside and out, cover to cover. I know every illness in there, where to look them up, and how to diagnose using the criteria. I don't know the codes off the top of my head yet, but I will learn them. I am not familiar with the (state treatment guidelines) because I was never oriented or trained on them.  Today was the first time I have heard of them. I have asked some employees and they mentioned something about some videos in the library. I've checked them all out and plan on spending tomorrow watching all of them.
Boss: "Absolutely. That's very proactive of you."
Me: "And lastly, I apologize if for some reason it appears that I am struggling to build rapport with these kids. In my job at the hospital, I am one of the best for building rapport. Other staff members here have praised my interview skills with the kids. Each evaluation has given me great feedback, and I've put that feedback into practice the next time.
Boss: "Well you were described as very scattered..."
Me: "Can you define 'scattered'?"
Boss: "Flipping from page to page of the assessment instead of following it exactly as it is written."
Me: "I don't understand. The counselor you had be observing did it that way."
Boss: "Who did you observe?"
Me: "Pocahontas (fake name)."
Boss: "Oh, shoot, that makes sense. Pocahontas has ADHD. She's very scattered. You were clearly taught a very disorganized way of doing things. I'll have you observe Mary Poppins later this week."
Me: "Thank you, I think that would be very useful."
Boss: "Well I'm glad you came back, this has shown a level of maturity I look for. I've never had anyone come back after I talk to them. They usually just avoid me the rest of the week."
Me: "Well I want to make sure I address whatever needs fixed immediately so neither one of us are wasting our time. See you tomorrow?"
Boss. "Yup. Okay."

And then I burned the building to the ground.

Okay I made that last part up, but if I were reading someone else's "ass-chewin" story and they ended it like that I would feel a little better. I still feel a bit off-kilter, I mean the woman told me I need to do some soul-searching to figure out if I can even make it in this field. That's a bit harsh. Plu,s when I did ask for details, she seemed to be grasping at straws. If I'm failing in my job I want specifics, not generalizations.

And while I'm still liable to break down into tears any second now, the point is this: I defended myself for what I thought needed defending, I asked for specific feedback instead of settling with generalizations, and I found a way to measurably improve the skills I was lacking in. I still feel like crap, (I'm sure no one ever feels good after someone tells them their completely inadequate) but hey, life goes on. I'm a bit scarred, and for the most part I won't be disclosing anything related to myself to any staff member for a good, long time. They can just think of me as some nomad or drifter with a counseling license for all I'm concerned.

Please tell me someone out there has been through something like this? Preferably someone who did burn the building down?

Blogging Hints Catch a Wave Wednesday


  1. I think you handled that very well! I think I would have actually burned the place down, lol.

  2. Good on you for taking it back to the boss! I think you did exactly the right thing! and well done for not burning the building down!!

    Thanks for linking to the Creating Success Worldwide blog hop!! Hope you'll come back again next week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  3. During an interview for a job once, the interviewer went through my resume line by line, telling me why each sentence would never get me a job. It was brutal.

    Two days later, she offered me the job.

  4. I think you did awesome personally!! Had I of been your boss it would have greatly impressed me that you came back to clarify things & are improving on them! I'd have probably skipped right to the "burn the building down" part... ;) lol!!

  5. WAY TO GO! I was reading this post SO into it that I forgot I wasn't reading a fiction novel. :) First of all you are an excellent writer. Take pride in that. I don't know how old you are, but i'm 27, and I would have a VERY hard time doing what you did. I think i'm a mature person but what you did showed maturity beyond your YEARS and your boss will always and forever remember y'alls conversation... that took guts, pride, humility, and basically girl--down here in the south we would call that "Balls to the wall"! I hope you know what that means otherwise I look like a freak. lol! PROUD of you. Proud FOR you! You did awesome. I'm not the girl that burns down the building... i'm the one that runs and hides for eternity.

