Portrait of a quitter

It’s official–I quit my job! I’m still very terrified of what lies ahead. The “unknown” unsettles me more than it excites me. I’m risk-averse by nature and I don’t like to make big life changes unless the necessity of doing so is staring me in the face, nay, punching me in the face.

As a committed non-risk-taker, I have another job lined up. I declined the offer at first because the health insurance was costly and not up to par (another risk!), but eventually decided to prioritize my mental well-being (only after the salary was increased to compensate for the extra costs).

I’m grateful that this new place showed that level of interest in convincing me to accept the job. I hope it goes well. You just never can know. I remain skeptical as always.

I’m leaving behind the possibility of ever getting to work with my fiancé, which kills me. We have had so much fun together there.

I’m also leaving behind one of the worst supervisors I’ve had the displeasure of working with, and the thought that I might never have to see him again fills me with joy. I was friendly with this person for a brief time, but because I am not a masochist, I chose to deescalate that friendship once I saw his true colors. I’ve been paying the price for that ever since. Soon after the deescalation happened, this man was appointed to the role of my supervisor, and took advantage of his position in order to make my time there as unpleasant as he could while still remaining within the boundaries of workplace acceptability. It helps that very few people know the entire truth about this person, his poor treatment of myself and others, and the selfish motivations that exist behind everything he does.

He is a person who can only do good to others in whom he sees a potential to become exactly like himself. As soon as he gets an inkling that a dissimilarity exists between himself and another person, he begins to attack and undermine that person’s character. If a person is unfortunate enough to find themselves in disagreement with him and even more unfortunate as to think of vocalizing their opinion–whether it be an issue of differing philosophies or differing opinions on the merit of something as innocuous as a television show–they can expect to be downgraded in his mind and therefore subject to tactics of intimidation and humiliation. And I say this as a person who has previously ranted about Maury.

My supervisor’s name is Dan, to make this easier.

I’ve spent a lot of time observing him. I am with him more often than I’m with the most cherished people in my life. That’s the cruel joke of the workplace. I think of all the time I’ve wasted in his presence, and how the sick thing about life is that our obligations to work and make money mean that much of our life may be spent suffering through people who we would not otherwise allow into our lives.

Dan thinks of himself as a smart guy. He can talk circles around people–of course he can, because he learned how to in the Police Academy. He can take a single course in “Verbal Judo” and think he’s the smartest man alive because he learned “tactics” in how to manipulate others into doing what he wants them to do. This has worked extremely well for him in his position and has helped to delude others into thinking that he is of a superior mind.

Dan doesn’t speak to many people–or I should say, many types of people. He only speaks to people who he thinks are relevant, whether it’s because they can do something for him, or because they are akin to him in some way that he has identified. He might try to form a bond with a person when he discovers they share a similar interest, however minuscule it may be. That’s how he knows he has an “in”–he recognizes that sharing interests often softens one person’s heart toward another, and he will exploit that as best as he can. He will begin to pressure you and manipulate you into adopting other interests, practices, behaviors, and outlooks that he finds desirable because they are his own. When you don’t, he makes sure you feel the pain of having contradicted him.

Dan is a person who wants to be liked. He is arrogant enough to presume that there could be no acceptable reason for why another person might not like him. Upon being given the position of supervisor, he fully expected to become the most favored supervisor in the department. He tried his best to insert a wedge between his shift and the others. He participated in and encouraged negative talk directed toward every person who happened to be on a shift that wasn’t his own. He is very skilled at fostering an “Us vs. Them” mentality, and he was able to take it far enough that it became insidious and has taken much time and effort to combat.

Dan’s desire to be well-liked as a supervisor first manifested in the only way he knows how to garner praise and appreciation from his employees: by bringing in food he makes at home and pestering everyone to eat it even after they politely decline. He began to organize potlucks on a monthly basis, which would be fine in circumstances in which everyone was on-board and interested, but comes off as yet another coercive tactic when one realizes he actually has to assign these food-making tasks to people who would rather not participate. Assigning these tasks was his only through road when confronted with people who would not volunteer with excitement and enthusiasm. The people who would do the most leg-work in making Dan’s vision come true became his most favored employees. The others were leeches because they only offered to bring in soda or chips.

