Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On Anger

From my last job I learned a lot about anger. The anger and resentment my last employer created in me was pervasive and ever present. This forced me to get introspective about what I was feeling, why, and to question its validity. I will preface all of this by saying that yes, I am an angry man, not generally in a blustery sort of way, but rather at the bigger picture of life in this world. Every day I see the way this world works, and every day it makes me angry. But this is generally the kind of anger that simmers gently on the inside. It keeps me thinking and from complacently accepting greed, exploitation, war mongering, ignorance and abusive behavior by those in power.
That being said what I felt towards the managers at my last job was the sort of rage one feels when one is willfully mistreated without even the decency to see the error of their actions or to apologize to those they hurt. Shortly put, both I and the majority of my lower level co workers were abused both verbally and psychologically for months on end. I observed that friends and co workers who voiced complaints were castigated, blacklisted, and alienated by the management. I felt I had no recourse but to shoulder it, keep myself wired tight, and finish out the time. The severity of the mistreatment also increased over time, so initially I thought I would have an easier time making due. I didn’t. In the end only a promise I made to a girl I love that I would stay kept me. I was bitter, I was angry, and by halfway through the season this changed the way I acted noticeably. I snapped at people, said violent things and was harder to work with at points than I am sure I have ever been before.
Despite all of this I left work the way I wanted to, holding the girls hand. She stayed for a few days after work was over, then she went home. I thought I had made it, but I wasn’t quite clear. The rage was still lodged in there and I couldn’t shake it. I would relive being mistreated in my dreams and wake up pissed off. I cannot adequately describe how awful that feels. When I called to tell my former employer I wasn’t coming back I told them I had things left to say. I was told to write them up. I did so, I wrote a searing letter. It was more than a little intense. In it I called out the management for their transgressions and the shortcomings in their program. Despite the tone of the letter, I told them I wanted this to be the end of it, that I wrote it to purge myself of negative feelings and wanted to potentially remain involved as a volunteer. Doing the work non professionally brought me joy and I didn’t want to lose that. The letter served its purpose, knowing that they read what I wrote gave me peace. The dreams stopped. But not surprisingly, people in charge don’t like having their flaws cast into light, especially not by their “inferiors.” They like it even less when other employees are informed. I was forced to come in and talk this over with the management in order to be cleared to volunteer if I so chose. I did so, it seemed to go well but the manager I talked to called in one of my friends after the fact, fished for details on stuff I had said while angry and found what he needed to ban me from returning, violent statements made by yours truly. I was wrong to say some of the things I did but the person I was then was the product of this organizations mistreatment, not the man I truly am. Regardless, my friend betrayed me, recommended against my return based on an assessment of me in a situation which was no longer relevant, refused to see the logic of my argument when I confronted him about it, and in the end willingly sacrificed our friendship through his actions.
This was a serious blow to me and I took a long time wrestling with it. His assertion that I constituted a valid workplace threat flew in the face of how well I felt he knew me. He felt, based albeit on no valid qualification to make this type of determination, that in my stressed state I had developed a mental disorder of some sort. He self righteously informed me that if the job made me that miserable I should have quit. He disregarded my promise to another as a valid reason to stay, sanctimoniously informing me that she would rather have seen me happy somewhere else. This guy makes a habit of making sweeping pronouncements he is no position to defend. I countered further that I had no other employment arranged to pay my bills. Apparently in this individuals experience this was an invalid reason to stay as well, as “bills just sort themselves out.” If anyone else agrees with this statement please let me know as in my experience nothing could be further from the truth. Also, unlike this individual I don’t have a wife to pay the bills for me. That must be nice. I was further preached to concerning the letter, apparently “when one pens a cathartic letter one destroys it and pens a professional one.” I cant stand someone with so much nerve that they just sermonize to you the proper action for every aspect of life. How dare he tell me what is correct and what I must do in my life? The letter I wrote would not have been cathartic for me unless read by the people who wronged me, as they are either unwilling or incapable of seeing the error in their treatment of people and must have it pointed out to them, if necessary with written blunt force trauma.
