Lunaya Pravda

18 July 2006

Work crap

Last week, my professional life was dealt a rather unpleasant blow, and in a manner that caught me completely off-guard. Because I've been so stunned and so unprepared, it's taken me days to even feel like discussing it at all; I haven't told a soul. It turns out a person with whom I used to work, and who was, for a brief-yet-still-too-long period, my supervisor, is suddenly going to be thrown back together with me on a project. After I made a concerted effort to sever all ties between us.

This woman is what I consider to be the worst coworker I've ever had. She spent hours on personal phone calls. She worked only four days a week, yet never managed to book any appointments on her day off. In fact, about every other week she left work early for a "dentist appointment" for her or her daughter. She took two hours in the middle of the day to work out, and still managed to come in late and leave early. Most of this, while it grated on my nerves, I was able to work around.

But the shit really started when she was made my supervisor. Promoted not because of work performance, because I'm not certain she did any work, but because of close personal relationships with a couple of key higher-ups. During those few months, she took credit for my work. She put herself in line for training that had been previously planned for me when the right project came along. And she got a big, fat bonus for all of it.

All this time, it was clear to me (and many others) she had no technical abilities whatsoever. She talked a good game, but when it came down to doing the work, the products were always of highly questionable quality. When someone whose job description includes a significant amount of quality control doesn't understand the definition of "quality", the ramifications of her poor work rain down upon the rest of us. Any attempts - some subtle, some not - to point these inconvenient facts out to management fell on deaf ears.

After a few months, she was removed as supervisor, but the damage was irreparable. I started the job hunt, and six LONG months later, I quit and moved two states away. My chosen profession is the proverbial small world, but I figured with the difference in the types and locations of projects our respective companies pursued, we shouldn't cross paths again. For about a year, this proved true, and I settled into a work pattern free of her bullshit.

Well, she stunned her company support network by quitting, and found another job (if only they'd have called ME for a reference), about a year after I escaped. And then the calls and emails started again. After some brief and reserved correspondence back and forth, I stopped replying. As her former supervisor has since figured out, this woman maintains contact with people if and only if they have something to offer. The last email I received from her about 7 months ago informed me that her new firm had a job for me if I needed one, and that her cat had died. Again, I didn't respond. Rarely is anything she offers worth all the strings attached to it, and truthfully, I had nothing pleasant to say.

So just how did she reenter my life last week? By calling me - at work. It turns out our companies are two of many players on a large, large project. Each firm has named one person to head up a particular set of tasks, and she and I were named for our respective companies.

A little warning would have helped immensely. She knew we'd be working together, but I had no idea - when I was named for the project, her firm hadn't yet announced their representative. A cold call from the penultimate person on earth I'd like to hear from (an ex of mine still holds the title of "Last Person on Earth I'd Like to Hear From")... it was the Shock and Awe of my professional life, and the campaign is still being waged.

So now how do I brace myself for working with this leech? I can't hope the quality of her work has improved; given our roles, it would be unwise to plan on it. I certainly can't run around bad-mouthing her - it would reflect poorly on my firm and on me, and I might turn out to be wrong. And, there's always the off-chance that while she's heading up this aspect of her firm's efforts, she won't actually be providing the products.

But I've never been skilled at maintaining a pretense of friendship, and she makes pretending even more difficult than most. So many conversations with her are ABOUT HER that I am often nearly overwhelmed with the urge to chew my own arm off rather than continue holding the phone. The thought of feigning interest in her life while plastering on a fake smile for the next four months depresses me.

Dammit. Just how am I supposed to do this without any snide commentary to get me through? And how am I supposed to manage if the quality of her work makes MY job that much harder? In the name of all things holy, how???

Maybe I should chew my arm off. Worker's comp and a few months of disability sound infinitely more appealing right now.

Labels: ,