What I Read: May 2014

I barely read anything at all this month. (I can hear the loud gasps from you all. You know how much I love to read!) Honestly, I don’t even know where the month went. Hopefully next month I’ll spend more time reading and less time doing…whatever it was I was doing this month instead of reading. Because I really don’t know what it was!


Dear Girls Above Me, by Charlie McDowell (paperback, 288 pages). Two out of five stars. I really wanted to like this book, best described as a lightly humorous beach read, but a few things held me back. For starters, it just isn’t as side-splitting as you’d hope. Secondly, at times I found it really hard to like Charlie; he comes across as a little neurotic and whiny. Finally, you start to kind of feel sorry for these girls; they are humans, after all, and he’s mocking them for a public audience with apparently little remorse. Yeah, they say some dumb stuff, but don’t we all? I think the nail in the coffin is that there really is no plot; he just sort of meanders around with musings about his crappy life, crappy relationship status and crappy everything else, interspersed with tidbits from the girls. It’s okay at first but it turns super-stale about halfway through the book.

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence (paperback, 319 pages). Two out of five stars. This is the first book in Lawrence’s The Broken Empire trilogy. It was okay, but nothing amazing, though I do intend to finish the rest of the trilogy. Because it concerns a boy who grows up thirsting for revenge, eventually leading him to be a less-than-honorable ruler (as promised in the next two books, at least), it feels almost like a prequel to the main story, so maybe the next two books will be better.

The Adjacent, by Christopher Priest (hardcover, 384 pages). Three out of five stars. This was good but incredibly frustrating; after reading some reviews on Goodreads, I think it would make much more sense if I had read some of Priest’s other novels beforehand. I did see notes of The Prestige (one of my favorites movies) in here, but there were no satisfying wrap-ups or reveals at the end of the book, so I was left feeling a little unsorted over all the loose ends and apparently unconnected plot points.

Honorable mentions: I tried to read Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, and Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse, but finished neither. I found Boneshaker to be a little slow to get into the steampunk zombie action so tantalizingly promised on the book jacket, and I just could not get into Steppenwolf, much as I tried.

Thought Questions, day 84: How do you deal with someone in a position of power who wants you to fail?

I got these questions from Danielle’s blog Underland to Wonderland, where I came across a post in which she talked about the website Thought Questions and their 365 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself. My friends Katrin, Celeste and Jasmine have also been answering these questions, so be sure to go check out their blogs too!

Day 84: How do you deal with someone in a position of power who wants you to fail? I’m thinking this is a career-related prompt, and I honestly have some very long and complex thoughts on this. You could alternately title this post “Career advice: how to deal with a bad boss” (and trust me, I’ve got loads of it!).

Thought #1, because I’ve been there, done that:

Be sure of your relationship with this person and whether or not you’re reading them correctly. Also, ask yourself: am I, perhaps, just possibly, also being a bit of a pill? (Prickly in response to constructive criticism, etc.)

Case in point: for several months I had a boss who could be a bit of a jerk and also seemed kind of stupid at times. I felt like this person didn’t like me and was kind of running me into the ground with extra tasks just because they didn’t feel like completing them.

When I took a promotion and realized I’d be training side by side with this person for two months,  I decided that while I couldn’t change their personality, I could change my attitude and try not to view them as an enemy. Once I did, I realized that, dragon-ish exterior aside, they really did know a lot about the job I would be doing and could teach me a ton if I was open to learning. I started to realize that all of the extra tasks they threw at me were simply their way of pushing me to learn and perform above my pay grade–they were just kind of crappy in their execution–and I’m now immensely grateful for that two month push, because it’s saved my butt countless nights. I also had to admit that I was going into work each night with a poor attitude in anticipation of their bad attitude, and was therefore simply feeding a negative cycle.

Today, I honestly think that a lot of their training is why I have such a good relationship with our head manager (the big big boss!); they taught me a ton of things that my other managers were not able (or willing) to teach me. I still think their personality could have used some tweaking, but in hindsight I realize that I created an “enemy” where there was none just because of a personality clash. Thank goodness I changed my tune.

Thought #2, for when #1 is not applicable:

You really have to assess the situation and be honest, not emotional, about what’s going on. It’s tempting to run to a higher boss and complain, but slow down and put it together like a court case. Ask yourself: is what this person is doing illegal? Unethical? Interfering with my ability to do my job? If so, what examples do I have, and how can I frame them with concrete language? Am I sure that s/he isn’t just annoying me?

