Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Most Unflattering Resume

This has not been a good year for my library.  They've been assuaged by twin floodings that damaged some of their priceless historical ancient books that they were in the process of scanning.  Furthermore, the building continued to receive leaks from bad plumbing through the roof.  It got so bad that plastic coverings had to be added to the main floor, and the microwave was relocated to a drier place.  And just as they were getting ready to make restocked and organized books available to the public, it was discovered that the building was developing mold in the walls, and the owner wouldn't go out of his way to fumigate the area.  So the decision was made to pack up all the stuff we'd spent the past year organizing and move them to a new location, making all our efforts a Sisyphean ordeal.

To add to my woes, I've been suspended for behaving inappropriately at their new address.  The new place is markedly different from what I'm used to.  Unlike the previous location which had the majority of their archive in a storeroom that was cave-dark (no light other than fluorescent), the new place had open windows from all directions, making me feel rather nervous.  Even though I tried to concentrate on my task of putting the books back on the shelves, I still displayed actions that though rational to me, was considered rebellious and off-putting to everyone else.  The staff eventually grew tiresome of my antics, and had me sent home early.  Their confusion was understandable - they've never seen me when I'm nervous, so they had no idea how to react.  I'm perfectly fine when in a stable work environment, the key word being a "stable".  When I can adhere to a normal routine, there's no problem, but my schedule falls apart when things go slightly off kilter, and thus my co-workers become uneasy around my antics, and I've had to be let go because of these incidents.

Sadly this isn't the first time that I've been put on suspended leave.  All my past jobs have had instances where I've been fired or let go once my contract reached their end of term, despite my work ethics.  It wasn't pointed out until recently that there were little... HABITS of mine that were counterproductive to working in a work environment.  The thing was, I had NO IDEA that what I was doing was disruptive, simply because everybody was too polite (or scared) to tell me. Hence, I kept getting laid off with no understanding why, while people who were more sociable kept staying around, because they were less trouble.  Like a puppy diddling on the rug, I have to be caught and told what I'm doing is wrong, otherwise the lesson won't sink in.  Since then, I've been doing some intense training to try to wean myself off these reoccurring problems so that I won’t scare off any potential hiring clients who would be willing to keep me on the job.

But even with these programs in place, I still tend to make silly mistakes, simply because I have no inkling that I'm doing anything wrong.  Before that, I used to do the following behaviors that made me undesirable for repeat business.  It would've been helpful to know these facts beforehand, otherwise I might've not gotten me laid off so often.  Hopefully, these horror examples can prevent someone else from going down the path I did.

Getting Upset about being Shown my Mistakes

Pretty much no one likes to make a mistake, let alone admit that they'd made one.  However, my fault was that I would get visibly upset whenever anything I'd done wasn't done satisfactory, or to my employer's request.  Like if I'd done a spreadsheet with five layers, and I'd erroneously filled in four of them, I would get VERY MAD and actually scream and hit myself for allowing such a transgression for taking place to ensure that it wouldn't happen again.  While this cathartic behavior helped ensure some physical muscle memory in punishing myself to ensure that this wouldn't happen again, it played havoc with my employer's sensibilities, since they became shocked at my reaction and felt less inclined to give me more work.  Because of my harsh reaction to criticism, my productivity dropped to zero, since they couldn't find anything they'd want to give me without fear of a bad reaction.

Being a perfectionist, I would also be visibly upset whenever any mistakes were pointed out to me, and I would always lash out and yell at myself for overlooking such an obvious oversight.  This constant barrage of self-criticism meant that the people I was working with didn't like showing me the error of my ways, and eventually started giving me less and less work for me to do so I wouldn't be too upset.  Eventually, my work output was reduced to zero because my employers were worried about how I would react.  I've been taking lessons to restrain myself when receiving critical feedback.  It’s not easy resisting the impulse to instantly want to correct what little mishap I've done without listening to every little thing that I did wrong.  Also, I have a tendency to not wait until the speaker’s finished talking, and barrel along with my assumptions without hearing the end of their sentences.  It’s easier for me to receive written criticisms, because I can know when the conversation ends, and can go back and reread any passages I've skipped over, and not worry about having to memorize every single word I’m being told.

