Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bossy Non-Boss

I was so upset this afternoon that I was physically shaking.  I immediately walked off the jobsite, phoning my boss and telling her that I would not work in the same house with Bitsy ever again.

One of the things, if not the one thing I detest and resent most in the world is being talked down to.  Being treated like an idiot or run roughshod over verbally by anyone--but particularly by someone who hasn't legitimate moral or social superiority to do so--feels like a cheese grater is being rubbed on my soul.

Bitsy is a relatively new colleague who has been with us for six or eight months.  She's a hard worker, with a good eye for "staging" (arranging items for sale in an attractive, eye-catching and organized way), and the fact that she's a morning person and I'm a night owl has been complementary in making sure that a lot of work gets done throughout the day--I'm coming in fresh as she's slowing.

Bitsy's talkative.  Extremely so.  She never says one word when five will do.  She frequently apologizes for going on and on, but her loquaciousness doesn't bother me--I just treat the word stream as background noise, and the nervous giggling which punctuates it as its own laugh track.  She is some twenty years older than me, the adoptive mother of an adolescent girl with various learning and social challenges, about which I know she is under stress.  These things were not the source of the friction between us.

To a certain extent, all of us are Type-A personalities--that we are conscientious estate sale workers in the DC area virtually guarantees this.  But I started noticing just a couple of months after she joined us that Bitsy was not just opinionated, she was downright bossy and unconscious of stepping on others' toes, and I occasionally had to step in to smooth ruffled feathers when she said something particularly bullying to one of our other colleagues.  Frequently, I would volunteer to work near her in place of someone else, so that her constant talking wouldn't drive them crazy.

One weekend this fall, both my boss and I (traditionally her second in command, because the others deferred to my four years' experience) were out of town, and Bitsy was given the management of a sale.  The power must have gone to her head, because ever since, I felt her presume primacy, speaking several times a day as our boss's official mouthpiece, and using her early keyed access to several locations as a sort of carte blanche for running the show, rather than behaving as if it were the team effort it must be.  I let this run off my shoulders, deciding to live in peace, but quickly becoming more and more grateful that I was leaving the business soon.

A couple of days ago, my boss said, "You're going to miss us when you're down in Georgia, aren't you?" And I smiled, and laughed.  She said, "That laugh sounded a little too hearty." I replied, carefully, "I am going to miss you, a lot.  But Bitsy is driving me insane."  "Why?" my boss said, surprised.  "She is bossy when she doesn't need to be bossy," is all I would say.

And then today, the straw that broke the camel's back.  I was working with another, much younger, colleague, and had encouraged her to do some pricing she was well-equipped to handle (which I told her, honestly, I didn't know beans about).  And Bitsy came in, announced in a grand fashion (like Moses handing down the tablets) that our boss had told her what she wanted done, and that I shouldn't have anything to say about it, and imperiously ordered the young colleague (herself a mother of a disabled child) away from her task, interrupting me.  I was appalled.

I can't express myself verbally when I am excited, and all I could think was, "I've put up with this enough--I am not being paid so poorly to be treated like a doormat by someone who's not even my senior!"  So, I left.

Ironically, as the young reassigned colleague in question later texted me, further along in the afternoon Bitsy made her finish the task from which she'd suddenly taken her, as there was no one else to do it, so no gross progress was made. 

My sweet boss, who got to the worksite house an hour later (having put me to work at her own house tagging and pricing jewelry--a task that was to take until almost midnight), failed to address the root of the problem, which was Bitsy's ongoing usurpation of authority and unwarranted bossiness, and so two hours after the incident I got a insincere apology via text from Bitsy for her "apparently" "snapping" at me, along with a longwinded excuse to the effect that she has "a lot going on."  Big whoop.  Who doesn't?  I told my boss later (trying to translate the situation into her vernacular) that it was like someone had kicked the boss's beloved dog and then sent her a half-hearted apology for "seeming to" have drunk one of her Cokes, with the excuse that he'd been really thirsty. 

When I left this evening, my boss begged me repeatedly to come to work tomorrow: "I really need you!"  But I reiterated that I won't when Bitsy's there.  I don't trust her.  And, thank God, I don't have to put up with the situation, even if my dear boss doesn't have the backbone to rectify it.  I am concerned, though, that I'm not the only one being driven crazy (I don't *think* I'm merely superimposing my feeling of personal insult onto the whole)--my other coworkers, being less inhibited than I, will probably eventually either just quit entirely or royally ream Bitsy out, neither of which is good for the company or for team spirit.  It's not my business (or my business), I have to remind myself.  But I do hate to see a good crew destroyed from within.  Argh.  Lesson in humility.


Diana Papazian said...

Well, considering you are leaving, this could be a good opportunity to write an e-mail to your boss after you say your official goodbyes. Get it off your chest, you'll feel better!

KYP said...

I forgave her, in writing, before I left town, and instantly felt better, and considerably lighter-hearted. Good not to have that hanging over either of our heads during Thanksgiving!