Learning Experience — Part III
Karina, to her credit, was incredibly supportive during this time. She texted and emailed me to see how I was doing and said she would support whatever decision was best for me: to bow out of my job and take care of my health or to make a slow return to work. I told her that I wanted to return to my position.
Constrained by limited days and hours set by my psychiatrist, settling back into work was difficult for me. I worked from home for a few weeks, a pain in my rear end in which I grew lonely and missed being around coworkers. Not only that but the agency was not set up adequately to easily work from home. My fellow editor had to run between her desk at the back of the office to the scanner at the front of the office to send me paper-based work all day. Electronic comments were relegated to workers off-site. Track changes in Word docs were something only external clients did; without anyone saying anything out loud, it was frowned upon internally. Employees rarely did it.
From the end of September to the end of January, I took leave and made a slow transition back into a normal workweek. Once I made the transition back into the office, coworkers were extremely glad to see me come back. The comfortable working relationship I had longed for since the beginning of my tenure there was finally realized. I came back to hugs (from the women) and emphatic, friendly hellos (from the guys).
However, I did have one concern about my leave and it was something that I obviously could not control: that my temporary departure would give Karina the upper hand in determining what I could and couldn’t do. She was finally the one in the dominant position now because I was not “up” on what was going on in the agency. I feared she might leverage this against me now that I was in vulnerable position.
My fears, unfortunately, came true. I began working full-time again at the beginning of February, looking forward to jumping back into a normal work routine and putting my best foot forward for my coworkers and the company’s clients. (I know it sounds cheesy, but I’m very much a humanitarian: trying to better the world around me through my efforts.)
At the beginning of January, my boss wanted me to stick to a half-day schedule in the afternoons. Due to various appointments and scheduling conflicts, I couldn’t strictly adhere to that so I always asked her beforehand if I could come in early and leave early or slightly adjust my schedule. I made the mistake one time of showing up early and unannounced and received a lecture for being inconsistent with my hours and people not knowing when I would arrive or depart. Treading lightly, I began to defer to her judgment and “wisdom” in areas that would require me to arrive early. I asked tentatively, “There is a staff meeting tomorrow at 10. I am scheduled to arrive at 12. How would you like me to handle this situation?” Technically, I could’ve called into the meeting and arrived at 12, but she told me to come in early at 10. So I did.
During my part-time status, she assigned me to a new account that required guiding a freelance writer with my editorial expertise. The account was a near debacle internally. The writer flaked, leaving my boss to pick up the immense amount of work that he was supposed to do during the week and on weekends; the account required me to come in early and stay late—strictly against the hours my boss had set for me; and the client was demanding, requesting quick turnarounds later in the day that required working into the evening.
One day, my boss asked me if I were willing to stay late to get work done. I said yes. I was fully prepared to stay late. According to my boss, she gave me the option of taking work that had already been given to a freelance editor or tackling the job for which I was to stay late. Thinking that it didn’t make sense to take work away from someone who was already in the midst of it, I opted for the evening job. (Later, I learned from my boss that she had just given the job to the freelance editor and it would’ve been easy to take the project away from her. Wish I’d known that at the time.)
This is Part III of a 6-part series of posts. To read Part IV, click here.