Kicked Puppy Syndrome

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. 


Filed under Work

13 responses to “Kicked Puppy Syndrome

  1. My supervisor rates a whopping 7.5 on your Croc-meter. Transcribe that to American you get 8.76 on the bull-shit-o-meter (inflation you know). I told his supervisor the other day that if she didn’t reel him in he was going to run off what little good help I have. NEEDLESSLY! I supervise 20 people and hope that I am good at it. The people who do their job say I am. The people who show up for a paycheck, spend time on their cellphones, read the newspaper…..nope – they don’t like me for shit.

  2. I think I’ll cry now.

    I totally agree with you and…well, still waiting for my silver lining role. Thanks for this. I need a new job, everyone’s telling me that the market’s bouyant right now. Tips? You have my email.

    Also, hurrah for being complimented. I can relate to kicked puppy.

  3. Sandra: no matter how well you do your job, there’s always someone who’ll give you shit.

    Maryam: there are always options and there is always hope. I’ll help however I can.

  4. first and foremost let me, ‘DAMN YOU PUPPY KICKERS, YOU M’FUCKERS!”

    reading this post made me realize that i must be a puppy then! hehe don’t want to sound like i’m riding in your story or tryin’ to sympathize w/ you though i really do coz you see, i am what you describe yourself you are. everytime something good happens at work or if i’m complimented for a good work done, i tend not to thankfully accept but instead negate the compliment given me. tell people that it was just by sheer luck. when things happen my way on the backside of my mind a part of me is expecting that something bad’s going to happen to equalize the good thing that’s done. and there are times(most of the time) that i feel i’m being over-paid for the work i’m doing coz for me it’s all just too easy! but then times like now, our work is ‘properly-compensated’ so what’s to rant about?! hehe what i hate about being like this is that i can’t enjoy and appreciate a compliment for simply what it is, that i did a great job coz i know i did.

    that’s what really sucks for me BIG time! πŸ™‚

  5. Mayang: it’s flattering to me if you identify with anything I write, feel free to jump on the bandwagon πŸ™‚

  6. Mayang – learn to say – THANK YOU…. and leave it at that! I know that is hard. πŸ˜€

  7. Mr Angry: glad you feel that way and i thought you were going to tell me to ‘piss off’! thnks! πŸ™‚

    Sandra: thnks, i’m trying to learn little by little i hope… πŸ˜€

  8. Mayang: I encourage feedback and dissent when I ask for it πŸ™‚ Check out happychick’s response to my “News of the Stupid” post. It’s all good. Plus I hope you know Sandra’s having fun with you, she’s not mean at all.

  9. got it, will remember what you said, read chick’s response t’was lovely! inspired by a true leftwing blogger! hehe πŸ˜‰

    don’t find anything mean about what Sandra said. in fact i appreciate her being straight-forward, warms my heart! like it more that people i’m around are straight and frank w/ me. thanks Sandra, lovin’ you more! πŸ˜€

  10. ScottJ

    “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!'”

    Damn, sum up my attitude in a nutshell why don’t you?

    Discovered the blog via Joel on Softare and have been circulating the 5 part “Less Angry” bit among former peers and bosses. Haven’t grown the balls to share it with current bosses yet.

    The article has me doing quite a bit of contemplating lately though.

    Great blog and I can see it’s going to be a bad time sink for me.

  11. Scott: the annoying thing is I still feel this way. I continue to be treated really well in my current contract and I keep expecting something to go wrong. Thanks for spreading the word!

  12. IamCKB

    You almost discribe kicked puppy syndrome, but it is not something that can be difined as cowering, nor is it an excuse for bad behaviour. Kicked puppy syndrome is best expained as that dog that you see in someones yard, skinny,obvious mistreatment by the people whom resided in the house, and will bark,growl or challange anyone that passes past it’s yard. But when the owners come this mean vicious dog turns to jelly,lays on their back wagging it’s tail and pisses all over itself in the slim chance that the dogs owner may throw it a bone or show some sort of effection. As a result they mistrust and put faith in the owners. This works the same for humans that have dealt with severe childhood abuse, they find it hard to trust (even themselves) will attack with little or no provication, and will go out of their way for family (even abusers) in hope that they will see them as goodenough to love.

  13. Pingback: How to stop the kick the dog syndrome? – A Better Man

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