My tendency to be Bluntly Honest

I once said to a supervisor who was on a smoke break "YOU STINK".  At the time, I'd been told that so many times when I didn't feel like changing my clothes or taking a shower that I thought it was typical conversational fare.  That, and I was told I could talk to them about anything.  Not to mention that the smell of coffee and cigarettes drive me crazy.  (I'm no addict to the twin stimulants that's the fuel to every writer - give me a good chocolate bar any day)  Every instinct in my body tells me to "GET OUT", and the fact that I couldn't leave weighed heavily on me.

In addition, I’m notoriously honest about when I’m feeling upset, and make no bare bones to hide my disgust if my boss doesn't show the kind of intellect I expect them to be capable of.  I don’t like the idea of having to hide my feelings just to make people feel comfortable, and will shy away from saying “hello” first thing in the morning, when I’d rather be working.  One such instance was where I instantly jumped on my boss asking for advice on how they wanted the material done, THEN once I got my answer, I remembered the rules of civility and said “good morning”.

Personal Preferences Impeding upon Work Situations

When I was assigned to do some fact-checking, I argued against how they wanted me to do the job.  They didn't want me to use a pen for checking, because mistakes couldn't be easily erased.  Whereas, I tried to reassure them that I would be careful and not do any mistakes.  The conversation kept going in circles because I wouldn't back down from my position.  Truth was, I didn't want to use pencils, because I didn't like the feel of pencils, because the sensation of rubbing lead against paper always sent shivers down my spine,  very much like running fingernails on a chalkboard.  (Even the very thought of running my fingernails on a chalkboard makes my whole body in goosebumps, because I can't imagine how hard it would be on my fingertips)  Ironically enough, in Grade school, I was perfectly fine using pencils, and was reluctant to use pens, because I was worried about making mistakes.  Now that I've crossed over to the sleek use of pens, it's hard for me to switch back.  (I've now compensated by using soft lead pencils my sister uses for rough art drafts)

Mind Blindness

I have a tendency to be totally mindblind and open to the rookiest of rookie mistakes.  There was the time there was a fire drill, and everybody had to evacucate the building.  Naturally, I was claustrophobic being crowded around so many people, and didn't like being out in the sun, so while everybody was grouped together out in the open, I got on a bus far away from the maddening crowd and got off near a park in the shade.  Soon afterwards when I saw everybody getting back into the building from a distance, I made my way back and resumed working.  Only, the people in the office thought I went home, because they saw me getting on the bus, and I neglected to tell anybody that I did so to put myself at ease.  I suppose I should've re-introduced myself upon re-entering the office, but I didn't want to make too much of a fuss as I got back to work.

Dealing with Small Talk

If you ask me about the weather, I’ll easily give you an opinionated answer.  But ask me an open-ended question, such as how I’m feeling, a TV episode I saw, or what I had for breakfast, I’ll flounder around trying to summarize every single element of what I've experienced into a concise answer.  Part of the problem is that I have trouble remembering events that happened to me in my life that I was witness to.  Oftentimes, the very procedure of memorizing everything that happens to me is so painful that I willfully blank it out until the relevancy comes up later.  Oftentimes when I’ll be criticized for losing my temper at certain times, I’ll be agonized over the fact that I suffered a momentary lapse of judgement.  If it happened a long time ago, I’ll be surprised that such a thing happened to me back when I was still young and foolish.  (Now I’m older, but still make foolish mistakes)

Clarifying my Problems

On a related topic, I also have trouble telling people what I'm having personal problems with, since I'm likely to be hyped up on inner turmoil, and may not be able to get my message across clearly.  This is further amplified by my speech, which is exacerbated by my excitement, which results in me talking faster, and may sound confusing to the listener.  Usually it takes retreating to a calmer environment and writing down whatever's bothering me in the first place to clarify things, since I'm more eloquent in prose than speech.  This can only be achieved once the problem's dealt with.  This Catch-22 situation has oftentimes caught me unawares because I'm constantly thrust into situations I've never been before.