  • Good example: “I feel that my boss overloads me with projects on a very short time frame, and I’m not able to turn in my best work. When s/he does _____, it makes it very difficult to do my job to the best of my abilities. I’d like to discuss a solution that will let me maximize my quantity without compromising my quality.” Follow with a specific project example from a recent workweek.
  • Bad example: “My boss gives me too much to do, and it’s not fair!”

Basically, make sure you don’t sound like you’re whining, and don’t accuse anyone else of not doing enough. This just makes you look bad. Also: be concise. My head manager wants concise explanations of problems, zero fluff, dithering, or drama. If there’s an issue, he wants a very straightforward explanation with firm facts: “My boss asked me to do ____, and I feel it’s unethical because _____.” Be prepared for feedback that you may not want to hear (going back to point #1, “are you also a pill?”).

Most of all, stay calm. Don’t raise your voice or, heaven forbid, do something like roll your eyes or swear. Professionalism should be paramount in your mind, even if you feel the other person isn’t being professional in return.

Thought #3, for when all other options have failed:

If your boss is honestly trying to make you fail, and you don’t think HR can/will help (or you’ve tried and gotten nowhere), you need to decide whether to seek new employment. It’s wonderful to say “quitters never win, and winners never quit” but I think you can set yourself up for a lot of grief by following that advice, so I would tell you to consider these bullet points:

  • Will this person’s actions damage my reputation or my future career, or are they possibly illegal? (Versus merely being annoying.)
  • How long have I worked here? Less or more than a year? (In other words, do I have an invested relationship with this job/company?)
  • What benefits do I stand to lose? (Hours that let you go to school, a killer vacation package, etc.)
  • Is this job just paying the bills, or is it a stepping stone to my dream career?
  • Could I afford to be unemployed for a while (do I have six+ months’ living expenses saved in the bank)?
  • What’s the worst possible thing that could happen if I leave this job?

In my job, the managers rotate every six to twelve months. By comparison, I’ve put in seven years at this job and now enjoy three-day weekends, decent health insurance, and three weeks’ paid vacation per year. That’s pretty swanky by almost any standard and I’ve worked way too hard for it to toss it out because a boss is making my life hard, especially when I know they’ll be gone within the calendar year. This job is also a good stepping stone to future management opportunities, within and outside of the company I work for, and it provides me with a pretty comfortable paycheck that I would be hard pressed to find elsewhere in my current situation. So overall, while I have had moments of feeling that my current boss tries to use me as a scapegoat, their actions aren’t enough to merit an official complaint and they certainly aren’t worth jumping ship.

By contrast, I’ll use a brief story about my husband. He had a boss who took a personal dislike to him and was actively looking to make him fail. He didn’t have a lot invested in the job, he had a good idea of his other employment options, and we knew we could afford to live on one income even if he didn’t find another job right away…so he quit. It was abrupt and a little odd but in the end it worked out for the best in ways we couldn’t have foreseen at the time.

Moral of the story: be honest, be objective, and consider your options carefully. It’s not easy to come to a conclusion when you’re in the heat of the moment and you’re angry. As I love to say, sleep on it!

Thought Questions, day 83: Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?

I got these questions from Danielle’s blog Underland to Wonderland, where I came across a post in which she talked about the website Thought Questions and their 365 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself. My friends Katrin, Celeste and Jasmine have also been answering these questions, so be sure to go check out their blogs too! 
Day 83: Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones? Oof. I suppose I would pick not making new ones. I would hate to lose the wonderful memories I’ve created with my family and friends, especially with my husband. And there’s no guarantee you’d have any good memories after the loss of your old ones, either!

Thought Questions, day 82: Do you own your things or do your things own you?

I got these questions from Danielle’s blog Underland to Wonderland, where I came across a post in which she talked about the website Thought Questions and their 365 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself. My friends Katrin, Celeste and Jasmine have also been answering these questions, so be sure to go check out their blogs too!

Day 82: Do you own your things or do your things own you? I would say at this point, for the most part, I own my things. I think it’s hard to say with 100% confidence that some of my things don’t own me, because I’m very attached to certain things–cough, computer, cough–and obviously we all have those sentimental things we can’t bear to lose, like a piece of jewelry or a drawing.

Also, some people view pets as possessions of a sort, and my cats certainly do own me!

And Make it Snappy!

 

Thought Questions, day 81: What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special?

I got these questions from Danielle’s blog Underland to Wonderland, where I came across a post in which she talked about the website Thought Questions and their 365 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself. My friends Katrin, Celeste and Jasmine have also been answering these questions, so be sure to go check out their blogs too!

Day 81: What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special? It’s hard to pick just one. Getting a puppy, maybe? Because how could that not be special?!