Saturday, June 30, 2012

I did what?

Something happened a few days ago and it pleased me as well as bothered me.  A lot.

I went out for drinks a few times with some coworkers.  They initiated each time.  I was trying to be social and not appear stuck up, which is a common complaint about me.  The problem is if I say nothing, I am "stuck up" and "too good" to talk to anybody.  If I say something, it is construed as nasty or condescending.  So when they first asked me to join them, I faced a tough decision:  Say "no" and be called "too good" to join them, or say "yes," have a miserable waste of time, and still be bad-mouthed.  As you may have concluded based on the readings here, I am not good at politics in the workplace.

Having someone at work who doesn't hate me would be nice.

I survived three outings.  I was so good, or at least I thought I was.  Most people love to talk about themselves, so I gently steered their talk to topics and let the pontifications take over the evening.  My responses were limited to, "I see," and "Tell me more."  No judgments.  Nothing of substance from me except about the weather:  "The weather today was beautiful."  None of these people were perfect, and neither am I, and it was only drinks after work.  Nothing to stress about, right?  Wrong as usual.

Last week, a coworker who was unable to join us asked me who else had gone.  I told him.  According to a woman we'll call "Aimee," I ommitted her name from the list.  Aimee confronted me a few days ago, accused me of the ommission, and asked over and over, "I just want to know why."

I vaguely recalled the brief exchange with the other coworker.  "If I didn't mention your name, it was not on purpose."  I could tell by her tone as well as her raising the subject that nothing was going to satisfy her.

"IF?" she snorted.  "So now he's lying?" 

See how they twist my words?

"I didn't say anyone was lying," I proceeded cautiously.  "How can I fix this?"

"You can't!" she screamed back, loud enough for anyone and everyone to witness that I was making yet another person very unhappy.  "I am so offended.  And all the people I told, they are also so offended for me."

Great.  She had told a bunch of other people and was now reaching others live through her screaming.  I had to contain this.  "Do you want me to tell the other person that I accidentally did not mention your name and that you were indeed present?"

"He knows I was there.  I had already told him I was there.  That's why he and I were both so offended when you didn't say that I was there."  She stood there staring/glaring at me, brows furrowed, shaking her head in disbelief.

Why don't I get to be the offended party?  Her complaint was ridiculous.  If the coworker was already told who was there, why did he ask me?

I wasn't going to win or even spin this into quietness.  I had to leave the area.  "Thank you for letting me know this," I said as flatly as possible.  "I have to get back to my floor."  I smiled after I turned away.  A big smile; I couldn't help it.  I could hear Aimee screaming about me as I walked, but I was happy and thankful.  Why?  Because I can see the situation more clearly now.  None of my coworkers likes me.  Nobody.  Most are outright rude, so I know that they are dangerous.  The confusing area for me is the murkiness of the others who either appear neutral or even friendly.  I must now hold all of them at a distance.  I don't have to attempt to socialize, appear nice, try to be a "team player."  They not only won't think better of me, they will despise me even more.  Aimee may have had mild feelings of dislike for me, but my attempts to socialize with her turned her dislike into hatred.

Was I forewarned?  In a way, yes.  Based on the stories that Aimee told me, she enjoyed drama in her otherwise vacant life.  That is why I was so cautious with her.  I don't feel that the errant listing was the real cause of her strife.  She wanted an excuse to go off on me and create the drama she craves.  Her explosion not only helps me see other coworkers for who they are, but also relieved me of another conflict I was having.  Aimee has several life events planned for the rest of the year, which probably contribute to her stress:  she is having a baby and getting married and buying a house.  This does not excuse her bad behavior.  I was concerned that I had to give her [expensive] gifts for all of these events, lest I be considered unfriendly.  Her severence of our fragile tie means that I don't have to give her anything.  This was another reason why I was happy.

I am bothered by her explosion because I don't know how far she will take this perceived slight.  If she tells her story of great offense just as she told it to me, she will sound ridiculous to a normal person.  But we don't work with normal people.  They don't need the facts; they just need the hurt feelings to run around and destroy me more.

Thank you for reading this rather long post.  It's not that I thought Aimee would be my new best friend.  She just caught me off-guard when I thought I was guarding myself well.

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