Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Anger, and Passion

I'm spending a lot more time feeling angry lately than I have in a long while, and I don't like it.

As anyone who has read this blog over the past few years knows, for the first year or two of its existence I used this blog as a venue to vent my spleen about a lot of things that were frustrating and angering me. First and foremost among these things was my job, and my continually escalating astonishment at the ways in which the company I'd helped build and for which I'd sacrificed an enormous amount was being mismanaged and driven into the ground. In the end we were ultimately bought out by a larger company, and the asshats who'd managed to screw things up so badly were richly rewarded while I -- and pretty much every one of my co-workers -- were given a pittance of a "reward" in exchange for the 4+ years during which most of us had put our personal lives, families, and career paths on hold in exchange for the pipe dream of dot-com-era wealth.

Not long after we were acquired I did a lot of soul searching about the events of the previous couple of years, and came to the conclusion that I desperately needed to re-evaluate things. Anger was running my life. I was bitter, and it was affecting me in lots of ways, none of them good, some far worse than others. I needed to stop turning all this frustration back in on myself, needed to stop beating my breast and screaming in anger about how unfair everything was and just ... do something about it. Either learn to live with it, or move on.

The first step was to begin rethinking my blog, and to try to make it into something that actually provided something other than a bucket to hold my bile. I went back and deleted a whole lot of old entries, ones that were almost solely devoted to venting my spleen without any actual effort to resolve or learn or illuminate. That nixed a solid 30-40% of my blog, and a lot of pretty clever writing, but sometimes you have to cut away some healthy tissue to clean out an infection, so there you have it.

It was also during this 2-3 month period of personal re-evaluation that I stumbled on Sa Bom Nim Nunan's Tang Soo Do studio, and while I don't believe God or fate or whatever directly steps in and intervenes in our lives, fixing things or protecting us from harm, I firmly believe this was an instance of God opening my eyes to a new path and offering me the opportunity to walk it, if I chose. Providing me with the tools I needed to rebuild myself in the way I wanted, if I just chose to take hold of them and start working. A real world example of God helping those who help themselves, if you will.

So I jumped on the path, and I've been walking it for nearly 17 months. Simply put, Tang Soo Do has changed my life. I've rejected the anger that used to define the way in which I approached things, and I feel so much stronger and more in control of my life and myself as a result. I am certain I'm a better husband, a better father, a better friend, a better man because of this art. Anger isn't running my life any more, and that alone has made my life a better place.

But lately, I find anger creeping back in. Work is not a good place, right now. Lots of resignations, and management's done an amazingly poor job of settling anyone's concerns and fears in their wake. Without going into specific instances (it would take way too long) I could sum it up simply this way: through botched attempts at communication, coupled with a subsequent complete lack of communication, they've made the majority of people here feel worthless and without value in the wake of these changes. Well, most of us don't actually feel worthless or without value, but we certainly get the impression that our Corporate Overlords don't see us as worthy and valuable, that's for sure. We are beneath their concern.

And yes, this is making me angry. Angry in a way I haven't felt for a long while.

But I recognize something new, here, though. I have figured out why I'm angry, and it's not really at them, per se. I mean, they're idiots and worthy of little more than scorn. But the anger is coming from lack of control, not from anything they're doing to me. I am angry that I have to sit here and wait to figure out what to do next. I am angry that I can't just walk away, like so many of my co-workers have walked away, to a new and exciting project, because my skills don't fit their immediate needs. So, some bitterness and regret there.

But I'm also angry that I won't just jump on the job market out of spite, essentially saying "screw you guys, I'm goin' home!" and join in contributing to chaos simply for the satisfaction of knowing that I made things worse for them in response to their not making me feel valued. Which isn't actually a lack of control, really, but more like being angry at ... being responsible. At not wanting to make a bad situation worse just to screw some management types over. People all around me a scared shitless by all the stuff that's going on, and I'm just annoyed at being treated poorly by faceless executives that don't even know who I am. Quitting and flipping the bird over my shoulder as I leave would just take a bad situation and make it worse, with no real upside for me except the brief satisfaction of knowing that, once the dust settles, these jokers will realize just how much I did and just how many folks they'll need to hire to replace me.

In other words, a professional version of "you'll be sorry when I'm dead!" Yeah. Real mature. Ego stroking of the highest order. And meanwhile, other folks I like and want to be OK would wind up being in even worse shape as a result. So yeah, the anger needs to just settle down and shut up.

When things started going south before our acquisition a couple of years back I was very angry, because the thing that had driven me for the first 4 years I was here was passion. And anger is, simply, misdirected passion. It's the drive and focus that got you here being compressed by the realization that it's being squandered and destroyed by self-centered blowhards and self-absorbed liars. It's the energy that is released by the collision of ambition with incompetence.

But this time around, y'know, it's just a job. I like it most of the time, but even at its best it's just the thing I do that pays me well and enables all of the other things in my life that cost money to occur. And that's all it really is. If I join up with a new startup sometime soon that's a different thing -- being directly responsible for helping to build something new, from scratch, is more than a paycheck, and it deserves and requires a different level of personal commitment. I'm ready to do that again when the opportunity presents itself, but this company in no way deserves (or rewards) that level of sacrifice. Likewise, it in no way deserves a passionate emotional response when things aren't going well. The only appropriate response to corporate ambivalence is reciprocal. They pay me to work, not to care. And the work is getting done. If they want me to care enough to help fix the things that they've broken through mismanagement and neglect, though, it's gonna cost them.

And if they won't pay, then I'll be moseying along. I'll leave when the time is right, especially if they don't do something to restore some sense that I'm a valued resource. But I'll do it in a way that helps me without harming my co-workers, all of whom are likely as frustrated and powerless as I am at the moment. I may be frustrated, but turning that into anger, real anger, will just make things worse for everyone.

There's no need to turn my frustration into anger. It's just a job.

Mood: Oddly calm, now
Now Playing: Massive Attack, "Collected"

1 comment:

Mike said...

I went through that phase a long time ago - several jobs before the one to which you refer - I still refer to it as my "realization that all our work boils down to is making some giant company earn a fraction of a percent more money" - i.e., as much as computer geeks want to think they're curing cancer or Doing Something Important, most of the time we're not.

I think you should fork off a new blog called "Gregg's Bucket Of Bile". But I may be biased.