Your Boss Isn’t a Therapist

In the coming blog entries I’m going to write a blog carnival about tactics that might help a person succeed on a job.

The person who solicited my ideas was set to start a job as a paid Peer Specialist.

The social service field has a high degree of what is called compassion fatigue–a kind of burnout people with humanitarian careers experience.

Before I move onto that focus I want to end here with more of my experience having spoken out on a job.

This happened in the 1990s in a corporate insurance office job. I was 27 years old. What I said came back to haunt me in a performance review.

I had either written in correspondence or told my boss directly that I didn’t like how management belittled employees. I used the word belittled.

Ever since then I haven’t been a fan of using any boss as a therapist to talk about perceived workplace injustices with.

Over 20 years later I did attempt to right a wrong on my job–and this backfired too.

Especially when you’re just starting out in recovery and might be less emotionally stable or still have residual symptoms this is where it can get dice-y to call out management on your job.

It might be the symptoms talking and not you. As your mental health improves it could be easier to interact with your coworkers.

This is what I will start to talk about in the coming blog entries carnival: how to cope well with challenges on the job.

Whether you’re a paid Peer Specialist or have a different job I think what I’m going to write could help anyone.

Taking a Stand At Your Job

I wanted to talk about taking a stand at your job.

When it comes to the aforementioned topic of racism and other unethical injustice in the workplace like stealing, embezzlement, or any kind of harassment:

Being a whistle-blower might be called for.

My experience going to bat against a person who was rude and hostile to customers and coworkers alike cost me a promotion.

Garden-variety hostility–as despicable as it is when directed towards you or a customer–is no cause for going over your boss’s head to complain to a director.

It’s a sad reality of the workforce that’s been going on for decades that you and I are going to have to interact with sour lemon-heads at some of our jobs.

It’s been my experience that your supervisor just doesn’t care about this when it’s going on.

Everyone’s an adult in age and physical stature where you work.

Yet some coworkers will act like bullies in the schoolyard.

Tattling on them won’t change the situation to your benefit.

In fact your boss might know what’s going on and cover up for the coworker.

Early on in this blog I wrote three blog entries about questions you’ll be asked on a job interview.

Understand the intent the hiring manager has in asking these questions.

You should try to be able to figure out the company culture before you accept a job offer.

It’s not always possible to predict how your coworkers will act. Even when you’re introduced to a few of them on a second interview.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about tactics I use to cope with a rude and hostile coworker.

Being an Ally at Work

The Brooklyn Public Library where I live issued a statement on its website aligning with Black Lives Matter.

The time is now to join the fight for equity and equality for everyone in America.

While I don’t like to reuse what I read in the Vault newsletters sent to my email I will talk about what I’ve read via Vault one more time.

The Vault newsletter is right-on. Owing to copyright Vault doesn’t allow you to print up their newsletter or cut-and-paste sentences from it.

I will use my own words and add my own insight to the newsletter on being an ally at work.

Kaila Kea-Lewis was interviewed. She is a career coach. She talked about what an ally is. She revealed her own experience with a microaggression.

Her advice is to actively listen before you speak to a Black person. To ask them directly how they think you can help them. To not make assumptions.

Kea-Lewis goes so far as telling Vault readers to denounce discrimination when they see it happening at work.

To uncover the truth when an employer makes a public statement standing in solidarity.

How have you seen your company act in reality? What real advocacy groups have they aligned with? Are they putting their money where their mouth is as the old expression goes?

I’ll end with the number-one takeaway of Kea-Lewis:

True allies are the ones who understand that the oppressed are the only ones who know the best about their situation.

Outsiders who claim to know more than those they’re fighting for have no idea the enormity and severity of systemic racism.

Be an Advocate is the bottom line. Use what you learn from your Black coworkers to take a stand and to help them succeed in the workplace.

Hiring Black Professionals

I took a stand at one of my jobs. To not break confidentiality, I will say only that my goal in speaking out was to see that justice was served. Being an activist cost me a promotion. And I wouldn’t hesitate to do this again when it matters.

I recommend that you subscribe to the Vault newsletter. The Vault website link will be given at the end of this article.

Not everything I read in the newsletter is news to me. Most of it I’ve heard before. What I find compelling is the recent Vault articles about current events. Such as how to be an ally against racism at your workplace.

One of the current newsletters talked about interviews with Black CEOs on how to hire more Black professionals.

First off–it is startling and upsetting to me when a person doesn’t take the time to find out a Black person’s name and use it in conversation. Referring to someone else as “the Black woman over there” to a person they’re talking to must stop.

