I think I have kicked puppy syndrome. I'm going to explain the term so you know what I mean (and copyright it in case nobody's used it before – that way I can charge a fortune to address seminars on the topic).
You know how if you kick a puppy repeatedly it will end up cowering every time you come near it, regardless of whether or not you intend to kick it? You do? You sick bastard, stop kicking those puppies! OK, I'm sure none of us actually does that to puppies so I'll rephrase: We're all reasonable people who wouldn't hurt puppies but I'm sure we're all intelligent enough to conceive of the scenario where, if some bad person did kick a puppy repeatedly it would end up cowering whenever they approach.
I feel like this way too often in the workplace. I have had to endure some really shitty workplaces and I've documented several aspects of my worst workplaces in this blog. These are all true stories – or at least "inspired by a true story" to borrow a Hollywood term. The worst thing for me is being blamed for something that's beyond my control. Someone asks "when will that be finished", I answer: "I don't know – it's beyond my control, Croc has to authorise it and Croc hasn't given any clear guidelines on what I have to do to get it authorised." The response is then "Bullshit, you're not working hard enough."
It's amazing how common this dysfunctional attitude is in workplaces. As a result, when things are going well (like my current role) I spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for them to go wrong. We are working hard right now on a major milestone and the resolution has been dragging on for about two weeks. The reason we didn't finish two weeks ago is everybody is determined to do it right and not be bound by an artificial deadline. We'll finish when we're done, not when an arbitrary date clicks by. Every now and then I even get complimented on how hard I am working and the quality of my work.
Because of kicked puppy syndrome I'm always a little flinchy, always expecting to be kicked again. The truth is, I feel like a bit of a fraud. I get paid quite a bit as a contractor – I'm no millionaire but I'm getting far more than I could have conceived of even 10 years ago. I lucked into working in an industry (IT) where you can get decent bucks if you play your cards right. People who do important work (health services springs to mind) get paid far less. But then again there are plenty of people who get way more and deserve it way less. I come from a large working class family (cue the violins now) so getting lots of money feels a little weird sometimes. And a spend a bit of time worrying that my fraud is about to be exposed. "Aha!" they will shout, "He's nothing but a big cockroach!" Wait… that's a Far Side cartoon.
I'm good at my job. Things that I find easy are very hard for some people. The central aspect of my job is communication, writing clearly and helping people understand new and/or difficult concepts. The way the job market values my skills, I deserve what I'm getting. In fact, looking at the job market, I can probably go for about 20% more on my next contract. And this is what makes me so angry about bad bosses. They crush people's spirit. They want people to be scared of losing their jobs rather than have them be inspired by their jobs.
It's funny when you read it in a Dilbert cartoon but it's really fucked going through it in real life.