The good news is that for every instance that I get stressed over, I acquire an immunity for, and won't be so stressed out the next time.  The bad news is that I haven't been in enough unique situations that would qualify for dealing with different scenarios, and I still wind up freaking out anybody in my vicinity.  Oftentimes, I feel more comfortable by attempting to solve my problem myself without involving outsiders.

Long Work Hours

After a strenuous day of work, it takes me a long time to wind down.  Doing activities, such as reading, watching TV, playing V-games, and other fun stuff helps relax me.  And having to worry about getting up on time the next day just compounds to the stress.  It also doesn't help that I'm a night owl, and get my greatest creative juices in the middle of the night, when there's minimal distractions abound.

I'm normally claustrophobic around people, especially when I have to be surrounded by a large crowd in the bus, and do my uttermost best to avoid being in these situations.  So it's important for me to have a job where I can arrive early to beat the mad rush of civilians on their way to their workplace, and also avoid the glare of the sunrise.  Following that logic, I don't like spending more time than necessary on needless breaks, because the longer I spend at work, the higher the chance that I'll be stuck in traffic on the way home, and it'll take me more time to wind down for the next day.  The flip side of this is that while I'm able to work a long time on a specific task, I'm not capable of keeping up this routine on a regular basis, and need some serious downtime in order to revive myself for the next day.  Otherwise, I'd wind up more stressed out at work before the week was out.  This leads into my next problem:

Inability to take breaks

I find it almost impossible to take a break.  Taking break times mean that I'm not working; ergo, I'm not getting paid, and I have to stay longer to finish the hours I'm due.  Not to mention that the longer I stay, the higher the chances are that I'll get stuck in a traffic jam on the way home.  That's more stress I don't need.

Normally, when I say that I prefer to work on my own without prying eyes interfering with my work ethic, I get the impression that I'm really using my employer's absence as an excuse to goof off while they're not looking.  (Of course, I still need to be coached on what I'm doing)  While that's true up to a point, my work ethic prevents me from actually wasting the full working hours in doing so.  I simply can't conceive of taking a break while I'm in the midst of a working streak and don't want anything that'll impede my ongoing progress.

This has led to some problematic scenarios where I have trouble taking breaks for an extended amount of time.  I can't take a lunch hour that lasts longer than five minutes.  It takes that long to finish my meal, and once I'm done, I'm hard pressed to find anything else to do to fill in the rest of the time.  I'm loath to pass the time by reading a book of mine, since I reserve my reading material for when I'm on the bus or toilet.  (Taking bathroom breaks is another problem I have, since I'm never quiet sure how long I should stay in the can and get back to work, discomfort at constipation be damned)  Talking to people is another hurdle, since I run out of conversational material faster than a Sports car runs out of oil.

Dressing in casual clothes

I'm overly sensitive to sights and sensations that normal people would ignore, such as bright light and constant movement, such as people going back and forth in front of a door entrance.  If I'm not comfortable, I can't concentrate and focus on the job, which becomes detrimental to my work production.  While I can wear a shirt with a collar, it needs to be a cotton shirt, soft, and my pants have to be heavy-duty corduroy pants that are slightly baggy, and fits firmly around the waist without a belt.  I HATE wearing ties, and have never even bothered tried to memorize the knotty pattern required to twist the clothing noose into its particular shape.  I have ONE special tie reserved for special occasions, and it's left perpetually slightly loose, for easy slipping inside and out of the neck.  No need to bother redoing the tie when I've got my own singular reliable system on hand.

