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June 30, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

Changes at Work

A year ago, I would have felt threatened.  I would have been indignant.  I would have been highly offended.

But, fortunately, I’ve had time to get my attitude in check and work on some issues that helped my overall outlook, and so I’m relieved.

I’ve been at my job for almost 12 years.  I work for a small company and have done all the “office” type work for that length of time (except for the two and a half years I shared the work when Mom worked with me).  My job has always included bookkeeping; phones; scheduling (we are a service-oriented business); database entry and maintenance (and design as it’s needed); service agreement renewals and new offers; periodic mailings to customers; trips to the bank, office supply store, and accountant; permitting; and lots of little odds and ends.  I design and maintain the company web site, though it doesn’t take much time, and I’ve done a good portion of our print ads over the years.  The bookkeeping alone accounts for about half of what I’ve been doing.

Well, I can look back over all the jobs I’ve had since I started working as a teenager, and I can see evidence of the effect ADD has had on my work, although I didn’t know that was the reason for my problems all those years.  Then it got a lot worse about five or six years ago.  Everything started to get worse around that time, in fact.  And everything just spiraled into something worse as time went, until I finally started to find answers and change the things I have changed (diet, supplements, going into therapy).  I’m headed in a very good direction now, but work is still troublesome (although not nearly as bad as it was).

My boss had every reason to fire me years ago.  He has a business to run, after all, regardless of whether he likes me as a person, or likes my family.  He has a right to expect work to be done properly.  I am grateful, however, for the fact that he evidently does like me as a person, and likes my family, and has given me chance after chance over the years.

When I found out about the ADD, I told him.  I’ve read various opinions on whether that is a good idea or not, but I did it.  I wanted him to know that my work problems were not an indication that I was lazy or not trying hard enough or just didn’t care.  I printed up some information from a web site that I had found extremely helpful, and I gave it to him.  He never brought it up for discussion, and neither did I.

About a year or so ago, he hinted a couple times that he might have someone from our accountant’s office start doing some or all of the bookkeeping for us. Occasionally since then, he has made these cryptic comments about how things were going to change, never saying exactly what he meant, but raising his eyebrows to demonstrate the importance of his words.  Eventually, a few months ago, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I called and asked him, directly (though conversationally rather than combatively) what sort of changes he had in mind.  He said he hadn’t been planning to tell me yet, but that I’d “dragged it out of him”, and so here it was: his wife was going to start doing some of the bookkeeping.  He said over the next several weeks, she would be coming in so that I could teach her how to do the work and that she would eventually start doing it at home.

I was actually quite relieved to hear the news.  Of course, I was still concerned that it might be the first step in a plan to put me out of  a job: have her take over the bookkeeping, which I would need to teach her since nobody else knew how to do it, then hire someone to answer phones, and little by little, shift my responsibilities until it was easy to just let me go.  It would make sense.  He wouldn’t want to just fire me outright and then have to figure out how to do what I did and wade through all my paperwork to figure out what’s what, if there was another option.

He said he had no plans to fire me.  Of course, the paranoid part of my mind said he would say that if he wanted me to stay long enough to make a smooth transition.  But on the other hand, I can’t know if there is a hidden agenda there, so I may as well ride it out as if I’m not going anywhere and cross other bridges if I come to them.

He did also say that he would like to have me be more involved in the marketing and ad design, since he has always liked the creative work I’ve done and I am particularly drawn to it.  I was really happy to hear that, not only because I do love creative work, but also because it said to my paranoia, “So there”.  (And incidentally, I’m really proud of our Yellow Pages ad that just came out, which I did shortly after that conversation!)

Well, Mrs. Boss began coming in a few days a week and we worked out a great plan.  She wasn’t sure exactly which work Boss wanted her to take over (and it turns out, neither was he), but I made a list of everything I do and we talked over the logistics of the whole thing and decided on which functions would become hers.

