Thursday, February 17, 2011
A week ago, I quit my job.
In the past week, I’ve spoken with friends, family members, lawyers, friends who are lawyers, friends at the Equal Rights Commission for my state, had some migraines, had some nausea, cried a few times.
I worked with a passive-aggressive sociopath.
While conducting the first of many websearches for helpful or useful information to help me deal with this co-worker, I was amazed at the sheer quantity of websites, blogs, books, podcasts, etc., on the subject of dealing with not just passive-aggressive personalities, but passive-aggressive coworkers. It’s unsettling that this seems to have become an epidemic (like assholey Twitter posts or hookah bars, but worse). I decided then, at the suggestion of my partner, to make this blog. I’ve told a number of stories already to friends, and people laugh about them. I enjoy doing imitations, and they’re funny in the sort of tragic way that stories about offices invariably are.
The job itself was nothing very exciting or stimulating, and it wasn’t a “career” for me (although I question that idea in the current economy anyway, but that’s another topic), but I stayed for some time after the passive aggression began. I rationalized for him quite a bit, I questioned my own reactions (“Am I overreacting?” “Did I misunderstand that?” “Is it just that I’m in an unfamiliar culture?”), I employed various aversion techniques, like taking long walks to do brief tasks, bringing my work into another office, pretending not to hear him when he’d be unreasonable (citing my poor hearing), switching my hours around so as to work when he was not present and to work instead with tolerable coworkers, etc.
Last week, I left the office, and after the weekend, I woke up crying before having to go to work, so I unceremoniously sent a letter of resignation. No two weeks’ notice, just…
I couldn’t stand it. I hated my job and I hated my life outside of my job because I thought about it when I wasn’t there. There were a number of serendipitous factors complicating and poisoning our office space that were so bizarre, you'll just have to keep checking back to see what they were, as I document the past 6 months of my worklife, from then until now.
Even at this moment, I think of a song my old coworker Rachel taught me five or six years ago, that she learned in Hebrew school:
“Lashon hora, lamed-hey, go to hell the easy way!”
("Lashon hora" translates literally as "evil tongue," but it means to speak disparagingly of another person. And "Lamed" and "Hey" are the Hebrew letters beginning each of the words.)
There may be a number of theological gaps in the flow of this little ditty, but the point is that mnemonics like this help us to remember things, and this particular one comes into my head every time I want to talk smack. In keeping with my appreciation of the harm that can come from trashtalk (and my fear of libel), I want to keep these accounts as objective and anonymous as possible. I drew the first comic, and there's blood dripping from a speech bubble, smoke clouds coming out of his ears... it's hard to be objective. And it's important to convey that pieces of the passive-aggression are tied with tone of voice, volume of voice, and other subtle non-linguistic things that are difficult to draw (especially when you're not the world's best realist). So bear with me!
I’ve ultimately decided to create this blog for the benefit of all of us out there who have had the good fortune to be blessed with a passive-aggressive sociopath coworker. When I question what good can come from this shitty situation, that I’m now out of a job, that I can’t use the place as a reference, I think:
“It is important for people to recognize the behaviors of the passive-aggressive sociopath coworker so that they don’t spend time questioning themselves and spend time instead formulating coping strategies.”
Most of what he did was nonquantifiable. These behaviors are the kinds of things that are difficult to report as they are to draw, because of the level of absurdity. They make the target question herself, which is worse than just hating one’s job.
So, OK! The best thing that could happen to me now is for you to laugh at my misfortune. I hope that you’ll enjoy reading, and that if you have a passive-aggressive sociopath coworker (because I know they are out there, passively being aggressive and/or sociopathic, and searching about them was probably how you found this blog), that my unprofessional comics will bring you a smile while you stew at your desk.
You are not alone, paper-pusher!
You are not alone, photocopy girl!
You are not alone, guy who answers the multi-line phone!
You are not alone, people who organize data in Excel spreadsheets and order office supplies!
Thanks for reading.
Also, feel free to email me with your own tales of office woe at
Mlle. Coworker <3
Mlle. Coworker <3