You should be getting to know them just like everyone else at the event.

Vault solutions:

Have companies disclose diversity numbers.

Break their staff down by race ethnicity and gender.

Offer Black students more internships and mentor them.

Make company boards accountable for hitting diversity targets.

While this is done—increase Black representation on those boards.

Only do business with firms with Black representation.

In the next blog entry, I’ll talk about being an ally at work.

Vault website.

More compelling to me would be a Vault newsletter targeting the job candidates themselves. On how Black job seekers can get coveted positions. Not just how companies can hire them.

The Hidden Opportunity in the Pandemic

There is a silver lining in this cloud.

The hidden opportunity in the pandemic is that today people are aware of how their actions impact others.

At least the pandemic has been the perfect time to act as caring conscious citizens to halt the spread of COVID-19.

The aim as I see it is to extrapolate from this experience key things we’ve learned about ourselves and our capacity for empathy as well as resilience.

In tandem with Black Lives Matter.

It’s my hope that today marks the start of a change for the better.

A day arriving when the old power structure is dismantled. When everyone treats each other as equals with a stake in our democracy.

In the coming blog entries I’ll talk about current events as they relate to having a career.

I will also start to talk about my own experience in the workplace. Culled from information in my career guide Working Assets which my goal is to publish next June.

Returning to Work During the Pandemic

I have returned to my job.

For 6 hours every day I must wear a face covering there. I can only take it off when I’m eating lunch at my temporary desk in a room by myself.

Coworkers maintain 6 feet of distance between each other. Everyone must wear a face covering.

My covering of choice is a big bandanna. I wear a different-color bandanna each day. At the end of the week I wash them in the machine.

This is because I’m not keen to clog a landfill with single-use disposable masks.

Your employer must adhere to safety protocols if they expect you to return to work.

You have every right to expect that these measures will be in effect.

Even though it’s hard to breathe I wear the bandanna 6 hours a day. I look like a gunslinger in the Old Wild West. I coordinate the color of the bandanna with the clothes I’m wearing.

The coronavirus is out to infect whoever it can. The outbreak is on the rise in some states in the U.S. We are not out of the woods. We’re in the thick of this forest.

The COVID-19 outbreak is a real health threat.

I have not been infected. I plan to keep it that way. By staying indoors through early June and wearing a face covering / bandanna I have remained illness-free.

Wearing a face covering is a sign of respect for other people. The message is: “I respect you and you respect me.”

The world has changed. We are all of us more connected than ever. It’s time to protect and respect each other.

When you go back to work wear a face covering. Maintain 6 feet of distance between you and your coworkers. Each lunch away from other people.

Expect that your employer will follow safety protocols. You can band together with your coworkers to file a grievance should the company you work for be jeopardizing your health.

Again: the coronavirus will try to infect everyone. Take the precautions and be diligent in adhering to them.

Listen to or watch or read the latest medical information from a reputable media source.

Life has changed so quickly in such a short time. Six months have gone by. The year is halfway over.

It can seem like the COVID-19 outbreak is here to stay forever. No–it will end. Not soon. Yet it will end.

Be patient. Wear a face covering. There’s a silver lining in this cloud and I’ll talk about this next.

Accounting for Time Off the Job

A gap in employment due to COVID-19 doesn’t need to be accounted for.

Time off before the pandemic–before March 2020–can be talked about.

It helps to have done volunteer work, learned computer skills, or otherwise been active during the time you weren’t working.

Even caring for an ill family member is a justified reason for a gap.

Should you have a mental illness and not have been doing anything while unemployed:

Doing volunteer work and better yet volunteer work linked to the job you want to get can help.

Doing an unpaid internship while you’re collecting government disability benefits makes sense too.

Log on to Idealist or VolunteerMatch or Internships for search options.

Getting in Gear with a “Career”

Once I read from my memoir Left of the Dial at an event for peers and family members.

The host was raffling off 10 copies of my book for audience members to win.

To my delight one peer who won a free copy of the memoir had told me they liked reading inspirational stories. They had told me this at the start of the event even though they didn’t have a job.

At the end the peer won a copy of Left of the Dial.

I talk about this because the idea of what constitutes a “career” is open for interpretation.

Decades ago in the now-defunct SZ magazine that I wrote a column for there was an article on what you could do when you have negative symptoms of schizophrenia and couldn’t hold a job.

To wit:

You could bake cakes. You could play guitar in a band. You could go to a coffee shop for breakfast and have a latte and read the newspaper.

Having worked with a person who didn’t have a mental illness [and who was rude and hostile] I can tell you that it’s possible for anyone with a pulse to get a job.

