How do you know for sure it's time to think about moving along to the next stop on your career path?
When you accidentally discover that your BOSS is JOB-HUNTING.
Jim has been out of the office for the past few days -- vacationing in TicTac, of all godforsaken places -- and while he's been gone, I've been doing what all seasoned, professional SecraTerris are required to do/trained to do/paid to do:
Except that in the world of Executive Assitude, it isn't called "snooping." It's called "checking the boss's e-mail." Or "answering the boss's phone." Or "digging around in the boss's wastebasket looking for the boss's missing credit card receipts in order to finish compiling the boss's expense report." And the employee manual says that they can actually FIRE your adorable Executive Ass if you don't snoop.
So I have no choice but to comply.
Of course, I routinely do all of this stuff for Jim anyway: opening his mail, transcribing his voicemail messages, screening his calls. The difference is that he's usually there to go through it first -- a sort of cursory *pre-screening* process, most often early in the morning before I get in -- giving him ample time to flush anything incriminating/embarrassing/potentially lawsuit-worthy. This week, though, I'm getting first crack at everything ... and it's been eye-opening, to say the least. Among the discoveries I've made during the course of all of this sanctioned snooping:
Actually, it was only the last one that threw me for a loop. I already had a sort of vague awareness about the other stuff. I knew he was having problems with Franz, for instance. That's a given. I knew about his e-mail. (Today's lovely forward is titled "The Wisconsin Playmate of the Month" ... and the accompanying .jpg is NOT a photo of a Holstein, OK?) And I knew he was unhappy. It's pretty hard to keep that sort of thing secret when you work in close proximity with someone. I guess I just didn't realize how unhappy. And it makes me unhappy to learn how unhappy he is ... mainly because of the stoopid second-hand way I had to find out about it.
Why didn't he just tell me?
Never mind. Don't answer that. He isn't required to discuss his feelings OR his career plans with me, any more than I am "required" to let him know when I'm leaving for lunch, provide him with my Top Secret Home Telephone Number or give him six months' notice before I go away on my honeymoon. (Although I do most of these things anyway -- without being asked -- because that's the sort of SecraTerri I am.) It's none of my business, really, if he is planning to leave the Totem Pole Company ... except for the fact that if he leaves, I am left defenseless and alone in the most toxic workplace this side of Three Mile Island.
And except for the fact that I agreed to stay at the TPC and be his Executive Ass specifically because he promised me I "wouldn't be sorry."
And except for the fact that the whole thing blows big smelly chunks.
I don't know. Maybe I'm out of touch. Maybe I'm still living in my delusional little Perry-Mason-and-Della-Street world: a world where The Boss and his SecraTerri are equitably partnered ... a world where the two of them TALK to each other and LISTEN to each other and COMMUNICATE with each other about important stuff ... a world where Della is the true brains of the outfit, and they both know it, but she allows Perry to think that everything is *his* idea because he's such a fabulous boss, and because he inspires such respect and loyalty, and because he never accidentally leaves beaver shots of his girlfriend in his top left-hand desk drawer. Maybe there is no such thing as a fully-functional Boss/SecraTerri relationship. Maybe this is as good as it gets.
But I don't think so.
It's sort of like marriage. I spent fifteen years married to someone with whom I shared no common interests, no communication, no connection on any level that mattered ... and even though I was resigned to it -- even though part of me figured this is probably as good as it gets -- the whole time, a little voice inside my heart was saying I don't think it's supposed to be like this.
And that's how I feel about the Boss/SecraTerri relationship.
So ... he's thinking about leaving. Actually, at this point he's doing more than thinking about it: he's considering offers, from the looks of it. And unlike the unsubstantiated rumors about him moving to the Fairfield office ... or the unsubstantiated rumors that they were letting the entire Regional admin staff go, at the end of the month ... this one comes with actual verifiable/printable proof. So what does this mean to my job? I don't know. I'm not jumping ship just yet. The same things that have bound me to this job all along continue to bind me to it: debt, responsibility, fear, guilt, debt, complacency, the dwindling job market, debt. But it does sort of raise the question: why am I expending all of these valuable *loyalty molecules* on a boss who clearly isn't interested in reciprocating?
(And didn't I learn my lesson with Franz?)
But don't worry. I'm not freaking out over this. I'm disillusioned, yes ... and I'm mildly pissed off by the ridiculous way I found out about it ... and I'm more than a little exasperated with Jim. (After all this time, he still doesn't *get* the fact that if he leaves it in his mailbox ... or in his top left-hand desk drawer ... I'm eventually going to SEE it, forcryingoutloud??) But I'm fine otherwise. I'm remaining calm. I'm staying focused. I'm continuing to do my job in my usual efficient, seasoned, professional fashion.
And I'm totally plagiarizing his cover letter.