June 26, 2007

Me and The Blues

It seems that a pall of negativity has taken up residence around here recently. No matter where I turn, someone is telling me how "horrible" their life has become. It seems to be stronger at work, thankfully, but even friends and family are focusing on the negative.
Now, as I've said before, I'm a big picture sort of guy. I don't fret about things I cannot control. But what do you say to people, especially co-workers, when they start up?

One guy's ex-wife is moving out of state, and taking their son with her. They had no real stipulations about this. He could have fought it, but the kid seems okay with it. So he is doing what he thinks is right for his son. But every day he works, he brings this up. Usually 2 or 3 times each day. And usually, I swing the conversation back to whatever task we have to do. In truth, I really do not care.
And that is I guess what is really bothering me. I find that I am really apathetic towards all my co-workers. Ironically, I am the one they come to first. Probably due in part to my position. Partly because I have never turned a deaf ear to anyone. Ever. And yet, I find my mind drifting away from the conversation and onto what tasks I can give them. And the longer I listen, the longer their task list becomes.

With family and friends, it's different. Maybe because I am more invested in the relationship. Maybe because I actually care what happens to them, since I am involved in some way? Maybe because I can give comfort and care to them.

Most of the time, co-workers are looking for a place to vent. At least that's what I tell myself. If someone asks for advice, I give it. But it's still sterile. Maybe clinical is a better choice of word. No matter how you slice it, I keep them at a distance.

Is this bad? Or evil? How do you handle work relationships? There are only two that I would even consider hanging out with. But my position could make things complicated in that they are subordinate at work, but not socially. It's lonely at the top.

Anyway, enough complaining. Right now it's midnight. Me and the blues.


Dubber said...

I should be working, but a migraine put me down for a few hours. Now that I'm out of my Relpax coma, I'm somewhat buzzed, but not about working.

Hmmm... work relationships. It was easier in the military. There were bright line rules, though I don't know anyone who followed them as strictly as dictated. I would take my senior NCOs to lunch on a fairly regular basis. It was a good way to pick their brains about what was going on in their shop, but you also got to know your NCOs, and they got to know you. Being engaged with the NCOs inspired loyalty, which I found to be one of the most rewarding aspects of command. I knew that if I needed something done, it was "yes sir!" not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

As far as fellow officers went, I was fortunate to have really great bosses (except one ass) and became friends with most. Those that were friends became mentors.

In the civilian world, it's less clear-cut. I've only had two bosses. I'm pretty good friends with my current boss, but we were friends before he became my boss. But again, he's also something of a mentor to me.

I don't think it has to be lonely at the top, but it's really dependent on the personalities. Some people can't make the distinction between personal and professional. Todd (my boss) and I had a chat about that when he became a manager. I think what helped in coming to our understanding was that I was once a "manager," so I was familiar with the challenges. And, it was gratifying that my friend, now my boss, would turn to me for advice on how to be a manager, since it was new territory for him. The irony is that while I get great annual ratings, they're not as high as what I got with my previous boss, probably because Todd knows I'm a lazy schmuck. ;)

Scott said...

I was thinking about former bosses that I've worked for, also. Maybe that's in part why I keep most at arm's length, since that is how I have been "trained". Even so, I cannot count how many times subordinates have come to me about their personal lives. At Rainforest Cafe, there was one girl (19 at the time) who wanted to talk to someone other than a parent about sexual issues with her boyfriend! I still blush just thinking about the specifics!

In one aspect it is nice to know that these people feel comfortable enough to talk to me. It's just I sometimes feel I should have been a bartender. Or a therapist.

Maybe I appear to have my shit together. Maybe I am too self-confident and they see that as a strength. Or maybe it simply fun to "bother" me so they don't have to do something. All I know is that out of 20 employees, 18 have come to me about some personal issue just this month!

And you're right about there being more loyalty and better teamwork. Still, I cannot shake that nagging feeling that someday I'll hear, "But I thought we were friends!?!", because I asked them to clean the toilets or something...

It's clearly about walking the tightrope and balance. For every statement I've made here, I give the dissenting view. Maybe that's also due in part to our litigious society.

Scott said...

BTW, is your comment time correct?

Do you "work" at 2:30 AM?!?

Dubber said...

19 year-old girl. Talking about sex. To you. Dude. I'll shut up. ;)

I think people come to you because 1) you're approachable and have your stuff together and 2) people assume that their bosses generally have their stuff together and as such, might have good insight as to how to solve life's little problems. After all, why does anyone buy a book from someone like Jack Welch, Lou Gerstner or Bob Lutz (loved his book Guts)? Because people think CEOs must know something that others don't; otherwise, how did they get to be CEO? The same could be said for a manager of a World Market. You represent the most approachable person who's demonstrated a level of success beyond their own, which implies you probably have your personal life in order, too. Scary idea, huh?

Of course, some of these people are simply trying to take advantage of your sympathy to get away with being a slacker. But I'm sure there are a few who genuinely like and admire you. Trick is to figure out who falls into which category. But, I wouldn't foreclose the opportunity to be a friend to some just because others are looking to take advantage of you.

And, yeah, regrettably, I was up until 3 a.m. finishing up a report I had to present later that day. Of course, it was Lisa's birthday yesterday, so I couldn't just lay around in bed while she got up at six to get ready for work. It was a somewhat painful day in terms of the sleep cycle.