I had the recent misfortune to work at a place that was not a good fit. What at first seemed like growing pains and discomfort while adjusting to a new routine revealed itself to be a sisyphian nightmare where no matter the progress and changes I made, I was given no credit, recognition or respect. I have no problem taking constructive criticism. I want to know how to be better. I know I am not done learning and growing at any time in this life. What I can’t take is when I am getting demonstrably better and still told I’m failing. She would critique my performance and make comments about what I had done wrong. When shown irrefutable proof that I had, indeed, done it the exact way she had asked, the response I received was, “Oh, okay. Whatever. But what about when you…” Never was there a time when the word “sorry” passed her lips. I dawned on me that she had an opinion of me and my abilities and that nothing I did would change the way she saw me. Every once in a while she would catch herself on her negative rampage and throw me a little crumb of positive criticism, which at our exit interview she said she later regretted because she worried it had given me the impression that I was doing well there and getting better. Wow.
Needless to say, it was an untenable situation which has thankfully ended, yet it really shook me to my core to have such an experience at this stage in my career and my life in general. At our parting, my supervisor admitted that she had been unduly harsh in the delivery of many of her comments to me. Though she has likely forgotten the incident by now, never in my life have I had someone question a letter of recommendation, which she did three months in to my time there. Saying something like that implies that a) the letter is a forgery, b) the person who wrote it was lying, and/or c) I am unworthy of recommendation. Even if a person feels that way about an employee, it is one of the most insulting and insensitive things a boss can say. It took every ounce of my composure and dignity not to react to that statement and keep working there. This trick even went so far as to make a snide insult/”joke” about me during her annual holiday dinner toast as she went around the table “honoring” each employee for the work they’d done.
In spite of this treatment, I don’t hate her. I understand that our philosophies and understandings differed and she didn’t value my particular skill set. I don’t think she’s terrible at her job. On the contrary, she is very good and that’s precisely why I value the time I spent there and the things I learned in spite of the abuse. I just think she’s an impatient and unforgiving instructor who wanted me to be her clone, which was simply impossible. It also gave me a lesson in what type of supervisor I never want to be.