Monday, May 14

Competing for Approval, part 4

In case you think this post is "slacking off," I'll have you know that replacing everyone's names in this story is almost more work than writing a real post. But not quite.

"Look What I Can Do!" - Competing for Approval part 4
(Read parts 1, 2, and 3)

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Another Thursday in late February, [Claire] ran into the dub room and stage-whispered, "Did you see the competitive coverage report?" At a lot of TV networks, someone in the office puts out a report of different shows that played during the week, mostly "notable" programming like season premieres, specials, etc. so that people can stay current without actually watching all those shows. Everyone at [Network] can submit a review for the report, and everybody who submits gets in.

I opened the report and [Claire] directed me to [Willa]’s review of E!’s Grammy coverage:

“I have to point out that in the middle of the show there was a shot of Jo and Slade taking pictures in front of the step and repeat, which for any of the Orange County fan there will be no guessing for what will happen to the couple this season. Usually The red carpet show with E! this season have been fairly boring but something was in the air...or their drink pre-show because Sunday night Ryan Seacrest and his fellow hosts were not going to hold back with any gossip and fashion opinions. It was nice that the show was live too because it added to the some what unorganized events on the red carpet, typical for the red carpet and entertaining for the people at home. All in all it was a great start to the beginning.”

I was actually stunned. I couldn’t tell what she was trying to say, or if there were any actual opinions about the content of the show. [Claire] and I read the rest of the reviews [Willa] had written (about six) and giggled. Had she not been the enemy, I would have felt bad for her. Instead, I was relieved. This was all the evidence I needed to prove that I was smarter (so, hopefully, better) than [Willa].

For a while, the tension I had felt dissipated. My frustration that I seemed to log most of the pitches was stale; I had gotten used to it. Everything [Willa] did that bothered me was a minor irritation. In April, she asked me to work on a project that had been specifically given to her: we had to call contestants from a show to get their contact information. I had just finished a huge pile of pitches, so I tried to help her with a few of the contestants. “Just write the information down next to their names and I’ll put it into the spreadsheet,” she wrote on a post-it. I looked at the sheet. There was no way all the contact information could fit on the paper next to their names. Why didn’t she just send me the stupid spreadsheet, or save it on a shared folder so we could both access it? I thought angrily. Did she just want to have more control over the project than me? To feel like I was reporting to her? Or did she think she was actually doing me a favor? I made a new spreadsheet and added the information. If you’re going to ask someone a favor, don’t make them do twice as much work.

A couple days later, I talked to [Claire] again. “What does [Supervisor] say about [Willa] and me?” I asked.

“Ooooooh, it’s so weird,” She said with amusement. “He’s really impressed with [Willa]. He thinks she’s great. He’s always saying “That [Willa], she’s a real go-getter.” He loves that she’s always making spreadsheets and all that.”

I was astonished. “He seriously thinks she’s that great?”

“I guess so.”

“Well, what does he say about me?”

“He doesn’t say much about you. I know he thinks you’re great too. I think he’s just surprised by [Willa], because he had already expected you to do well but he wasn’t sure about [Willa].”

Maybe contributing to those competitive coverage reports had actually impressed him? But admiring her for the spreadsheet was ridiculous, especially when she had to get my help to do the project. And when I do all of the work we’re supposed to be doing. Still, I tried to think: Did I do anything above and beyond? I usually stayed at the office until after seven o’clock, when we were only instructed to stay until six. I asked to sit in on pitches, and I asked for those DVDs: initiative. When I reorganized [Number 2]’s DVD collection, I labeled the 1/8 inch spine of every DVD (over a hundred of them) by printing the titles on labels and cutting them into tiny strips. I logged most of the pass pitches and did most of the tasks [Supervisor] asked of us without much contribution from [Willa].

What did [Willa] do all day that I was always the one logging pass pitches? Was she overwhelmed when people handed her DVDs to dub? Did label-making take more than five minutes for her? Did she simply look busier than I did? Most significantly, though: Did [Supervisor] notice that I did more of our duties than [Willa]? He must not, if he was so impressed with her. How could I find out what he thought of me without asking him? It didn’t seem as though he had mentioned anything to [Claire], who was my only source of information.

Now I felt like I was competing again; this time with a little more bitterness. My golden opportunity to prove myself the better intern came in the form of a list. [Supervisor] gave [Willa] and I a printed excel spreadsheet filled with pitch information. “We’re supposed to check that it’s in the log, add the information if it’s not. Initial next to the ones you do so we’ll know where we left off,” [Willa] explained.

