“You Are Withdrawn, Dull, Shy, and Sullen,” and Other Fun Things I Learned at a Motivational Seminar
If you’re anything like me and you toil away (or have ever toiled away) inside the beige confines of an office environment, you’ve no doubt been forced (or “strongly encouraged”) to attend some sort of corporate motivational seminar, an experience akin to, say, getting a staple stuck inside your eyelid, or being forced to drive cross-country with Elizabeth Hasselbeck.
Oh my God, when will this bitch shut up?
You can imagine my delight when I had to spend three mornings last week in just such a situation – sitting in a freezing cold conference room with an instructor who COULD NOT CONTROL THE VOLUME OF HER VOICE, listening to my email inbox straining under the weight of received messages to the tune of “Where are you?!??!” and “This needs to be completed in 2 minutes or we will replace you with a toilet-trained primate who never accidentally burns his popcorn in the microwave.”
Probably has a better attitude anyway.
Now, because I inherited my mother’s constant need to be a people-pleaser, making me live in absolute horror of being rude to someone’s face…
(Being rude behind someone’s back? Entirely acceptable, of course.)
…I mustered every bit of cheerfulness I could manage at 9am on Monday morning when I walked into the conference room. Quite a task, considering the tables were covered in candy, there were brightly colored decorations at each seat, and “Sweet Home Alabama” was blaring from a small portable stereo.
The speaker was a very, very nice lady who was honestly very good at what she did (and she also had a Canadian accent, which always tickles me), but I’ve just always felt such a disconnect in seminars like these. I know it’s probably just a bit of lingering pride and immaturity (a bit? HA.), but I always get uncomfortable in classes like these, because I feel like allowing myself to buy into all of these tips on “How to Be An Extraordinary Assistant” is surrendering myself to the idea that yes, I am an assistant, and yes, what I am in the workplace is what defines me, and yes, please excuse me while I mosey on over to this woodchipper for a sec.
Let me be very clear: I do not think there is anything wrong with being an assistant – and I know how challenging and thankless it can be – and I am very grateful for this job and the other assistant positions I’ve held over the years. Also, my mother, who is also an assistant, holds a very high position in an International Admin Assistants’ group, and it’s something that’s very important to her that I respect a great deal.
It’s just…I never saw myself as being an assistant. As I feel I mention whine about in almost every post, I had great aspirations to be an actor. And although I still get lots of acting work, I cannot afford to be without a regular, 9-5 job. So, I’m an administrative assistant. When people ask me what I do, that’s what I tell them. And…that rankles. Not as much as it used to, of course, because I realize that my “real job” makes it possible for Brad & I to own a house/take vacations/do things for family & friends/subsist on foodstuffs other than Maruchan noodles, but defining myself as an assistant, when I have never once felt that’s who I really am, and when I feel so much passion for something entirely different?
“I had to let me out or I…WOULD…DIE.”
I’m sure that a more mature person would have gotten over this whole issue already, but I’m actually not sure I want to get over it. I feel like if I accept that what I do at work is who I am, then it makes me feel like I’ve given up on myself in some way…and I’m sure it’s all part of a larger issue of me not wanting to swallow my pride, and me desperately clinging to the belief that I’M SPECIAL, DAMMIT!, but exploring that seems like a tall order to fill on a Friday, so let’s just say “Fuck it,” and move on, shall we?
Now, despite my “issues” (of which there are many, and I believe, dear reader, that you are starting to feel very sorry for Brad right about now), I get along pretty well at work, because I slide my mind into “I am not myself, I am Work Turkey” mode, and I have to say that works quite well for me. I show up, I do what I have to do, and I go home, where I can flip the switch back to “Jive Turkey,” and proceed to be myself again. It’s kind of like being around my parents. Around them, I have to be the version of myself that does not swear, has no political opinions, and plays nice in order to keep the peace. In other words, I have to be 9 years old.
Never breaks her mother’s heart by dropping the F-bomb.
