Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

I’ve had three days off work and they were glorious.  I’m def not looking forward to getting back to the daily grind tomorrow (sadly I can’t even look forward to a short week, because in order to not work on Memorial Day – a company holiday, mind you – I had to agree to work this coming Saturday, which is one of my normal days off, essentially for free.  How effed up is that??).  But let’s not think about that – let’s just focus on the positives.

My “weekend” started a little bit early with a baseball game Thursday night with my mom and lil sis.  We only stayed through the 7th inning stretch because it was already 10:30pm and I had to work the next day.  The most “exciting” part was when some drunk guy apparently lost a bet and streaked across the entire outfield in his birthday suit before being tackled by the security guards.  Sadly I have no pictures to show you, because a) that would be creepy, and b) I was too busy covering my sister’s eyes- luckily she couldn’t see anything through the wall of people standing and snapping pictures in front of us

Friday night and Saturday were laid back me-time.  Sunday evening I met up with the family and some family friends downtown at the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner.  I had the spinach tortellini with alfredo sauce.  It was simply devine.  But, of course, the best part of the Spaghetti Factory is that all entrees automatically come with a scoop of spumoni ice cream for dessert.  Afterwards I took a stroll along the (rather underdeveloped) riverbank to the arch and back.  It’s no Hudson or East River Boardwalk, but it’s all I’ve got, so I might as well try to enjoy it.

Today I had to pick up Syd’s birthday cake on the way home to help clean for the annual Memorial Day luncheon at my parent’s house.  While there are some members of the family I’d rather not see, it’s worth putting up with a few minutes of polite conversation with them in order to spend the majority of my time hanging out with my family and Aunt/Uncle/cousin Quentin. As is now our custom, we of the “younger generation” played Apples to Apples in one room while my grandparents, great-grandfather, and great-aunt played pinochle in another.  After everyone else left, my dad and brothers went to see MIB 3 while I got a little more quality time in with mom and Syd before heading home.  Tomorrow I’m driving over there again for dinner at IHOP for Syd’s actual birthday.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them this often since I moved out over a year ago!

The Vow

No, this isn’t a post about the Rachel McAdams movie.  This is about a vow of another type.

The last couple weeks have been….trying, to say the least.  But it just so happened that I was reading the right book at the right time.  The Art of the Sale by Phillip Broughton.  Not a book I would normally read, but I picked it up on a whim because selling is one of my weakest skills and I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least gain some more academic knowledge of the subject, even if I’m unlikely to put most of it to the test.  One of the reoccurring themes was optimism.  Not surprising if you think about it.  A salesperson might get 199 rejections for every 1 sale.  You can’t be a pessimist and survive that.

Thursday was a particularly bad day. The stress was getting to the boiling point.  So, before I went in to work, I made myself mentally make a list of all the pros and cons in my life, to remind myself that the pros far, far, far outweigh the cons, and that this latest and greatest con would only be short-lived.  That was the day I ended up making amends with Shelley.

I was going to blog about my pros and cons list, but first I wanted to look over my old Thanksgiving “what I’m Thankful for” posts to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.  So I simply searched my posts for the word ‘thankful.’  Turns out the second hit was a post from January 2011 about the Marc drama.  I started re-reading my posts from the first half of 2011.  Damn.  I didn’t realize how bad it was.

It’s quite possible that my blog is skewed- it is an outlet, after all, and I’m more likely to blog about a crappy day than a normal, fairly pleasant one – but there was so much bitterness, I couldn’t believe it.  I even had a couple posts about how frustrated and angry I was with my parents- re-reading those posts makes me cringe with embarrassment at how immature they sound.  But, it also puts the current month into perspective.

Yes, the first half of May 2012 has, on the whole, sucked.  Especially (actually, only) on the job front.  But I CANNOT let that drag me down.  I don’t want to be bitter.  I don’t want to be angry.  I don’t want to have regrets.  I want to enjoy my life as much as I can and keep looking up during the down periods.  The rest of May looks pretty good (Rangers are still in the playoffs, I’m having a much-needed happy hour with Kim on Tuesday, and I’m going to see my family  5 times in the next 10 days, which is practically unprecedented), and that’s what I need to focus on.  Forget Shelley, forget the stupid catastrophe claims, forget all the negativity from some coworkers.  I just have to deal with it the best I can and keep my eye on the big picture.  My life is good, and it’s only going to get better 🙂

Back to normal

I’m happy to report that work is now more or less back to normal.  Not because of anything my boss did, mind you.  She actually tried with all of her heart to make the atmosphere as tense and awkward as possible.  As in giving me and Brian the silent treatment, refusing to acknowledge us if we passed in the hallway (unless it was to cast a contemptuous glance our way), and often sending us away if we had a question because she was “too busy” and then five minutes later having a half hour conversation with Katie about tanning….  I know, tres juvenile of her.  But that’s just who she is.  For the first time in my life I literally dreaded the thought of going to work every morning and having to deal with her bs.  So, on Thursday I decided to be the bigger person.  Me.  Not my 40+ year old manager.  Me.

