Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Of Worth And Value"

((This blog is second in a four-part series "Attitude Problem"))

I don't really write about it here in this blog, but people who know me in person know that I am a very politically-minded individual. One of my strongest-held beliefs is that everyone is created equal and deserves to be treated with a certain basic level of dignity and respect. I believe this holds true whether someone is rich or poor, regardless of the color of their skin, if they're a man or woman, gay or straight, etc., etc., etc. I try to carry this attitude with me everywhere I go and it occasionally gets me into trouble. My workplace--excuse me, 'former workplace'--is one of those places.

There is a belief held by some in power that, because they are in positions of authority, they are more important than the people who work for them. Sometimes they think they are more important because they make more money. Sometimes they are just egoists. This is not a perspective I respect. I don't want to get into a long diatribe on management techniques, but it's always seemed to me that you should treat the employees under you well. People who are treated well are more productive workers. People who are treated like shit respond accordingly. Every person doing a job is a valuable part of an organization, from the CEO all the way to the janitor. Failure to recognize that inevitably leads to others being treated as less-than.

The job I did is one of those positions that isn't thought of as important. To make matters worse, it was lumped in with numerous others which required a different skill-set, making my job technically interchangeable with positions which are actually unrelated. The way it was supposed to work was everyone could theoretically do everyone else's job if the need arose. In reality, while I could do others' jobs, they didn't have the training or experience needed to do mine. It was great for management, though; they could mix and match us to their heart's content. And they did so, never understanding the effect this had on their employees' morale: each of us being told by management's actions that what we do is so unimportant that were interchangeable. We aren't seen as skilled workers, we are seen as cogs in a machine, unthinking robots, to be pulled out and plugged in wherever our superiors felt like putting us. It's a recipe tailor-made for feeling less-than, which of course only helped management's ingrained concept that we were.

As part of my job, I coordinated with a lot of people, inside the company and out. The people I actually worked with recognized my skills. They knew that I was very good at what I did, and they understand how important it is to have someone good at what I do in my position. When I was feeling unappreciated, they were the ones who helped to lift me up and remind me that what I do IS important. My superiors sensed this attitude from me, my pride in my job and in my skills, and would shake their heads, unable to understand where I got this over-inflated opinion of myself. It had once been my hope that my superiors would see my skills, see my intelligence and my potential, and want to teach me more, maybe move me up in the company. Instead, they tried again and again to teach me that I'm just a mindless cog and couldn't understand why I wouldn't just accept it.

Some see this attitude of mine as an attitude problem. In my active addiction, and before I had the experience I do now of working the program, it was a problem. I didn't see myself as a person of worth and value, I saw myself as Special, which is a whole other issue entirely. As in, "how dare you treat me like that--don't you know who I am?!?!" Yeah. This is an attitude borne out of insecurity. Because I didn't love myself inside, I tried to demand others treat me as special. I didn't know how to love myself, so I overcompensated by trying to make others fill that void. This is a codependent pattern, by the way.

Since I've started my Recovery, I have been learning how to meet that internal need. I've been learning that I am a person of worth and value. I've been learning that I do have good qualities and skills and that, while I do deserve to have those recognized, I can't make others recognize them. It's been a process of establishing boundaries, of knowing what I do and don't have to do, of gradually insisting through my own conduct that others in my life treat me as a person, and value me honestly for the qualities I deserve to be valued for. One of those boundaries was insisting that I be allowed to do the job I have, and not something else.

When it became clear that I'd be losing my job, the first person I called actually was my dad. (Talk about doing something different!) I told him that I hadn't spent the past two years learning all these things to just throw them away. He agreed with me and supported me in my decision. I almost cried.

Some of my coworkers have looked askance at me for this decision. I've been told to 'just play their game' and that I should have just done the task they told me to do, to take the money and run. But, in this case, self-respect was a lot more important to me than money. Some people may think I'm stupid for this choice. Some people may think I'm still stuck in that thinking I'm special place. They are entitled to their opinions. For myself, I knew what I had to do and in this case it was to stand up for myself and for the fact that I'm very good at what I do. If this makes me 'uppity', then so be it. Yes, it would have been illegal for me to do the task they'd assigned me to, but I know my stance here has very little to do with that fact.

I'm not interested in changing the world. I'm not even trying to change the attitudes of my superiors. They don't see me or what I do as important, and that's fine. They don't see it as important that the work I do gets done correctly, and that's fine too. They get to make the decisions and they get to live with the consequences of them. For me, I get to stand up for myself. I am not a cog in a machine, or a robot. I am not an interchangeable non-person. I am not less-than or more-than, I'm just a human being, and I deserve to be treated as such.

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