  6. ouch. Been there. I had a boss once that wanted me to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe that day but was unwilling to give me a clothing allowance. I was very ticked off. I told him that my budget would not allow me to do that, thanked him for his time, and quit. I got phone calls each day for weeks asking me how to do different aspects of my job until I called the boss and told him that either he needed to hire me with a clothing allowance or figure it out for himself. I felt validated but it was probably less than mature:)

    The Tuckerbag

  7. Wow, girl! You are very brave, smart, AND mature!!! I would have just tucked tail and ran. Gone somewhere dark, small, and quiet and licked my wounds!! And I'm not sure I would have even had the guts to go back to work, let alone confront Cruella! Proud of you!!

  8. New follower. When you get the chance please follow me back..

  9. wow, what an incredible story! i don't think i would ever be able to be that brave, but it definitely paid off for you! definitely a good story to keep in mind when something like that happens to me and i just want to hide and cry, haha :)

  10. Sounds like how I deal with my own boss from time to time. Makes me glad I'm not the boss.

    Following you now via the Wednesday blog hop.

    When you get a chance, come visit.


  11. What a great response to your boss. Makes me wish I was able to act so grown up. When my boss chews me out I just close my office door and sulk. And maybe go out and cry in my car. Or throw something. But I have a really hard time defending myself. I've done it, once with my current boss, and I wanted to throw-up afterwards. But I *think* it might have been the 1st time he actually heard what I was telling him.

    Good for you!

  12. Exceptional! How to turn coal into diamonds! By asking for specifics, you absolutely nailed it. Congratulations!

  13. Kudos for you to have the strength of character to go back to your boss and address all of those issues!

    Now.... after you observe Mary Poppins, if your boss complains about your flying away with an umbrella, I'm going laugh myself silly!

  14. Well done! At one job I had my boss always refused to acknowledge that we would bust our asses to make a great night of work (both for customers and for profit) and one day I told him flat out that the lack of morale in our workplace coule be placed on the fact that he never gave ANYONE in the place a "good job" or "well done", ESPECIALLY when we would work our asses off. He was stunned to say the least but from that day on he would tell us what a great job we did on a brutal night. (I came to find out after I left that he let that fall by the waist-side....)

    Very well done. NO job is worth you not being able to have your own voice and you should be damned proud you brought that to her attention with both professionalism and maturity.

  15. Ouch, that was harsh. But you did handle the situation very well, I think.

    I've once had my professor tell me I was unable to think logically and therefore would never graduate. He said it with the most sincere tone, and I went home for two weeks (that was right before christmas) and thought about what he had said and if he was right. And then I came back, wrote my diploma thesis and graduated, everything with a big smile on my face. (It has to be said, we hated each other, even before that.)

  16. WOW. Good for your for going back and having that conversation with her. The line of work you are in is NOT an easy one, and definitely does not suit every person that strives for it. BUT, just from what you've said, I think you're doing a killer job. I hope your boss (and what seem to be catty coworkers) realize that soon! :)

  17. "Its a poor workman that blames his tools".

    Your boss is the one responsible for making sure new staff are trained and inducted into their roles in full knowledge of workplace expectations. You are not a mind reader.

    And since when is crushing and demoralising staff good management practice? You are generous in calling it a 'direct' approach. TRY: workplace bully.

    Like all bullies she will respect you now that you have stood up to her.

    As I recall, you grew up with a bully in your home? Here is the bit of your life where that abuse stands you in good stead. Bring it on world! No one messes with Marlee!

  18. Marlee, you are the woman!!! I am very NOT IMPRESSED with the way your boss handled that. It sounds like she based everything on bits and pieces of hearsay and didn't back up anything she said with fact. I'm so sorry you had to go through that and am so proud of you for going back and sticking up for yourself. It sounds to me like you deserve your job and a raise, to boot. Your feeling to burn down the building is totally valid; I like your fight. I think it helps make you awesome at what you do and what you have chosen to become. And your residual feelings of what happened, I think, come with any confrontation like you have experienced. But know, you made your points and I'm sure gave your boss something to think about for a long time.


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