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."
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?"
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?