When a not-nice person tries to do a nice-appearing thing, they often cannot keep themselves from sabotaging their own efforts because kind acts actually go against their nature. The person will inevitably feel that their niceness was not sufficiently appreciated, and will lash out and become bitter because kindness is never its own reward for a person like this. Dan would give us certain instructions around potluck time regarding who was allowed to eat the food and who wasn’t. He never wanted the other shifts to catch wind of what we were doing, because he feared that they would take advantage of the free food without offering anything in return. He would make sure to make a plate for a certain gallery attendant who often manned one of our posts for us on those late nights, as well as another staff member in administration who would bring in a homemade dessert of some type and who was therefore allowed to enjoy the buffet. If you did something for Dan that benefited Dan and Dan’s plans, you were allowed to help yourself to the food. Every potluck involved an excessive amount of food being left over at the end of the night. Instead of sharing the remaining food with other people who were also working that night, Dan would put it into containers and store it in the office refrigerator, where it could spoil and stink. He would never have opted to share the food with others who did not contribute (and could not contribute because they were unaware of what we were doing to begin with) because his fear of being taken advantage of is just one of the things that overrides his need to be liked.

The benefit of having Dan as a supervisor is that it has provided me with a stunning example of how not to be kind. If I ever think of feeling like my kindness is being taken advantage of, I consider the alternative: the emptiness of a life in which my kindness is conditional.

I’ve already said that Dan doesn’t speak to many people. He also doesn’t read, ever, unless it’s a book that pertains to urban homesteading or maybe a self-help book that is read to convince himself of the powers of his own mind. This wouldn’t be a problem if he wasn’t so captivated by his self-declared intelligence. Unlike some people who have struggled with situational disadvantages like poor education, learning disabilities, a lack of resources, or perhaps they labor too much in life to even have time to spend doing anything else, Dan is a privileged person by anyone’s measure and his inflated sense of self-worth assures him that his current knowledge of the world is sufficient and he has chosen not to expand upon it. He is a person who thinks that all problems can be solved with logic and reason, and is often befuddled because humans actually operate with more complexity than your average robot. Dan would like to think of himself as the sort of person who isn’t a slave to his emotions, but is more than willing to ignore all of the times his own emotions, which are no more complex than those of a fussy infant, have led him to make decisions that are harmful to others. Since “others” are the victims, he can reassure himself that at least Dan was not harmed in the making of this picture.

Dan is a man, a man like many modern men, who cannot handle the word “No.” He would call himself a progressive, just like those modern men he keeps company with. That doesn’t stop him from operating like a caveman who forgot his club at home. I made the mistake of saying “No” once to his command that we “walk and talk” at work together (this was a frequent command of his back then, never once phrased into a question in deference to common politeness). That day, when he said, “Let’s walk,” and I declined, he left in a huff and shut me out for the rest of the shift. It has since been brought to my attention that he had a crush on me at the time, so of course his feelings–not his logic or his reason–were hurt. Maybe I shouldn’t claim that his reason wasn’t hurt, because Dan reasons that Dan is the most attractive, desirable man at our place of employment, and any woman who would turn him down must be defective in some way. When a woman turns him down at work, he makes attempts to undermine the woman’s reputation as well as that of any man she may have chosen to give attention to instead of Dan. I’ve heard him describe one such man as a “garbage person.” That’s one of Dan’s favorite descriptive terms for a person who is a threat to Dan.

Beware of people who make liberal use of descriptors like “garbage person” or “human trash” as short-cuts through exploring their real feelings about people. If Dan had any insight, he may have been able to notice a pattern developing among the people who in his opinion befitted these terms. As an outside observer, I see one commonality: they are all men who slept with women who Dan tried and failed to coerce into sleeping with himself.

