OMG – Colleague X is a nice person!

It’s amazing what a heart to heart over a few drinks can do for a relationship.

I’ve written a bit about Colleague X and our differences. She is blunt, quick to judge and gives off a tough-gal exterior. By contrast, I am milder, don’t take criticism well and only get riled up when it’s the last option. At work, I think I’m seen as a bit of a door-mat, but that’s ok. I’ve developed my style in the workplace over the last almost-ten-years and I know I get results. In the time I’ve been working, I’ve only ever had one major row and that was with a supplier who had truly screwed me over. I like to think I’ve perfected the ‘nice guys don’t always finish last’ approach.

On Friday, our new line manager invited the whole department for drinks to welcome her to the company. Pretty quickly we all migrated out to the pub garden; warm night plus a lot of smokers plus alcohol. Somehow a group formed away from where we were sitting, and Colleague X and I found ourselves alone together with a silence between us.

Now, it’s important to know that I don’t make a secret of the fact I suffer mental health issues (hence this blog, hence Twitter, hence Facebook!). Pretty much anyone I’m on chatting-basis with in the office knows the rough outline of things; as does Colleague X – in her case it is because I ‘came out’ to the team as I felt it was unfair to leave them in the dark as to the reasons behind my changeable moods and mid-afternoon disappearances.

Colleague X and I tentatively began talking; we were both drinking ales and, like any passionate ale aficionado, we started comparing tasting notes. We decided the one I’d picked was the nicer one. We decided to head inside for a top up. What surprised me, though, was that once we’d got fresh pints, neither of us made a move towards re-joining the group. The ice was broken!

That night, we spent five hours in deep, meaningful conversation. We talked about our childhoods, our upbringing and our current struggles. In my quick-defensiveness, I’d totally missed out on the fact we have a lot in common at the moment. We discussed coping-strategies, I told her about the course of my mental health journey. She admitted she is afraid of pills-and-professionals, and I waxed lyrical about making the path as smooth as possible.

What we realised is that we need each other. Instead of being two solo artists competing for the top-dog spot, we actually complement each other. Colleague X is methodical, detail orientated; I am the kind of person who learns a process and then looks to improve it/speed it up (read: I find shortcuts!). We agreed that we can learn from each other. I need to improve my eye for detail, and she needs to improve her efficiency.

It feels really good to have cleared the air between us now. This morning we were collaborating and communicating. When giving me some criticism I appreciated the way she approached it; she took a softer approach than before. I really do feel we’ve turned a corner here, and together we can be truly awesome.

OMG – Colleague X is a nice person!

The Downside of Temping

I am an agency worker (AW). The government passed laws in 2011 that granted AWs (temps/contractors) the same rights as permanent staff. From day one of the assignment an AW has a right to the same facilities as permanent staff – access to canteens, creches, nurseries, and so on. From week 12 of the assignment we have the full rights of the regular employees;

  • Same basic pay
  • Same working conditions
  • Same amount of annual leave
  • Same discrimination rules

I passed the 12 week mark on Feb 12th. After some strange goings on with my pay in the last two weeks I queried the pay with the agency. Essentially I took two days off as holiday but was only paid for 5.5 hours of those two days.

The agency replied to say that although I’ve been accruing holiday since I started here, I’d used up all but those 5.5. hours I was paid for. Now I’ve taken them, I’m back to zero on the holiday meter. However; permanent employees here do not have to accrue their days. The difference between me and another member of staff is that I couldn’t take 2 weeks holiday at the beginning of the year and expect to be paid for it; a permanent employee could.

The reason I’ve chewed through my holiday accruals is due to my mental illness. I have been using holiday pay to cover days off sick – I do not get any sick pay. When I started to look into this I learned about Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The two weeks I had off whilst I was in crisis care in December were unpaid.

SSP is around £88.00 per week for any absence over 3 days counting weekends. If you have been paid SSP in the preceding 8 weeks then you automatically get SSP restarted on the first day of subsequent sickness.

Temping sucks. There’s all this talk of equal rights for AWs; but on key monetary issues it seems we are still at a disadvantage. I am fired up and ready to go to battle on this issue.

The Downside of Temping

Colleague X

I had a chat with our department manager the other day about the colleague I’m struggling with – colleague X. In her typical blunt manner she told me to ‘Get over it.’ At first I was shocked; this coming from a senior member of staff felt like my concerns were being dismissed without consideration. But when she talked a little more I started to understand what she was trying to tell me.

‘Who is this affecting; you or her? She isn’t upset about this but you are.’

That shift in perspective was a revelation to me. I’d not even considered that my upset over the situation was affecting me more than it is her. This is why the manager chose to tell me to get over it. The only person being hurt in the fray is me! It’s definitely more complex than that but when all is boiled down that’s the long and short of it.