 

First thing in the morning I went into her office, noted that it had been very tense, and apologized if she had thought I was “challenging” her  or trying to stir up trouble the week before.  Even though I don’t think I have anything to apologize for (not my fault she’s incapable of having a serious discussion with an employee about their concerns and instead takes everything personally and then lashes out and holds a grudge….) but I’m not stupid.  I have to work with this woman for who knows how many more months (until I leave next spring in all likelihood) and I need her to write me a positive recommendation letter in October.  The simpler solution would have been to find another job, but as previously noted I have a 2 week trip already booked in November and am planning on moving next spring/early summer, so the cost of leaving is just not worth it. Better to make the best of it.  And though I do think that she absolutely should have been the one to initiate the conversation, I’ve accepted that that’s not her managerial style.  She’s one who needs her ego stroked constantly and is insecure enough that she can’t handle even indirect criticism.  She did grudgingly admit that “a lot of things have gone on that she hasn’t liked, but she is trying to change her attitude.”  She looked like she’d rather be sucking a lemon than saying those words, so I take a little comfort in the fact that our other manager apparently has stood up for us in meetings with their boss and it seems like he’s told her to chill out.

 

My timing couldn’t have been better because later that day she was going around and figuring out the schedule (she can’t really justify overtime anymore) and told me I could have my regular days off this weekend rather than working half a day each day as had been previously agreed.  The people who had yet to make amends are, needless to say, not as lucky as I.  Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and make the boss happy in order to survive with your sanity intact, as distasteful as it may be.

Avengers

I saw the Avengers this afternoon and it was AMAZING.  The only Avengers-related film I’d seen before this was Captain America which I thought was good, but not great.  Avengers was witty, entertaining, and had just the right mix of storyline and action. I’m usually constantly checking the time in the theater (I hate to sit still for hours at a time, no matter how much I’m enjoying the movie) but not during this film. I can’t wait until the sequel comes out, though who knows when that will be.  Luckily, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and Captain America 2 are all due out within the next two years to tide me over.  Now I just have to catch up on Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Thor (not so interested in the Hulk).  Guess I know what I’ll be doing next time I have a day off 🙂

Rebel

If it seems like my blog is being taken over by work, that’s because this blog tends to be a reflection of my life, and work has certainly taken that over.  I’m being rebellious today and not working (and the director of claims closed the entire office tomorrow, so I’m getting 2 days off in a row! Woo-hoo!).  The week leading up to this, however, has been far from smooth sailing.

Let me start off by saying that this isn’t about the extra work or the extra hours.  Cats happen, you have to buckle down and get the job done.  It’s part of claims.  I get that.  What I don’t get is how Shelley expects us to step up to the plate when she can’t even treat us like human beings.  Every single one of us has the same complaints.  Every.  Single.  One.  Yet she refuses to listen to any of them and just blames us for anything that goes wrong while simultaneously threatening us if we express our concerns.  So for any would-be catastrophe managers, here’s a list of common complaints and tips on how to avoid them:

1.  Lack of communication.  Be absolutely clear about expectations from the start.  This is especially important if the cat team is full of adjusters who have never worked a cat before and who therefore don’t know the exact logistics of what it entails.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve worked in claims for 15 years and willingly volunteered for so many cats that it’s second nature to you.  It matters that your team understands.

2.  Mixed messages.  Once you’ve very clearly spelled out the expectations, enforce them uniformly.  If you go on vacation during the first week of the cat and people take one or both of their normal days off and no one in management (or even non-management for that matter) says anything to them, it’s not fair to punish and yell at them for doing the same thing the next week.  How are they supposed to know that it’s not okay if you don’t tell them before they do it?