Dan’s insight doesn’t always fail him, but it doesn’t always tell him what he wants to hear either. My now-fiancé (hereafter known as “M”) and I met at work and got to know each other during the time that Dan was aggressively trying to pursue my companionship. He obviously noticed my preference for M’s company, and though it registered that something was amiss, Dan was still in utter disbelief that a woman would choose another man’s company over his own. He assumed–possibly due to our age difference–that M and I were just close friends, so Dan continued in his efforts to draw my attention away from the one person whose company I desired the most. Because Dan’s efforts were failing where I was concerned, he switched gears and began directing soft insults toward M in order to undermine his confidence. The insults pertained primarily to his appearance–he would refer to M as “Kramer” while mocking his hairstyle and lanky build. What is even funnier and more pathetic is that Dan actually vocalized to M that in our particular dynamic as friends, Dan was Jerry and I was Elaine. This habit of turning his supposed friends into gross caricatures of human beings represented in a television show is par for the course for a person who seems unable to see any value in getting to know what is in a person’s heart or soul, or attempts to understand their inner world at all. The fact that M’s characterization was intended to be demeaning while mine and Dan’s implied that we were the kind of friends who might sleep together does not escape my notice. It also speaks volumes about Dan’s lack of awareness of the meaning behind the media he purports to enjoy that he would use as a basis for comparison a show known for its depiction of characters who, while hilarious and well-written, were meant to embody some of the basest qualities found in humans.

Whenever Dan did speak to me, it was usually about Dan and his thoughts and feelings. He’s the kind of person who is always at the ready with a TV show, restaurant, or band to recommend to others without ever asking a person what it is that they personally do enjoy already. If any of these phrases ring a bell, you might know someone similar:

“You should really watch…”

“You should really check out…”

“You should really listen to…”

And this way of relating to people is “really” fine, but I feel like it can become exhausting as soon as you realize the Recommender-in-Chief has never made a single inquiry into your own likes or dislikes, your taste in a more general way of speaking, or whether you’re even the type of person who uses taste in media as a basis upon which your friendships are formed. Whenever I receive a recommendation from a very enthusiastic person who absolutely insists I must drop everything I’m doing and watch Game of Thrones, or drop everything I’m doing and buy a pressure cooker online, I want to run, run, run. These people are far too exhausting for me to want to have as close friends. As a fully-formed human being working on becoming even fullier and formier, I have plenty of my own interests that I already struggle to create time for enjoying, and I am just not interested in setting those aside in order to please someone who can’t even make an effort to get to know me. If Dan had made a respectable effort of any kind, he would have found out that I:

  • do not enjoy bloated television dramas filled with excessive violence, nudity, and foul language, and
  • don’t even cook meat at home and would probably never buy a pressure cooker, let alone want to start cooking meat in it using the sous-vide method which produces a disgustingly slimy-soft something that I wouldn’t feed even to a 90-year-old granny sans dents.

Dan is aware that he has some powers of persuasion, and he doesn’t like seeing those powers fail him. He gains great satisfaction from advising people in matters he considers himself an authority on and seeing his directions carried out according to his specifications. When Dan purchased his house, many of us were subjected to his newfound authority on the subject of home-ownership. He even suggested that I was foolish for renting an apartment, as if purchasing a home were some easy task. Now that I’ve had the experience of having gone and done it with M, I think my own advice would run contrary to his in many circumstances given how quickly the list of repairs is piling up and how few are the resources we have for managing them.

Another incident springs to mind–one from my early days of getting to know Dan–that should have served as a major red flag. He was talking to me about a friend of his who was down on her luck and who he was encouraging to apply at our workplace. Their exchange was taking place in real time via text message. She made the mistake of telling him that she had looked at the online application, and that it was too lengthy and convoluted to justify spending that amount of time on for such little pay. She was accurate in her observations on both accounts, and to top it off, she wouldn’t have even been aware that it usually takes months for an application to be reviewed at our particular institution (and of course Dan neglected to tell her this). Dan responded by sending her a text message that in its length rivaled the length of the application (I jest, but he is a known paragraph-upon-paragraph texter, just as I am with this blog). In the text, he lashed out at her, saying that he was sorry that he took the time out of his day to help someone who obviously didn’t appreciate his help, and proceeded to attack her for being lazy and irresponsible. He showed me the back-and-forth of their entire exchange with a certain amount of pride, and said, “Well, I guess that friendship is over.” He was even proud to show me the part where she in turn called him out on his tendency to exert his control over the lives of people who are supposed to be his friends, and that he had a problem with minding his own business. She hadn’t even requested his help in the first place.

