Just Because You’re Paranoid

You may have noticed my absence lately. It’s true. I have been disappeared from the fishbowl.

My work situation has become quite tenuous of late. So much so that I spent the entirety of last weekend finishing my online portfolio (I originally typed “portfolio” as “fort,” which is a much cooler thing to have online), so that I can look for jobs.

Last Friday in the week from hell, I was written up. Gasp!  No, my dears, ironically, not for slacking, but for my “unprofessional” attitude. In the signed copy of the memorandum, which they originally refused to give me, it says, “On a number of occasions Goldfish has communicated in an unprofessional manner with co-workers and management. It is expected that all dialogue will be respectful and in a number of instances you have been rude and defensive.”

Let’s just forget the missing commas and the fact that it switches from third-person to second-person voice, shall we?

Pshaw, you say! Well, it is partly true. While I haven’t been rude, I have been defensive. Even before I set foot in the door, I’ve felt like they’re out to get me. Let’s go back and do a little exposition, okay? This is the part in the movie where the color tone changes to sepia so we know it’s a flashback.

In the decade 2000, I was unemployed and looking for a job. In a desperate attempt to become gainfully employed, I accepted the only job that was offered to me, a decision I would come to rue that has led me to my current predicament over ten years later. I worked there for six or seven years, though I was woefully underpaid, because I am essentially lazy and it was a pretty chill job. I should have gotten out right away, but I didn’t.

The industry I work in is very incestuous. It’s like the mafia in the sense that once you get in, it’s hard to get out. It’s a very small world. People move around from company to company all the time. A vendor I used to work with visited me three times in six months, each time handing me another business card for a different company. It’s just the same people moving around.

At the job that I took because I was desperate–let’s call it company A–my boss was a guy I got along with mostly, even though he loves to chit-chat and chit chatting is not really my thing. His mother and brother also worked there (see what I mean about incestuous?). Eventually, that company was sold to a larger company–company B–and I was laid off. I became redundant.

I figured this was my chance to get out of the stupid industry once and for all, but remember… mafia. The former VP of A saw the writing on the wall and started his own business–company C–a year or so before everything went down. A few months after I was laid off, he called me up and asked if I was still looking for work. His art director, who I also worked with at A, was leaving. It was a step up from graphic designer to art director and it was also a job, which I was rather short on at the time, so I took the job at C.

Company C turned into an alright place to work. I got raises (A had no idea what a raise even was). There were Christmas bonuses and holiday lunches and an office. I was relatively happy at C as it was way better than A.

Four years later, C was also sold. In another example of small worldness, C was sold to the very same company that bought A, company B. I was sold with it like a cow. The owner of B made me part of the deal, because he liked what I was doing and wanted to continue doing it.

From the minute I set foot on the premises of B, it was made painfully clear that B’s owner, who lives on the other side of the country and is rarely in the west coast office, would be my only ally. They took my office away and stuck me in a cubicle, which they didn’t even clean out beforehand. I had to spend half a day cleaning out someone else’s belongings from my new cubicle. They didn’t even help me carry my stuff in.

It was bad from the start. Because B bought both A and C, there were a lot of familiar faces–everyone who didn’t get laid off when I did. My former boss and his mother were there.

When A was bought, I went off to C where I got a promotion to art director and developed my own particular style, which worked. There were record sales. Everyone was happy with me and my work. Company B’s owner stipulated that I was part of the deal. Had I refused to move to B, he might not have bought C.

In the meantime, my former boss moved from company A to B where he continued doing the same stagnant crap that he has been doing since the 1990s.

After I moved to B, we had a departmental meeting where the owner told us what was expected of each of us and he said that I would report to boss’ mom, not former boss, since former boss and I were now equals.

Former boss had a really hard time accepting that I had moved on, become successful and was now his equal. He has never once treated me like an equal. He treats me like his subordinate. Even though we run autonomous, parallel departments, he meddles in my work. Worst of all, my actual boss (and his) is his mother. There’s really no question where her loyalties lie.

For six months now, out of spite or jealousy or whatever reason, former boss and mom have been subtly sabotaging me. They have meetings about my work without me. They have made decisions that directly impact my job and then don’t tell me about it. They changed the numbering system on me without telling me about it for nearly two weeks, so I had to redo the numbering on everything when a project was ready to go to the printer, thereby causing it to be late. They killed my email address and didn’t tell me about it for a week. I only knew about it, because I asked IT why I wasn’t getting any email.

At first, I thought I was just being paranoid, but just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean that someone’s not out to get you.

Last Friday, they showed their hand by writing me up. Even though former boss is not my boss, he was in on the meeting–two against one–and his name was also listed on the memo they forced me to sign.

I saw no reason that former boss should be all up in my shiznit. I saw no reason that he should have an office and a parking spot, while I was in a cubicle and have to walk a block and a half. I saw no reason that he should be telling me anything at all really, since officially, he has no sanctioned involvement in my work. So, yeah, for a while, I was defensive about all of this. I let it bother me.

In the write-up memo, it also says, “Verbal coaching has not corrected this concern,” which is a veiled way of saying that I had already been given a verbal warning. In California, before you fire someone, you have to give them one verbal warning and two written warnings. I looked it up. That sentence implies that there was already a verbal warning, which there was not. But according to that, all they need is one more written warning and they can fire me.

I demanded a copy of the memo, which by law, they were required to give me when I signed it, but didn’t. I responded to it on my lunch hour, sentence by sentence, point by point. It theoretically lives in my personnel file along with former boss and mom’s bullshit assertions.

I had already started building my online portfolio before I got written up, but that memo was just the fire under my butt that I needed to finish it. So, last weekend, I got my portfolio done and I have been applying for jobs.

Something happened when I read their bullshit memo though. I stopped caring whether my former boss is acting like my boss. I stopped caring that he has an office and I don’t. I stopped being defensive, because I realized that I don’t want this job anyway. I just want out.

This week, former boss and mom gave me five new projects. Five. I don’t even have time to finish the one that is my actual job. Because of this, I have a feeling that the next write up will be for lack of productivity. So, I have been doing my job, kids. I haven’t surfed the internet. I haven’t written anything on here. I have been keeping my head down and nose to the grindstone, which has suddenly gotten ridiculously more labor intensive to the point where it’s impossible to get all the work done that they ask of me, even without any slacking.

My only hope is that I can find a new job before they fire me. Maybe I can find a job without any nepotism. Maybe I can get out of this stupid industry once and for all. Fingers crossed.