We were perplexed for awhile about how to handle the fact that we can’t both use QuickBooks from two different locations, and since she’s working from home, that had to be figured out.  We looked into the online version of QuickBooks, but our company file is too large, and there would be some functionality we would lose even if our file had been small enough to convert.  Finally, we decided on a secure online backup system and we each have our days when we use the file.  Before working, we download the latest backup, and we email each other at the end of each of our “QB Days” with the last transaction information, so the other can make sure the download is indeed the most current version of the file.  It’s working really well.  And I’m breathing a sigh of relief as I’m able to focus so much better on my other work.

It’s also been great actually getting to know Mrs. Boss.  I’ve known her as Mrs. Boss for almost 12 years, but I didn’t know her very well.  I’ve gotten a much clearer sense of her personality in these last couple months, and it turns out that she really is as nice as she has always seemed.

But the best part of all of this is that I’m realizing that my problems keeping up with my work haven’t been all my fault.  I’ve been all too willing to take all the blame and chastise myself for sucking at my job and being a screwup, but I’m seeing clearly now that the problem hasn’t all been me.  Not at all.  I don’t know if my boss will ever realize that, but it doesn’t matter.  I know.

Some of it is the fact that Boss tends to sit on paperwork before passing it on to me.  Part of it is the number of interruptions I experience in any given hour.  Part of it is the volume of work.

And she told him.  She told me about it last week.  She said he had asked her if I was just not managing my time well or what, and she said she told him that it’s obvious to her, from watching me work these last couple months, trying to balance the load with all the constant interruptions from phone calls and coworkers and people coming into the office, that I have simply had too much work for one person to do.

I believe the interruptions are the part that wreak the most havoc with my ADD.  I can start out fine in the morning, and after being interrupted about twenty or so times, having to keep finding my place and trying to regain my concentration only to have it ripped away again 30 seconds or a minute later, I reach a point when I more-or-less shut down for the day.  I go into the mode of doing what I have to do to make it through the day, which is to handle all the interruptions as they happen and try to get something done that doesn’t require too much focus.  And because I know I reach these points and, in effect, stop trying to regain that concentration that I keep losing, I feel guilty and take on all the blame for everything that is wrong, even things that aren’t my fault.

I told Mrs. Boss how many times over the years, when Boss would ask me, “Why are you behind on this?” or “Why did this mistake happen?” or other similar questions, that my mind would go blank in those moments and all I could think was that it must be because I was stupid, irresponsible, lazy, and just plain bad at any job I’ve ever attempted to do.  I realize that many of us second guess ourselves in times like that, and reading David’s blog post from within just a day or two of my discussion with Mrs. Boss was a good validation that we aren’t alone in that.  She even said she does it herself.  The trick is getting to the place of being able to calmly recollect all the circumstances that led up to the place of the “Why” questions being asked, I suppose, but it sure is a huge weight lifted to see my work through her eyes and realize I’m not totally bad.  I’ll even venture to say I’m pretty good at a lot of what I do.

5 Comments

  1. Comment by davidrochester:

    I’m glad to have helped, in a roundabout way. 🙂 Sounds like Mrs. Boss’ visit is the best thing that’s happened for your job in a long time — good for her, for seeing and stating the obvious.

  2. Comment by strangename:

    Just your explaining all your duties gave me a headache, I couldn’t imagine performing them all! ???Didn’t we just talk???Didn’t you just say you weren’t stressed out? Work accounts for a lot of the crap we carry around you know Tamp! Seems like a lot of weight to be carrying on one persons shoulders….

  3. Comment by kate1975:

    Hi,

    I’m glad that you are being relieved of the stuff that takes a lot of time and focus, that you can’t do because of your other duties and constant interruptions and are able to do more of the creative work.

    I wish you the best during this transition. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

  4. Comment by woundeddeer:

    I am so glad you realize that you are not stupid or lazy or incompetent. You are human and when you have that many responsibilities it is crucial that everyone is up to par, not just you. I had a position similar to yours and when I left they had to split my job between 3 people 🙂

  5. Comment by lifeischange:

    Thanks, everybody. 🙂

    Actually, SN, the interruptions happen in waves, not continually for every minute of the day, and some of the things I do aren’t things I have to do every day, so it isn’t as bad as it may sound. It’s getting to be much more possible to stay on top of things now, though. Big relief.

Thoughts?

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