It was a long list, and it took me about a week to complete (most of the information was not in the log). In that time, [Willa] finished two pages and I finished fourteen. She stopped after the first day. The moment I finished the list, I delivered it to [Supervisor]’s desk. He was away, so I wrote a note that said “Completed” on it. If he looked at the initials, he would be able to see that I had done virtually all of the work. As I set the list down, I realized that I actually felt angry. I wanted to know why nobody had once told me with sincerity that they thought I was doing well. Not a comparison with [Willa]; a progress report for me. I was most angry because I recognized that I was actively trying to undermine [Willa]. I felt guilty, but mostly upset with [Supervisor] for failing to encourage me and make me feel valued. If I had been getting positive feedback from him, I didn’t think I would feel the need to throw my initials onto his desk. I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t mention the completed packet.
* * *


Ripsy said...


Grant Miller said...

eeesh. Next time don't make up names and just say you did.

Princess Extraordinaire said...

Sorry you didn't get any credit where you deserve a lot..

Sarah said...

I've learned that the most deserving never get their just rewards =( Keep your head up and continue doing outstanding work.

And if it's any consolation, I'd pick you any day over Willa.

Wanderlusting said...

Going through a similar situation at work right now - I have a thankless job and oddly enough what I am being thanked on is for my writing and editing...two things that are technically NOT part of my original job description therefore wont mean jack pish when it comes for my review.

Seriously, it sucks. I have the kinda job where if I do it right, no one will notice...and if I do it wrong, then everyone will...

S* said...

I'd just stop being so overly concerned with shining more brightly than Willa. If you're really as great as you say you are, the higher-ups will notice. And if not, well, get used to it because that's how the world is...those who should get their due often do not.

Anonymous said...

Do the work for yourself, not for the approval of someone else. That will make for a long, frustrating life. Eventually, you will get noticed, just keep plugging along. Take pride in the fact that you know you're doing a great job, and be happy with that. That's all you can do.

Great blog, BTW.

Amber said...

Welcome to the "real world" sweetie. People do notice when you're doing a good job, but it's not often that anything is said or any special attention is given to you because of it. You can't spend your entire life waiting on approval from a supervisor. Most people are "takers" and the more you give, the more they take. All they want is the finished project; they don't care what you went through to get it. Just continue plugging away but do the job FOR YOURSELF. Don't get caught up in the petty bullshit of other people and their power play trips. Dignity, class, and self-respect are worth more than any "job well done." You're going to have to live with yourself for longer than this internship will ever last. The best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to them. Call Willa out and I guarantee you that her attitude/issues will stop, or at least improve. Nobody can make you feel inferior unless you let them, ya know?

Good luck with all this. I've been in similar situations with job/people and I know it's hard and you want to wring someone's neck or cry or something. But you can't control what other people do/say. All you can do is live your life in a manner that is going to make you feel proud of yourself and enable you to keep your head held high, no matter what.

Take care :). And I love your blog, been a reader for a while now but haven't commented... sorry :).

kittenpower said...

I hate not being acknowledged too. Sorry!

Strange Bird said...

And then there was part 5! Right?

The Accidental Bitch said...

ripsy - I know...

grant miller - I considered that, but I don't like lying to my readers. Except for you, of course. :P

princess extraordinaire - Me too, my friend. Me too.

sarah - I'll get them next time. I hope...

wanderlusting - Yeah it's so much easier to notice when someone fucks up than when someone's fabulous. That's why being a good boss requires a lot more skill and attentiveness than a lot of people think.

s* - Yes, but the point is that it is often true that people who try hard and don't "toot their horn" or whatever will go unnoticed. Only really observant higher-ups notice who does what work, depending on the job.

anon - Thanks for the compliment. As for plugging away, the whole point is that in the business world the system is designed to promote competetive behavior. If your work isn't being recognized, you have a higher risk to be fired, laid off, whatever. And I'm also just a pretty competetive person in general. I like being the best.

amber - Thanks for commenting! You are always welcome. I did start this job doing the work "for me" and it eventually evolved into this. I think it was partly also because I wasn't doing any work that I particularly enjoyed. I can't help but desire to feel valued.

kittenpower - Thanks for your sympathy! I'm so glad it's over!

strange bird - Yes! Thank you for checking back, I'm so out of it this week. I'll get back on the horse asap.