Another story from around the same time: Dan decided one day to tell me a lot of details from his recent past, including ones relating to his broken engagement. I heard a long story of various betrayals, which all painted a picture of what appeared to be a highly erratic person (his former fiancé) who he stayed with longer than he should have, in his words. When I asked why he tolerated all of that behavior, he said, “Well, she was really fucking hot,” and left it at that. Given that I’ve since experienced my own broken engagement which occurred not too long after, I can tell you with confidence that my former fiancé’s looks were just about the last thing on my mind when I called it quits. I think at the time I was a little too distracted by his descent into alcoholism, his determination to bring me down with him, and the resulting abuse directed my way (emotional and verbal, one time physical) that I forgot to factor into my decision the idea that I had once found this man attractive. Knowing that I wanted out of the relationship was an easy conclusion to come to–going through with it was much more difficult. It’s not easy to give up on a person who once had a soul you fell in love with, even if you haven’t seen that side in a while. I do not and cannot understand, at all, that Dan’s reluctance to end his own engagement was based entirely on his partner’s appearance. But I suspect it made Dan feel good about himself to have an attractive mate–he cares much for the appearance of things and very little for what is inside.

Today my coworkers found out that I’m quitting. One coworker, Donald, was very kind toward me when he found out. I’ve written about him before. He is the person from the Midnight shift who I refer to in this post and who reappears in part two. I never wrote an update to that second post. At the time, I considered the matter resolved. When it turned out that the situation was not as it originally appeared, I neglected to write another update because what actually ended up happening was just too depressing. If you feel like reading the second part to the story, be aware that the supervisor in that story is Dan. This is what ended up happening:

Donald was offered the position on my shift, Evenings, AKA “second shift.” Then: radio silence from our boss and supervisors. They rescinded the offer without ever telling him. Dan did not want Donald on our shift. He was determined that the spot be taken by another person who was on a temporary full-time status at the time. This person then started working for us on a permanent basis. Still no one informed Donald. He waited and waited. He kept wondering why his schedule hadn’t changed yet. No one spoke to him about it. Of course he eventually realized what had happened. He stayed on Midnights for months afterward, trying to get his spot back as a gallery attendant. It finally happened, and today was his first day back I believe. As he was leaving work, he asked me why I was quitting. I didn’t have time to elaborate on the many reasons that factored in to my decision, so I just told him it was because of Dan. That I couldn’t stand working with him anymore. Donald replied, “Yeah…Dan kind of stabbed me in the back.” It was the first time I had ever heard a critical word from Donald about anyone here. I said I knew all about it, and I told him about my conversation with Dan, and how Dan assured me that he (Donald) would be moved up to Evening shift. Donald went on to say that they had indeed given him the position, only to put another person in his place without telling him.

Actions, we are told, speak louder than words. These cowards couldn’t even use their words to speak to Donald, so I don’t know where that leaves us. If Dan didn’t want him, it was his duty to inform him of that fact. He never did. He left him hanging. He knew he could do this because Donald is in no way a threat to Dan. Dan acted as if a mosquito had landed on his arm, and swatted it away without a thought.

I have little else to add about Dan as a supervisor. I know him too well to have any respect for him, but at the very least one would have hoped that despite his shortcomings as a human being, he would have still been able to perform the functions of his job in a competent manner. Instead, working with him has felt like an exercise in chaos management. His judgment is questionable at its best and reprehensible at its worst, and I will thank God for every day that I get to spend apart from him in the future.

Good tidings to all who made it this far.

And if you have anyone in your life who frequently likes to play devil’s advocate, consider asking them why that would ever be necessary.

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