I came to the conclusion that this individual could not be more misguided in his thoughts or actions. No one else who knew me while I was going through this felt the need to inform on me. Also as a volunteer he no doubt feels he is equal to we who did this work professionally. In case you are reading this, you are nothing but a tourist until you work the job for real, day in, day out. You have no idea what I went through and are abjectly deprived of footing to make the judgments you did unless you lived the life. You never will. With this taken into consideration it is ludicrous for this person to have piously co-opted some sort of farcical absolute authority of what is or is not acceptable to do or say. This is a world of gray in which we must all make our own way, striking out in search of a balanced code of conduct that works for us. I am not advocating some morally weak, comparative form of right and wrong which allows everyone to just do as they please without regard for others. I will continue to do as I see fit, and have no qualms about it. Being angry about being treated horrendously does not constitute the development of a mental disorder, especially not based on the opinion of an unqualified, sanctimonious individual who has no perspective on my situation, either at work or in my larger life. The opinion of this person counts for even less when I was told that Sandy Hook “really put things in perspective” for him, as this demonstrates him as yet another one of the mindless sheeple out there, quaking in fear every time he sees a violent tragedy on television. Pathetic. A large part of his argument furthering this opinion was based on violence, both of my words, and thoughts as expressed on paper. I find nothing abnormal about wanting to strike someone who mercilessly torments you and is so warped as to see nothing wrong with it. Also, key point here, I never did.
After having made peace with my conclusion on all of this I found a copy of my letter weeks after the fact. I re-read it, thinking maybe I could have been more understanding, or even after about a dozen proof readings may have spoken to soon. It turns out this is not the case. I stand behind the letter, my thoughts, and actions one hundred percent. I stand by my written words and the man that I am. I will ignore others unfounded and ignorant opinions of me, because they are just that, ignorant and unfounded, based on a model of myself at a very low point in life brought on by others.

This will be followed by a piece on violence and our perception, and relationship with it in society.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Leadership

So, just got back from an interesting hitch on the Champion Coal (more to follow on this later) i finished this while underway, probably didn't proof read it enough, whatever.

Perhaps the most important aspect of my experience in the past year or so revolves around the concept of leadership, as in the manner in which managers, bosses, officers, what have you interact with their employees. I left my last employer extremely bitter. I finally became a professional in my field only to find that the management had no intention of fostering my growth and absolutely refused to grant me even an iota of respect, no matter how hard I worked. This comprised only one facet of my dissatisfaction. The run down is as follows.
My former employer has an industry wide reputation for nautical excellence and training which, in its current incarnation, is not deserved. Though the management level employees of this organization are extremely knowledgeable, this knowledge is not transmitted in any meaningful sense to those of us seeking to grow and develop our skill sets. The only lower level employees granted any extended training are those who attended a certain secondary education institution, or, are buddies or personal favorites of the management. Training was entirely oriented toward creating useful cogs in the wheel of a daily routine, once you fill that role in this organization that is as far as you will go, especially if you crawled in through the hawse pipe. I watched for months as the select few were fostered, trained, allowed to take on and master new tasks as I stagnated and was pigeon holed. All of the things I was capable of learning and performing were denied to me. Pair this with watching people who went to school to perform in this profession making the same sort of mistakes I, a relative newcomer made, yet still being ever so eager to mock me for them, and you have a recipe for serious frustration and resentment. This leads to my next point.
