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February 20th, 2003

power structures

I used to hate being an employee. I have felt the fury of a direct verbal assault by a superior more than once in my life. I have had the job reviews in which each raise or promotion was accompanied by expressions like "you're bright and talented enough, but we wonder why we keep you on in light of your many shortcomings". I have felt the smooth, sharp stilleto of an office politics "assasination", slid earnestly into the back, leaving me bleeding (though, interestingly, always suffering, yet never, sadly, quite politically dead). I have survived a palace coup or two, and even developed some facility with the dark arts of subtle defense in my own right.

I've sat through "team meetings", in which the "team" is constructed for the primary purpose of emphasizing how some few in the team are to be exalted, "in control", and largely at relative leisure, while others are to do the real work. I am not by personality a cog on someone else's team. I want to be a contributor in my own right.

But far worse than being an employee is being a boss. When I was a youngish lawyer, I was considered a fun boss. But as the pressures in my life to "succeed" increased, so, too, did my patience and good humour decrease. I am one of those people who is very task-driven. I had very little patience for subordinates who did not take their work seriously. I always thought that finding another profession, not slacking through the law-related professions, was the best way for one to deal with job malaise. As a result, I was a very demanding boss. I tended to insist that things be done, and get frustrated with people who could not stay "on task", particularly as a deadline loomed.

I really disliked being a boss. I do not like to hold authority over other people; more accurately stated, the part of me that does like to hold authority over other people is a part of me I deeply despise.

When we moved to Texas, I resolved that I would never be a traditionally demanding boss again. I by-passed potentially more lucrative avenues so that I would not be an employee. Now, as a boss, I tend to avoid putting any pressure on anyone to get anything accomplished. I assume that I must be the motive force in getting anything done. There's a kind of harmony to this, because under the "rules" applicable to such things, I'm the only truly responsible party when it comes to official deadlines and the like anyway.

I must admit that the sheer stress reduction of being neither a boss nor an employee really has lowered my stress levels measurably.
Even times like now, when I am under a lot of work stress due to sheer workload and deadlines, I feel much less "stretched" by the dual "rings of power"--authority and servility. I am sad to admit that I get somewhat less productivity from those who work with me than I expected in hard-driving days. But it's no fun being Machiavelli--give me Gandhi any day.

orange orb sunsets

We're blessed in Collin County with incredible sunsets. The bright orb setting over a flat horizon, all aglow with color,
really enlivens a sunny day. Today the rain fell, and we are predicted to get so much more rain this weekend. I drive into glorious sunsets so many times a year, and, other than a bit of wonder, think very little of them indeed. But now, when the rain is upon us, I miss the sunsets terribly.
I look into the sky at night, and marvel that I have seen Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus in the same sky at the same timne, not that far from Orion's belt. It might all be a Fifth Dimension song.

I love starry nights and blue skies. But tonight I remember my favorite hymn, Lloyd Stone's lyric set to Sibelius' Finlandia:

"My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

O hear my song, O God of all the nations, A song of peace
for their land and for mine".

Even this lyric doesn't work for lots of people, because they do not believe in the "God" of this song, believing instead in no God or in a different God. Flawed though the song is as a "universal" idea (and Heaven knows we have enough folks trying to force dogma onto other folks, cutting across almost every system of belief), though, I like the idea that the sky is blue in so many places, and the sun rises and sets everywhere.

I feel that we are entering a time in which the sun will for a long time seem not to rise, and during which the skies will be grey. I hope that we avert the shadow, and return to rising and setting suns. We may not know how much we miss the sun until we are plunged into the dark.

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