Tuesday, May 8

Competing for Approval, part 3

The week is so long. I am almost free. And so tired. So... tired...

"Look What I Can Do!" - Competing for Approval part 3
(Catch up: read parts 1 and 2)

* * *

When [Supervisor] returned, the phone calls from [Willa] stopped. We emailed each other, but things seemed to calm down. I focused on my work: there was a stack of pitches about two feet high that had been accumulating since December, and it was nagging me. I spent a nine-hour day logging as many pitches as I could into the database, and noticed that the To Do pile was right where I had left off when I returned two days later. I finished them and awaited a cry of surprise or approval from [Supervisor], but none came. Eighteen hours of tedious work and he doesn’t say a word? I supposed I couldn’t fault him for expecting me to do my job, though.

Every day I arrived at the office, I would open my email to find a note from [Willa]. The majority of them sounded like demands, because I couldn’t tell what she was doing all day. “I just thought I’d let you know, [Supervisor] said he’s getting a little nervous about the pile of pitches. I didn’t get a chance to get to them, but I thought you should know.” I looked at the basket; there were about five (thirty minutes of work).

One Thursday in early February, [Claire] joined me in the dub room to watch an episode of one of our new series. As we watched, we talked about our lives, Grey’s Anatomy, office gossip. I told [Claire] that I felt like [Willa] would impress [Supervisor] more because she was constantly trying to delegate to me.

“No way,” [Claire] consoled me with a smirk. “She’s not that great. And I know for a fact that [Supervisor] likes you better.”

“Really? How?”

“Because he told me when he picked his interns, ‘I picked two interns. One of them is fabulous, she’s awesome. The other one, I’m not so sure about.’”

I was horrified. “How do you know he wasn’t talking about [Willa]? He totally was. Shit.”

“No, he was talking about you! He didn’t say your name, but he told me the good one was getting surgery.” Whew! “And remember how you had him send you those DVDs?”

When I first got the internship, I had asked [Supervisor] if he could send me some seasons of [Network]’s shows so that I could familiarize myself with the network. I truly wanted to watch them, but knew I was taking a gamble: I could come off as either enthusiastic or demanding.

"Well he loved that!"

"Really?!"

"Totally. He told me about it; he said it was great how excited you were to learn about [Network]. He told everyone in the office that you had asked for them."

After this conversation, I felt like I had a friend on my side of the battle wills I had created. I liked confiding in [Claire], but I had to wonder what went on when she and [Willa] worked together on Wednesdays. Was [Claire] just as gossipy? Did she tell [Willa] that I complain about her? She wouldn’t do that! I insisted. Still, how could I know? Maybe I should be more careful what I told [Claire], I thought. I felt like I could trust her, but I still didn’t trust [Willa]. Still, I was relieved to have a friend I could share my feelings with.

[Claire]’s revelation made me feel a little better, but I still felt as though I had to prove to [Supervisor] that I was better than [Willa]. Only when [Supervisor] praised me (and complained about [Willa]) I would feel secure.

Yet it never happened. Occasional compliments were shrouded by humor: when I filed away a stack of pitches I had just logged, [Supervisor] said in a silly voice “You’re so fast, [TAB]! It’s like magic!” More often, however, he said nothing. Instead, he preferred to give me strange, quizzical looks – complete with a raised eyebrow – when I asked him questions that he apparently deemed too silly for a polite response.

The first time he asked me to print a label for a VHS, I brought it back for quality assurance. [Supervisor] pursed his lips and cocked his head to the side. “Hmm, something is off here.”

“I wasn’t sure about the font size,” I explained sheepishly, trailing off.

[Supervisor] looked at me from his chair. “Well, did you use the template?” He asked, evoking a preschool teacher whose patience has worn thin.

“Yes, I used the template… it just didn’t look like it would fit, so I tried -”

[Supervisor] shot out of his chair, seemingly irritated. He showed me how to use the template and then left. Later that day, I asked somebody else when I needed to find out where we kept the staples. I can’t believe I’m afraid to ask him where staples are, I thought, frustrated. I’m not afraid; I just don’t want to deal with him right now, I reasoned.

I explained my dilemma as my roommate’s dad drove us to campus after work that day. “You can’t let people like him get to you,” he said. “You have no control over his responses. Try to think about yourself: you’re there to learn, so just do whatever you can to get the most out of your internship. You don’t need him to like you.”

I nodded, but I was still troubled. Maybe I could ignore [Supervisor]’s strange facial expressions, but I still needed his praise. Why does it matter? Why can’t you just accept that you do your best and forget what he thinks? I wondered, troubled. Perhaps it was because at an unpaid internship, approval and appreciation were my only forms of compensation.
* * *

6 comments:

Dropout! said...

In his defense, you really should have used the template.

Ripsy said...

dropout makes a valid point.

Beatrix Kiddo said...

You should be paid for having to put up with template Nazis and inferior interns. [Network] seems to be thriving on the voluntary slave labor of its youth.

Princess Extraordinaire said...

You're doing your best and you know it - that's what counts - your supervisor obviously isn't an expressive individual so just chalk it up to his being happy with your work...and a little anal about the tempkate...

Sipwine said...

Um, I wouldn't worry too much. I liked what your roommate's dad said about the situation.

fuzzymuffin said...

Sounds to me like you're impressing him... You just have to keep your mouth shut when it comes to [Willa] and get on with it because people will notice what you are doing and what she isn't. That and correct her wherever possible when it's just you two and then smile! Like you're being helpful, I love doing that.