3.  Shutting out complaints.  When multiple people come to you with their concerns about the lack of clear communication, don’t turn it around and blame them for not asking you questions, and don’t question their loyalty and accuse them of hiding behind vague wording as an excuse to be slackers. Seriously, that’s not going to win you anyone’s support.  And it’s going to make people stop opening up to you because they know you won’t listen.

4.  Because I told you so syndrome.  The wrong way to garner support for a cat is to tell people that they are now on the cat team and this is what we’re doing, and if you don’t like it, there’s the door.  The right way is to present it in a manner such as this:  “Hey guys, there was a catastrophe and we are in the perfect position to help since we already have 7 days-a-week coverage and most of you are young and single.  We need people to step up and work the next few weeks basically without days off, though we’re open to negotiation if you have prior plans.  This would really help the company and the members and would showcase what we can do.  So, who’s in?”  I guarantee you every single one of us would have stepped up.

Ugh, I really need to stop ranting about work, but this blog has definitely become an outlet.  They’re lucky my Japan trip is booked for November, because I’m not going to find another job that’ll let me take 2 weeks off in a row within the first six months, but after that, all bets are off.  I don’t know, I guess I just don’t appreciate being told that wanting a day off makes me a disappointment and will hurt my career,  It makes me wonder if I really want to work for a company that will punish me for taking 2 days off in 14, nevermind that I’m working extra hours on the days I am there.  Ah well, such is life and I guess I’ll just have to deal with it until November….. only 6 months and 2 days until my trip is over….

Not exactly what I signed up for….

The past week or so at work has been….interesting, to say the least.  As previously noted, our first anniversary was last Wednesday, April 25th.  That Friday at about 4:30pm, Shelley dropped the bomb on me that she had decided not to put in for the promotion she promised me, because my customer service scores had dramatically gone down over the past month.  Apparently it doesn’t matter that the only reason that happened is that the only claims they gave me were hail catastrophe claims from Texas which brought everyone’s scores down….the difference being that everyone else had plenty of “normal” claims to help balance their scores while I did not.  Oh and the people who gave bad scores gave bad scores because of nothing that had to do with me (like unhappiness with the tow they set up on their own before they even called in the claim…) To say I was pissed would be the understatement of the century.  Normally if I get ticked at work I can shake it off within an hour of being home.  Not this time.  I was literally ticked all weekend.  I couldn’t even forget about work because she texted me on Saturday night and Sunday morning begging me to come in an help with the hail catastrophe claims that had just happened in St. Louis.  Needless to say, I ignored her.

Then comes Monday, when I go in and learn that we are no longer the weekend unit, we are the catastrophe (aka cat) team and are expected to work 10-12 hours days and come in 7 days a week.  And unlike normal cat teams, we’re expected to keep working on the pending claims we had before the storm.  Not a big deal for me who, as a relief adjuster, had less than two dozen open, but everyone else’s work managers are blowing up.  I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday returning the voicemails for all seven of my team members.  It. Was. F-ing. Insane.   I worked long hours (luckily we do get overtime, so that’s something) and couldn’t leave my desk even for a 10 minute water break, let alone a lunch break, because if I did I would come back to literally 20+ voicemails.  I finally got Shelley to have someone else help me before I snapped, but their expectations are still insane. They want us to be on the phones answering incoming calls while making outgoing calls while paying estimates.  Not sure how they figure that’s going to work….  I refused to go in yesterday and I’m only going in for a couple of hours today.  Maybe I’ll go in next Saturday, but Mother’s Day is a no-go.  They’re just gonna have to deal with it.  They can’t force me to work an 80 hour week.  I think 55-60ish is way more than enough….

None of us are happy about being volunteered for this hellish work (yes, Shelley and Cynthia volunteered us). I know personally that I’ve never hated my job before, but I hate it now. Cat claims are mindless, never-ending drudgery.  Every claim is basically the same.  Same damage, same complaints, same angry people yelling at you.  4000+ times. It’s odd – I could work 12 hour days at LJB during busy season if I needed to.  Filing applications is also mindless drudgery, but for me it was better because you could tangibly see the results of your work, there was a specific date when it would all be over, and you didn’t have to call some angry person on every single file that you touched. You just buckled down, got in the zone, and got it done. Seriously, I can’t understand people who do cat claims for a living.  It’s only been a week and I’m ready to gouge my eyes out so I don’t have to deal with it anymore!  I can only hope that we aren’t the default cat team for all the rest of the storms that are going to happen this summer, but I know better than that…  is it next spring yet?  I’m ready to be out of here.