There’s a Reason You Can’t Have 2 Alphas. No One Likes to Clean Up Blood.
For the past 5 years, the closest I’ve ever come to a hostile working environment is the time, only a couple of months ago, that I went all Office Space on my home printer and accidentally-on-purpose dropped it in a childish fit of frustration at its apparent refusal to do its job.
We haven’t spoken since.
Looking back, I realize I’ve been very fortunate. Aside from one boss of questionable moral character and another with questionable people skills whatsoever, I’ve had some pretty fantastic co-workers throughout my adult working life. (I say “adult working life” because we can’t even begin to explore the smorgasbord of bona fide taxed jobs I’ve carried since I was 15-years-old and literally flipping burgers at an ever-classy A&W Root Beer/gas station combo.)
Not the exact one where I worked, but you get the idea.
It started with my first “real” post-college job doing GIS (i.e. “making maps”) for engineers in an environmental consulting company, complete with the extra-private, 6-foot cubicle walls to ensure maximum productivity with minimum person-to-person interaction and an hour and 20 minute commute each way, and then continued when I moved on to working in GIS and then sustainability programs for the U.S. Army in an office full of mostly women — amazing women and one guy — surrounded by a world full of men and politics and acronyms and things that exploded and made the walls shake. It even continued when I reverted back to waitressing in a bar where I worked only for shoddy tips and the occasional bounced paycheck and where I mopped floors for free.
Throughout the history of these endeavors, my co-workers have always made the job, no matter how mundane, interesting and worthwhile. They understood the fact that we were all in this together. They joked, they laughed, and they didn’t mind when I launched the random stress ball over opaque and foreboding cubicle fortress walls.
They were good times.
But apparently, times are a-changin’.
At the risk of someone discovering me and subsequently finding myself dooced, I have to say — things at my new job are not so easygoing. Imagine 3 women working together in a 6′ x 6′ closet, trying to be productive and answering phone calls and pretending to be tech savvy, all while the big boss is away for an extended stint in the Reserves. Then imagine that 2 of those women can’t stand each other, and the third — that would be me — was only just brought in as extra help and currently feels like the knotted sock her dogs like to pull taut between them with clamped and barred teeth.
Only more uncomfortable.
On the one hand, we have the fiercely strong and independent Alpha Female, who territorially stands her forged piece of ground, the boarders carved deep into the earth with her constant pacing and panting and paranoia. Judge her as we might, the pack can’t help but admire the Alpha for her undying loyalty and self-assurance.
Drawing by: Beeju
On the other hand, we have the timid-yet-determined Under Dog, the one who knows she was brought in to be the boss, knows she has to strategically yet tactfully put the Alpha in her place, and knows that in any good plot line, the underdog wins. The pack likes the Under Dog. We know she can bring good things to us. But we’re afraid to show our faltering faith in the Alpha.
Drawing by: Beeju
And then there’s me. What role do I play in this little saga?
So far, all I can figure is I’m just the one who cleans up their shit.
And for right now, I’m thinking that’s the best place to be.