Evidence from the office

I wanted to write down a few examples of things that have happened recently at work, things I might want to remember for the assessment. You could call it evidence:

I avoid answering telephones as much as possible, however occasionally at work no one else is around and I’m required to pick up someone else’s phone. Often when I do it’s easy enough: “No sorry so-and-so isn’t around, who’s calling please, if you leave me your number I’ll get them to call you back.” Simple. But sometimes they chose to talk to me or leave a long winded message and this is where it gets tricky: I often can’t follow or understand what they’re saying, I try to write it down but they talk so fast! I know I should be asking questions but I don’t know what to ask and I feel too embarrassed to ask them to slow down because I’m doing my best professional-act and that would totally blow it apart. I’m just about managing to make the right noises and pretend to understand but really I don’t. I might get away with it on the phone, but then I have to relay the message… Now suddenly my boss, or whoever the call was for, is asking a barrage of questions about the call, which of course I don’t know the answers to because I couldn’t think of the right questions to ask. In fact I can barely articulate what the person  wanted or meant, and I start getting all tongue tied and actually, I want to cry because I feel so stupid and pressurised and I know my boss is feeling frustrated with me. It also turns out the person may have actually been cold calling, but I couldn’t tell, I guess I’m gullible and he sounded really enthusiastic and it feels like he was talking about something really important. But I feel stupid for not being able to tell whether it was genuinely important or just someone selling. At home I usually operate on a “trust no one and say no to everything” basis so no one can take me for a ride, but that’s not appropriate at work.

This sort of thing happens often. The problem is because I sound confident and competent people expect more of me, they think I actually am confident and competent! But it’s all blagging, I blag my way through work A LOT, pretending to understand and “get” things when I really don’t.

The current situation with my boss is frustrating. I usually concentrate my efforts on trying to understand the gist of what people want or are asking me to do, then I can often work the details out for myself later or ask for clarification once I start working. I  also make comprehensive notes so that I can decipher what is being asked of me afterwards, since I don’t seem to be able to process things quick enough when people are talking to me. These techniques have worked for me throughout my working life. But my boss is so insanely busy and under so much pressure these days that when she wants something from me, she talks so fast at me that a) I can’t keep up and follow what she’s saying and b) I can’t write everything down either. Also she’s not really around for me to seek clarification from later so it really stresses me out. I know she needs to be able to tell me once and then for me to come back a week later with everything done. I find it extremely hard to work that way. So yes, a diagnosis would come in handy at work, I don’t feel happy asking for accommodations with an official diagnosis and I sometimes wonder how on earth I manage to hold onto my job.

Also with work when something goes wrong I don’t know how to tackle things without coming across as blunt and disagreeable, I don’t know how to resolve things in  a grown up way. I just don’t, I’m in awe of people who can. I feel like I can’t get the tone right, I feel so frustrated when things aren’t working that I worry I’ll start to cry if I do try to say something, and that would be incredibly embarrassing. I then get mad at myself for saying nothing and letting people walk all over me or take me for granted.

At work I’m the data person and rarely need to interact with people outside my team, and since they’re all on the nerdy side I get on with them well, I think I do anyway. But a few weeks ago we had a delegation of Chinese statisticians over and I was actually called upon to be back up in a meeting in case they had any questions (I’m thrilled to say they didn’t!). It was an interesting experience, but while other people were nervous about the presentation I was thrown by the change of routine, having to get a taxi, leaving my desk. I worried about finding my way around the building where the meeting was held because it’s like a maze and I have poor sense of direction. When my colleague disappeared to sort out the IT I was left in the meeting room on my own, it was getting close to the meeting starting and she still hadn’t returned. I didn’t know what on earth to do! Should I stay and wait, go looking for her and risk getting lost in the building and stuck between two sets of doors that require a pass to open them? I was way out of my depth. I realised how reliant I was on my colleague to look after me and see me right, but she was expecting me to behave like a grown up who could look after herself and be independent and use my initiative. Wrong!

Meeting the Chinese delegates was fine, they didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak Chinese so it wasn’t on me to make conversation or keep conversations going. I just stood around looking polite and smiling a lot. It was fine.

Professionally in general, well I don’t have a practiced work or business persona the way I have a practiced everyday-person persona. I really don’t know how to conduct myself around “business types”. There seems to be an additional set of rules when networking around what topics you can talk about, what’s considered professional and what isn’t. And because the world of business never held any interest for me, I was never interested in learning those rules either. Problem is, I do work in an office environment, but as a researcher, so I’m very much in the background and happy about it. It means my chances of career progression are next to nothing though as people don’t notice me and tend to take me for granted. But I’m straying off topic here, occasionally people try and push me forward into the spotlight and that’s when I come totally unstuck. I feel like a ten year old in a room full of grown-ups, not sure if or when I’m supposed to speak, not sure how to address people.

Finally, for this post anyway as I’ve rambled on enough, I have a problem in meetings generally in that I really struggle to contribute. For one because I can’t keep up with what people are saying in the first place, they might as well be talking another language! But two; because even on the rare occasion there’s something I want to say, I can never tell when to interject and usually end up interrupting and talking over people. I can’t tell when there is an “in”. Things seem to flow with other people and they seem just to know when to speak. But not me. After so long I find myself zoning out when I know I shouldn’t. I really hate meetings.

4 thoughts on “Evidence from the office

  1. I have similar issues at work. We are also ‘required’ to pick up someone else’s phone, ‘required’ because it isn’t actually stated anywhere or made clear to me, another example of an unwritten rule that people are supposed to know and follow. I don’t understand why we don’t have voice mails installed because the ringing phones are such a distraction, especially when we have to physically go to the person’s desk to pick the phone up. Having said that, I usually avoid picking up others’ phone unless there is no one else around. That said, my problem with the phones is they are a source of distraction.
    Another problem I have is taking minutes of meeting. I was told to take in the ‘important’ points as if it was that easy to tell what the ‘important’ bits are. I especially hate meetings interspersed with small talk or things that are outside of the agenda as I can’t tell when does an ‘important’ point begins and ends. The team leader said I missed out on background information relevant to the point. The truth is I was just writing down what I heard without knowledge of the contextual background (in my defence, I don’t sit in all their meetings so I don’t have a full knowledge of the discussion). I really hate taking minutes for that reason, if only they were as straightforward as taking down what was actually said.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, totally with you on the voicemails, I only do the exact same job as a voicemail anyway when I do pick up someone’s phone, only I’m far worse at relaying the message! Much more sensible for people to use voicemails!
      I feel for you having to take minutes, that must be really hard deciphering what actually is important, I would be exactly the same!

      Liked by 1 person

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