Having a job or not having a job is NO indicator of a person’s worth.

It’s why in my original Flourish blog I sang the praises of Rite Aid cashiers.

Those cashiers bust themselves standing up every day for hours ringing up orders.

I refuse to use the automatic payment machine to check out items on my own at Rite Aid.

I don’t want the cashiers to lose their jobs to a machine.

Every day for years and years Rite Aid cashiers have been ringing people up with a smile. For years and years it’s the same cashiers.

For some of us our recovery is a full-time job. Managing our mental health should be the prime focus.

My contention has always been from the very start of my advocacy efforts that I recovered because I had first found the job I love.

I didn’t find this job after I had recovered. It was the other way around–I make this distinction–finding the job I love enabled me to recover.

This is why we need to expand the definition of a “career” for the purposes of recovery.

A multitude of career options exist in the world for everyone living here.

Should my rude and hostile coworker have been exalted because he has a job? While a mental health peer who is compassionate is looked down on because they don’t have a job?

Exactly.

In coming blog entries I”m going to talk more about goal-setting.

About how engaging in goal-seeking behavior–regardless of whether your goal is to get a job publish a book or go on vacation–can make all the difference in how good you feel.

In Praise of Union Jobs

Anyone who is leery of those of us who work in union jobs I dare say has bought into the divide-and-conquer tactics of the government.

I make the case for getting a union job as opposed to a job with a private employer.

My experience sheltering in place in the time of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City gave me the idea to write in detail about the benefits of having a union job.

Not a lot of union jobs exist anymore because of the union-busting tactics of the government as well.

My job is a union job for city employees. While the library has shut down we are getting paychecks every two weeks.

Having a union job that offers a perk like automatic paychecks in a crisis can make the difference between affording to pay your rent or mortgage and going into debt just to be able to live.

In 2000 when I graduated library school I chose not to pursue a job in a library in a legal or corporate office.

Decades later I’m glad I choose to get a union library job.

With a union job your chance for a promotion isn’t linked to the whim of whether your supervisor is willing to give you that chance.

With a union job you often have a pension when you retire which is now rare for private business jobs.

With a union job you could have the benefit of signing up for a 403(b)–a retirement plan for nonprofit agencies that is like a 401(k) for private employers.

With a union job you might have the benefit of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to get counseling services and financial help information.

With a union job you could possibly be able to use free legal services to hire a real estate attorney or a lawyer who can help you create a will for free.

What’s not to like about a union job?

In New York City you can go on NYC.gov to find civil service and other government jobs.

The number-one benefit of having a union job is that you cannot summarily or capriciously be fired or laid off.

You have protections in place as a union worker.

In a coming blog entry I’m going to talk about the benefit of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Managing in the Time of CO-VID19 Outbreak

I want to talk about real matters that impact those of us who choose to get a job instead of solely collecting SSI or SSDI.

We should have cash on hand readily able to be taken out for an emergency. This “peace of mind” fund should be in an FDIC-insured account at a bank. This way you won’t lose your money if the financial institution falls on hard times.

Getting paid while we’re out of work might not be possible in the time of the CO-VID19 outbreak.

This is where I champion getting a union job like that at a public library. Chances are you will get paid even when the library shuts down because of a crisis like this one.

This might not be possible. This is where the peace of mind fund gives you the cash to weather the financial storm.

Pay yourself first to build up this money. Direct deposit into a savings or money-market account at your bank a set amount out of each paycheck. Do this before you debit money for anything else.

It’s called “paying yourself first.” Some experts and I do too recommend saving eight months of living expenses in an emergency fund. The more you have squirreled away the more peace of mind you’ll have.

Going to a bank when you’re told to shelter in place might not be a good idea. This is where having $100 cash in your wallet can help.

I think having $10 in singles, $20 in five-dollar bills, and the rest in twenties can be good to have on hand.

Using your credit card judiciously [paying the statement invoice off in full every month] you can order in restaurant food to be delivered.

FreshDirect online in New York City delivers groceries and household supplies to your front door.

The PeaPod delivery service is available elsewhere.

The FreshDirect website has had glitches. Yet so far I’ve been able to schedule a delivery once a week. You can tip the delivery person in cash. Or use the drop-down button to pay for the tip inside of your payment for the food.

In the time of CO-VID19 I specify a $9 tip online. The person arrives with gloves and a mask on. The boxes are left outside your front door.

You can order from FreshDirect in New York City. See PeaPod for others.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about mental hygiene which is so critical in a time of crisis like the one we’re living through today.