Also, I'm extremely sensitive to overhead light, and need to relieve myself of any external stimuli that might cause me undue stress, and I go out of my way to avoid such stimuli by beating the rush of traffic jams and crowded pedestrians by arriving at work early before the sun gets up.  One of the most reliable ways to avoid bright light is to wear a baseball cap that helps block out the overhead lights.  However, wearing caps isn't exactly conductive to an office environment, but that's fine, since I'm more comfortable working behind the scenes in the background where there's less interaction with the public and employees.  If I didn't have to handle dealing with people on a regular basis, working would be almost tolerable.  Sadly, a human-free environment doesn't exist yet.

Not double-checking / Lack of Judgement
When given a task I'm told to do, I'll say "Right, I'm on it", and turn around to get started without even bothering to listen to the rest of the description, and get it wrong, because I assumed I knew what my employer wanted.  Thing is, I have a terrible auditory memory, and can't retain what I'm told without taking notes.  I can't cope dealing with a long list of verbal instructions without knowing when they'll end.  It's easier for me to follow instructions if they're written beforehand so I can analyze them at my leisure, and not get caught in the trap of "trick" questions, such as after a long list of instructions, I'm only supposed to follow #2 on the list.  But bosses are generally used to telling employees what to do rather than do a bullet point form of the job description, so this method doesn't quite work very well.

Oftentimes, I don't bother to double-check to make sure that I understood my orders.  This has led to instances where my co-workers are upset that I didn't do the job properly, because I neglected to listen to a vital piece of information, and wound up doing it the wrong way for hours without stopping to check whether it was done right or not.  Nevermind doing my job without a single mistake - if the prospect of the job is shaky from the start, then the whole foundation collapses underneath the structure.  This lack of foresight results in wasted time for both of us.  Me, in having to redo everything all over again the right way, and my boss having to double-check the work I should've caught the first time around.

Leaving a Mess and not Putting Stuff away

I have a compulsive need to have my work area organized in a specific manner that’s “just so”, and will remain consistent even after I leave.  I don’t like the idea of having to constantly put all my workstuff out in the open, only to have to put them away at the end of the day, when I’ll just come back and do it all over again.  I'm somewhat absent-minded, and can leave dozens of reminders I've jotted down taken from inspiration or sources that I'll claim to use later, and then forget about them until I find them again.  And this same principle applies to work.  I'm loath to changing my workplace desk if I'm in the process of organizing something, and have to put away all the files and folders before I'm ready.  I prefer to leave the workstation as it is until the next day when I'll have more time to complete the job.  Trouble is, people apparently frown down on leaving a messy workplace, even if the employee is highly efficient.

Doing things MY way

This is a major issue of mine, and ties in with some of the previous problems mentioned.  I'm not satisfied with doing something unless I feel comfortable doing it.  Oftentimes, the intents of my boss and mine clash, and are very different from what I'm used to.  If there's a personal conflict between how the job should be done, and how I feel it should be done, I'm called out for not following instructions to the letter.  This results in me thinking my boss is an idiot, and my boss thinking I'm an idiot.  This can be attributed to the Cowboy Cop who plays against the rules, but manages to save the day in the end.  I've spent so much time identifying with the lone rebel archetype that when it comes to actually knowing when to obey, I fail to tell the difference.  Thus in a battle of priorities, I wind up bringing the molehill to the mountain.

Ironically enough, some of the jobs I've been let go of were part of a job-seeking organization designed to find work for people with disabilities, and they were totally unaccustomed to deal with a client of theirs working from the inside.  Apparently, their ability at being able to find working environments for disabled people met a blind spot when it came to me.


  1. I'm impressed at how self-aware you are about your work habits. What is your next step? Are you interested in doing to overcome these problems? I noticed you have focused on the negatives. You might want to consider writing a follow-up blog about your positive qualities and skills.

  2. I agree you have alot of positive work habits that people wont know about if yopu dont include them. they might think you only have the negative skills as compared to the vast array of positives you do have.

    good blog and well written! I`m impressed how well you seem to have learnt the lessons mentionned above, the hard part is avoiding the accidental repettition of the aforementionned negatives, but i know you can avoid repeating your previous mistakes i have faith in you.