Monday, November 18, 2013
Call me when you're ready to rise up
I’m not exactly sure what the triggers are, but I know that once it starts, I find it harder to be Nice Jody and get increasingly intense in all my workplace and social interactions. Paul calls it my “looming” stage, based on my habit of projecting my intensity onto whoever I might be talking with. Usually it makes them quite nervous.
I think the mood starts to kick in when I've been long enough in a job that I can see where mistakes are being made while also recognizing my inability to do anything about that. Twenty years ago when I experienced my first intensity surge, it drove me into management in the belief that I could affect change by getting higher up the ladder. I quickly learned that things are even more intense in the higher ranks and you still don’t have the power to change anything, so now I usually just push hard from whatever position I occupy until I run screaming from the building (metaphorically speaking).
The most memorable manifestation of it was when I was at PEERS Victoria. About two years in, I was so deeply frustrated with the lack of options for participants and the stupid, stupid things that were said about sex workers that I always seemed to be pinning somebody up against the wall while I sounded off about everything that was wrong with everything.
I’m entering that same phase now in my Honduras work. I used to be content to slip in a well-planned word every now and then about the importance of good workplace practices in creating productive, effective employees who feel valued (a bug-bear of mine on behalf of my Honduran co-workers). But today I found myself going into a near-rant about it at the Monday morning devotional, triggered by a slightly smirky little U.S. video that one of the administrators showed about battling the “virus” of bad attitudes in the workplace.
I guess a rant is a positive sign that I’m feeling more comfortable in Spanish, but I did see the vaguely alarmed looks on my co-workers’ faces that I recognize as the sign of Going Too Far. I saw the same look on the faces of hapless friends who had the misfortune to ask me how things were going at PEERS during my last few months.
In the latter case, the source of my frustration was pretty much the whole wide world. In the case of Honduras, it’s the widespread disregard for basic workers’ rights. I’m not a big union advocate in general, but I feel as fired up as a Scottish trade unionist when I contemplate the work practices in Honduras, chief among them the complete lack of job security and the flat-line wages that doom even full-time workers to a life of scrambling. Going unpaid is also a strikingly common problem in the country, as is being ordered to work 7 days a week.
So off I went about all of it this morning. I think it was pretty pointless. Nobody chimed in, even though they’re all just 3 weeks away from receiving the standard letter every one of them gets every December telling them that their contract is over. (Some will get a new contract. Some won’t.)
The worst of this stage for me is that once you feel too intensely about something, you lose your ability to talk about it convincingly with people who just aren’t there yet. And on this particular subject, nobody’s there yet.
Now what? Oh, the mood will come and go over these last 4 months at my job, and I’ll alternate between ranting and keeping to myself in order not to rant. And then I’ll leave, and later have only this blog to remind me of how crazy-making it is to want something more for people than they want for themselves.