As it turns out, what I thought was a real clunker from my HR meeting – the announcement that I was becoming too mentally exhausted by my job under its current parameters – did not fall on deaf ears after all. One of my supervisors told me that they were “working on” putting me back on the four days on/three days off schedule, as they had “almost convinced” one of the other employees to switch her days off. I would still be doing the same job on that different day, but only for a few hours in the evening, rather than all day; the rest of the day would be appointments, which is much less taxing for me. And I’d get that critical three-day weekend back to recuperate.
I’m ambivalent. I mean, I’m grateful, of course. But I feel bad for that other employee who is probably under some pretty intense pressure to make the change. It made me realize that all this effort to make my workplace into a kinder, gentler place is coming from the wrong end. If they want us to treat each other with respect, they need to set that example from above, not try to retrofit it from below. Because the events of the past few weeks have shown me – and to be fair, it’s not my immediate supervisors’ fault – that we are commodities, not people, to the corporate powers that be. They squeeze as much out of us as they can and dangle their three sick days and two weeks of vacation a year in front of us like we should be grateful.
Oh, by the way, that’s three 8 hour sick days, and for those who’ve been watching at home, we all work 10-hour days. So actually, we get 24 sick hours, which is not quite two and a half days. Per year. Which is OK with me, I probably wouldn’t use much more than that, under ideal circumstances (lulz). But for employees with kids, those two-and-a-half days are usually gone by March.
No wonder people have bad attitudes. No wonder they snipe and gossip and complain about things behind peoples’ backs. No wonder they treat all this “everyone has to be nice all the time” stuff like the pile of excrement I suspected it was all along. This place is only a few levels above sweatshop. We have to kill ourselves to get enough work for ten people done by only seven. And our department isn’t the only one pinched; it’s like that across the board, ICU, Internal Medicine, Oncology, Reception – and those are just the ones I can see because we’re on the same floor. Somehow, I doubt it is magically better on other floors.
And it doesn’t matter. Nothing’s ever going to change. We’re going to be treated like crap, squeezed coming and going until we burn out, and those who dare to quit are looked down upon as wusses who couldn’t take the heat. And now, to make matters worse, they want us to act like we like it? I’m not surprised my complaints about instruments fell on deaf ears earlier. Everyone has to do extra work, all the time, so me doing it is of no import to them whatsoever. It’s all part of being a “team player.”
What a subtle, insidious form of dominance that term is. If you complain about anything – anything at all – you are accused of not being a team player and it shuts down the conversation. And everyone is not only supposed to be one, but also supposed to want to be one. Don’t want to change the parameters of your job? Not a team player. Don’t want to change your days off? Not a team player. Don’t want to stay an extra hour because you had the audacity to make plans after work? Etc. Because the “team” is your co-workers and you don’t want to hurt them, right?
I have discovered little ways that people do get back, though – some of the nurses call in sick – a lot. I know because I almost never do and am usually on the business end of the result, which, in a word, sucks. So instead of complaining about being overworked, they just manage their own schedule, more or less. They also plunk their doctor’s appointments in the middle of a work day instead of on a day off, leave, and rarely come back. Now that I think about it, it’s not a bad idea. Because otherwise, where do you draw the line? When is it OK to say “I’m sorry, you’re asking too much, I can’t do this,” and get sympathy instead of a guilt trip? As far as I can tell, sometime around never.
And about that person they’re trying to convince to switch days? I bet they’re leaning on her pretty hard. I’m glad I’m not that person. I mean, I appreciate that they’re willing to do this for me as it’s actually the first glimmer of evidence that they appreciate the lengths I’ve gone to to support the department (the team [sic]). But a part of me feels bad for that other employee, getting crunched up in the wheels of an unfeeling system in order to keep those wheels turning. I’ve been under those wheels and it’s not a nice place to be.
But she has to say yes. Otherwise, she’s not a team player.