Monday, May 7

Competing for Approval, part 2

It's still finals week. So here's a quick quiz for you.

One of the following is false. Can you guess which?

A. Ate an entire bag of mini carrots in 30 minutes
B. Slept a total of 6 hours in 3 days
C. Accidentally fell asleep at my desk on top of my laptop
D. Skipped the 2 hour Grey's Anatomy special to write a paper
E. Researched and wrote a 20 page paper in under 13 hours

Now, back to my story...

"Look What I Can Do!" - Competing for Approval part 2
(Catch up: read part 1)

* * *
On Tuesday, I got my bearings. I sat at [Supervisor]'s computer, set up meetings for [Head Honcho] and [Number 2], answered the phone. It was pretty straightforward.

The next morning, I was awakened by a phone call from [Willa].

“What is with this DVD on the desk?” She asked. DVD? I vaguely remembered a disc in a case that had been sitting on [Supervisor]'s desk when I arrived on Tuesday.

“I don’t know… it was there when I came in yesterday; I didn’t know it was anything out of the ordinary.” This wouldn’t have happened, of course, if I had sat at [Supervisor]’s desk on Monday. I refrained from mentioning this.

[Willa] asked me more questions, all in a very concerned – frantic, maybe? – tone of voice, before getting off the phone. I didn’t feel like I had done anything wrong, and her questions were pretty reasonable, but they felt almost like accusations. I kept imagining the way our call sounded to the people who might have been listening: The new intern had left a mess for [Willa] to clean up. Did [Willa] sigh and roll her eyes, share a moment of frustration with someone when she got off the phone? I hoped not.

The next day, I arrived at [Supervisor]'s desk to find a page-long typed note from [Willa]. She had printed it off and left it right in front of his computer. As I read it, every mini paragraph (there were nine) brought me a wave of resentment: She wrote that I was doing something wrong to the [Website] computer, confusing the program? Why couldn’t she have just said “It turns out the program doesn’t accept symbols in the clip title”? Was her appeal for me to CC her on meeting requests a veiled complaint? I certainly hadn’t complained at having to search through deleted emails the day before. Why couldn’t she have written “I think we should start cc-ing each other on meeting requests” instead of “Can you cc: me”?

There was really nothing that awful about the content of the note, I realized after I had calmed down. What bothered me was that she had left it out for anyone to read. Reading it while thinking about how public she had made it, it had seemed like a list of demands or grievances. Was her word choice intentional? Was she just trying to be helpful? It was impossible to tell from the words on the page.

In the afternoon, [Willa] called to “check in.” She may have been making an effort to open communication between us, but I didn’t consider that. Instead, I felt as though she was monitoring me unnecessarily. Why is she calling me on her day off? I wondered. Does she think I’m incompetent? I felt like [Willa] was being condescending; she may have been working at [Network] longer than I had, but we had the same title. I shouldn’t have to report to her. I was resourceful; if I ran into a problem, I could easily ask another assistant to help me, or re-read the part of her note that read “Feel free to call me with a question if you need to.”

After going through a slew of questions, [Willa] asked me if I had heard from [Supervisor]. “It’s weird, he didn’t call me at all yesterday. He doesn’t pick up when I call him and he hasn’t listened to any of the messages I left him.”

How many could you have left in one day? I wondered. “Yeah, it’s almost like he’s on vacation or something!” I laughed.

“Oh, well, actually he is,” [Willa] replied in a helpful voice.

There was a pause. I frowned. Really? How could that not have been a joke? “I know,” I finally answered.

“Oh.” She sounded annoyed. “Well it’s hard to tell when you’re being sarcastic.”

We got off the phone, and I felt even more irritated. I knew that sarcasm wasn’t always the best social lubricant, but that joke had seemed pretty straightforward. Still, I hadn’t enjoyed that interaction, so I decided I would try to keep my jokes to myself with [Willa]. Just business.

The problem with relationships that are “just business” is that they prevent people from becoming comfortable with each other. Had [Willa] and I chatted more the first day we met, we might have felt more at-ease with each other. Since we worked on alternate days, we almost never got the chance to interact in person, when small talk and the benefit of visual cues (facial expressions, gestures) might help us better understand each other.

Instead of getting to know [Willa] and think of her as an ally, she increasingly became an enemy to me. Since I barely ever saw her in the flesh, it was easy to think of her in an impersonal way. In fact, it was a struggle not to think of her as my competition: all I knew about her was that she called me far too much, sent me excessively long emails telling me what to do, and didn’t understand my sense of humor. We had the same responsibilities, the same office space, boss, and similar career goals. And here I was, learning her system for the pitch log and being harassed by phone calls on my days off.

One day I arrived to find that she had printed a label of my name and stuck it on my folder. She had decorated my property? What could that possibly mean? It felt like a violation of my personal space; some symbol of ownership over me. “My folder has a printed label with my name on it, and so should yours,” I could hear her saying to herself. What if I didn’t want the label?
* * *


Sipwine said...

I just wanted to say D.
I'll come back later and read the rest, I have to go get crunkity crunk crunk right now though...

Wanderlusting said...

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but I swear I've already read this post; did you blog about this situation with Willa before? Especially about the whole, "it's hard to tell if you are being sarcastic" thing. Or am I a nutter? Or did I miss something...that's it, I'm going to bed.

The Accidental Bitch said...

wanderlusting - I did, sorry for the confusion. I wrote a few posts about Willa, and I used some of those anecdotes in the paper that I wrote for my teacher. So there are a few repeat stories, but the core of the paper is about the competitive aspect. Glad you pay so much attention though! :)

Beatrix Kiddo said...

I think E is false. It probably took you 13 and a half hours.

Oddly enough, I'm about to go through something similar at my internship. One of the previous interns is returning for seven weeks. But I also have to live with her, so if she turns out like [Willa], there's no escape!

Princess Extraordinaire said...

I don't know if all of the above are true and you're tryinhg to confuse me...okay...maybe D

Grant Miller said...

I hate labels.

Wanderlusting said...

Yay! A for Effort!