It’s not to say I’m accepting colleague X’s manner towards me; it simply means that after the event I’m letting it go. I’ll continue to stand up for myself, but instead of letting a disagreement eat me up for the rest of the day I will simply ‘get over it’.

Another piece of advice that the manager gave me was to take a different approach to the colleague. Lately I’ve been getting very defensive over my position here in the office; I’m still new enough that I’m learning every day and I think my co-workers sometimes forget that. So when colleague X tells me I’ve done something wrong, I’ve been feeling like I’m on the back foot and get very anxious. With an attitude shift I can see that whilst I don’t have to accept her manner of speaking to me, I also don’t have to take it to heart. As the manager said; I need to approach the situation with an open mind and open arms.

Is any of this making sense? It’s all still fairly muddled in my mind; I am going to give the new way of dealing a good go and see how it works out.

Colleague X

Last Minute Cancellations

Last minute cancellations really mess with me. It’s understandable; these things happen and today’s cancellation is beyond her control, so intellectually I don’t mind too much. She’s gone off sick and the office isn’t sure when she’ll be back. My CPN is awesome and I hope she’s feeling better soon; that’s the most important thing.

I’ve been a little nervous about today’s appointment. We were supposed to be getting the referral forms sorted for signposting me to the personality disorders team. I’m anxious about the referral because the whole PD thing is a new ball game for me. Wondering what they’ll say, but happy to have the potential access to talk-therapy in the not-too-distant future.

The forms are very in-depth and most of the questions are very open-ended. They ask about work history (I’ve been a job-hopper for almost two years; can’t seem to find work that I enjoy so I’ve been accumulating skills until I do), relationship history (unstable at first, but been with Luke for coming up eight years now), family history and so on. Filling it out wasn’t any fun. It felt like a test and I don’t like tests all that much.

The other worry for me is being forgotten about in the system. I’ve had the situation before where a CPN has had to cancel, and then hasn’t been in touch to re-schedule. I know I’m very reliant on the team; when I started with EIiP they told me that by the third year of their involvement they would expect the frequency of appointments to be less than monthly. We had got it down to once a month, but the wobble of the last few weeks has seen us revert to fortnightly. I don’t like taking up so much of their time when I should be well on the road to recovery. But we’re still on the trial-and-error phase of getting medication right; olanzapine was good for a couple of months, but hasn’t really stabilised my mood to a functioning level. I’ve got to go get bloods done (eek – I have paranoia relating to them having a sample of my blood) and then it has been suggested that we try sodium valproate; we’ve been avoiding it thus far due to the risk to a foetus – despite my protestations that I have no inclination to get pregnant.

Not being ‘recovered’ feels like something of a failing in my mind. The longest I’ve been totally stable in the last three years since my initial episode is about 8 months. Somehow, in that same time frame, I’ve missed only about 5 or 6 weeks of work; despite the overwhelming task that work becomes during these times. I have battled with HTT over my employment status many times – they see it that if I’m still at work then I’m coping, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, the thing that keeps me going into the office is a fear of losing my job if I don’t; and that’s at total risk of my health.

I’m hoping that this current rocky patch smoothes itself out soon. I don’t want to keep going over the same ground, repeating the same patterns.

Last Minute Cancellations

Workplace Tensions

Idleness doesn’t become me. I have booked a couple of days off to compliment the long weekend and I’m trying to do that ‘relaxing’ thing people talk about; so far, not so good! I am thankful for planned activities over today and tomorrow before I go back to work on Thursday.

I wanted to write a little about the problem of poor workplace relationships. On Tuesday a colleague was very rude to me over something that she perceived as my error, although I was in the right (she’d not made notes on the paperwork). It’s not the first time this has happened. What annoys me is that everyone just accepts her behaviour and makes excuses; ‘Oh that’s just what colleague X is like,’ and ‘we all know she has no interpersonal skills.’ As I told my manager last week – that doesn’t make it acceptable.

In truth, I am dreading going into the office on Thursday. I am good at sticking up for myself but I really shouldn’t even have to worry about that in the first place. I shouldn’t have to feel nervous every time she calls my name. I know that my work is solid and I am good at it; yes I’ve made mistakes (who doesn’t!) but I have learned from them and not repeated the errors.

After I spoke to my manager on Tuesday he suggested I have a chat with the colleague over coffee and clear the air. Absolutely not a problem; so I invited her to have a coffee and a chat. Her response was essentially that she’d rather do it in a meeting room and have our manager present – ‘to protect both of us’.

It’s very disappointing to be in the position that I find myself in. I’ve spent the last few years job-hopping and looking for somewhere I will be happy. Lots of temporary posts; good for the experience, bad for the CV. It has all been very beneficial to my skill set but nonetheless I really want to find somewhere I can bed in and feel comfortable.

Workplace Tensions