The downside to playing the Two-Sides game, of course, is that people don’t get to know who you really are, and treat you according to the person you present to them. Most of my coworkers (and this holds true in every job I’ve ever had) have very little idea of what I’m really like, because I share so little of myself in the workplace. So when I’m plopped into these motivational seminars with my coworkers and I’m forced to explore HOW I FEEL and WHAT MAKES ME TICK and HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR PERSONALITY, it makes me feel 1) weird, and 2) like a liar, because when I say I consider myself to be a social person, I get looks similar to those I would receive if I’d just defecated on the danish tray.
Like I would ever do such a thing. I love you, my pretties!
And then there was the eye-opening personality evaluation we did on Day Three. I’m sure you’ve done them before: You complete a questionnaire, score your answers, add them up, plot them on a chart and VOILA! Please allow this 30-page booklet to define your personality, because you clearly have no clue, you mindless goddamn office drone. Now here’s a free stress ball and some candy!
I was a little confused when I went to complete my survey. How should I answer it? Should I answer according to who I am at work, or who I really am? Ultimately, I decided that – because this was a work seminar – I would answer as Work Turkey. And it turns out that Work Turkey? Is one miserable, boring-ass motherfucker.
The personality evaluation determined that I was an “F,” a worker who is exacting, thorough, factual, meticulous, and has high-standards. “Someone who comes to work to work,” as the speaker put it – and I have to say that was spot on, since that’s precisely what I do. However, on the negative side, “F” personalities are withdrawn, dull, sullen, shy, passive, and antisocial. A little hard to hear, especially since my co-workers all nodded their heads in agreement, at which point the ol’ self esteem SOARED, let me tell you. One of my coworkers, who was categorized as a happy-go-lucky, energetic “S,” made a joke about how my biggest fear, as an “F,” would be if she asked me to join her for happy hour after work.
…aaaaaand I’m back in the junior high cafeteria.
So, I was feeling pretty irritated, because while the test got some things right about me (I don’t like it when people make stupid, careless mistakes! Is that so wrong?!), I felt like it sucked every last hope of my coworkers seeing me as my true self right out of the room (I LOVE happy hour! Just ask the Maker’s Mark company!). Of course, that’s probably mostly my fault for acting like fucking Karma Chameleon over here, switching identities every day between my house and my cubicle and then back again.
I feel ya.
The whole thing reminded me of how I railed against being a Capricorn the first 30 years of my life (I was born on the cusp! THE CUSP!) because I thought Capricorns sounded totally boring and lame. But then one day I read the list of Capricorn traits: practical, ambitious, disciplined, patient, careful, humorous. Hm. OK. Also: pessimistic and fatalistic. Check and check. And you know what? I AM OK WITH THAT. Because I do think that’s who I am. But this work thing? Sullen? Antisocial? Dull? Friends, I was a theatre major. I have been nearly naked onstage. Two years ago, I was in a show called “Chicks with Dicks.” I may not be a barrel of monkeys 24/7, but I think I deserve a little fucking credit.
Is also an “F.”
Of course, the best part of the whole seminar was when someone (coincidentally, also an “F”) asked the speaker: “So, what if you feel like one of these personalities at work, and another in your personal life?”
And the speaker replied,”Studies have shown that people who act one way at work and another way in their personal life are deeply unhappy.”
I’m now a week removed from the seminar, and I have to admit I learned some helpful things, including how to deal with difficult people, which I “may” have had an “experience” with this week, when “someone” was acting like an “entitled dipshit,” and I am glad to report that I handled it calmly and assertively (I KNOW!), even if it did leave me with a tendency to use multiple quotation marks in a misguided attempt at humor.
And I think the curse of the “F” is actually a mixed blessing. Now that people are confirmed in their beliefs that I’m a boring tight-ass, they will continue to leave me alone and let me putter along in the blissful solitude of my cubicle, which, in an office situation, is sometimes the very best thing of all.
Entry filed under: Taste my Backhand.