The management of this organization mistreats people. Lower level professionals such as myself were regularly subjected to intense sarcasm, mockery, and public humiliation. I saw this, or experienced it personally on an almost daily basis. Initially I thought a large portion of this was banter, which would lessen with time. I imagined that respect on some level would eventually be given. No matter how hard I worked, or how good I got at my job this respect never came. I spent nine months like this. Language commonly directed at myself, “faggot, pussy, homo, moron, and retard.” This was commonly used in public, adding to the humiliation of being treated so poorly. Also, one upper level manager was chronically lecherous and a sexual harasser. He made remarks in poor taste to my girlfriend, insinuating she should go to a hotel room and ready herself for his company, he also stated to one volunteer that he thought she had “been down on everything but the titanic,” and to another, “so what you are saying is you want to be under me,” This kind of thing was said all the time. Also, the management allows the continued employment of individuals with no proper concept of decent treatment of fellow human beings. Last year one such individual, still employed in the organization, interrupted me while performing a safety crucial function to criticize me for an error that had already been addressed by my acting supervisor. This is not an exact quote, but while pointing his finger in my face he stated, “you fucking retarded faggot, you just fucked up a job illiterate idiots did perfectly two hundred years ago, you are fucking worthless.” Other management personnel watched this happen and laughed as I was demeaned. Essentially what this constitutes is an organization that is accepting of employing a thirty plus year old man with literally no concept of right or wrong behavior. Because he was not forced to by a superior he never even gave a token apology for this verbal dressing down. This year, said individual while overseeing a safety crucial function, opted not to give the task his full attention but instead took the time to verbally abuse me while I was participating in said function, referring to me as a “bull dyke” amongst other things. This individuals poor behavior is not limited to the workplace, last year he was kicked off an airplane for acting out, this year he almost involved many of his coworkers in a bar fight, which he instigated by shoving a girl. I consider this egregious as I was, after my employment, typecast as a potential threat due to violent remarks which I admit were in poor taste. This notwithstanding they were made under extreme stress and were only remarks, not actual deeds contravening norms of basic social propriety. I cannot fathom an organization continuing to function in a manner so negligent towards basic decent treatment of others. The saddest part of this is that I watched many of my fellow lower level employees fall into this pattern of behavior, along with myself, much to my regret. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing yourself and other people you love become, to some degree, a copy of those abusing you.
Training methods, if you can refer to them as such at my former place of employment were atrocious. As I said previously, the management level employees are extremely knowledgeable but this is either very poorly transmitted, or not at all. Commonly, upper level employees made demeaning remarks to me when I did not know something or did not perform a task flawlessly on the first, or even second or third go. They are all seemingly completely unaware that it is to be expected that they know much more than me as the either have from five to thirty years experience in the field, or obtained a four year degree in it. This frustrated me to no end. No recognition was given to the fact that I learned an incredible amount in a very short period and I could not be realistically expected to match that kind of experience. Those who had a four year degree were probably no more naturally talented than I, and often made the same sort of mistakes I did just with less frequency. I found this particularly maddening with one individual in the management who jumped on the management behavior band wagon while still proving over and over, despite a four year degree in his field, he was still making the kind of mistakes that in my field, (History) were the equivalent of academic plagiarism and would result in termination of employment in said field, concomitant with a permanent blacklisting. If you are going to hold me to a standard of excellence on par with yours, and you have been schooled for four years in a field I have not, you had better be excellent, or understanding, preferably both. I went to school for six years and am excellent at what I was trained to do, I would not expect someone with no training to do what I do, at the level at which I do it. I would however encourage someone attempting to try it and understand where they are coming from rather than demean them.
At my new place of employment training is regimented, and performed in a positive manner. No one expects the new guy to do the job as well as a captain who decked for twenty years before he got up into the pilot house. Sure there is banter, but it is restrained by bounds of common decency and good treatment. Also supervisors here are subject to oversight and can be called into account for their words and actions. What a pleasant surprise, which I am still adjusting to as I go. I am still burning out the bit of my old workplaces overtone I absorbed via osmosis, although generally speaking I am getting back to being myself, a happy guy who treats people the way they would like to be treated.
An example, I have now been with my current employer long enough now that I participate in training new employees. At one point I worked a hitch with a rather overweight eighteen year old kid. He was terrified of us and I remember what that feels like. It’s so much worse when you are being treated like garbage at the same time. From time to time what I experienced at my last job crept up in my mind telling me to mock this kid for not knowing things, to be cruel, sarcastic, etc. I didn’t do any of those things and it was one of the best two week experiences of my life, doing the exact opposite of those who made my life so miserable every day for months on end. This showed me that I had learned the best possible lesson from my former employer, how not to treat your co-workers or employees if you want them to be happy, to learn, and to strive for improved performance. At the end of the hitch this kid shook my hand and thanked me for being cool. I might not have learned as much in the way of professional skills as I wanted to but I feel what I took away was ultimately way more valuable.