Work/Life Int-egg-ration

I used to think my boss’s term for work-life imbalance was something he made up. I don’t know why I thought this, other than that he always said it so confidently and without attribution. I’d never have had the confidence to pass off a saying that often without crediting the original source, so I just assumed. Thus, I figured I could never share it on my blog because it would be too personally identifying. I don’t know why I never just googled it. If I had, I’d have established long ago that the term isn’t something he came up with. He cribbed it from a Forbes article – or possibly Berkeley’s MBA program – and just takes it to illogical extremes.

Why should I have assumed, given that he liberally borrows his own employee’s work at conferences without remorse, that he’d somehow do otherwise with awful aphorisms? (Of course, the way he adds on that we should all be so grateful for our “fulfilling” job that we are willing to work many nights and weekends to hit our growth goals even as he screams at us might be considered ‘original!’)

There are two kinds of people who live permanently only in the “now” or the “not now.” Time blind ADHDers – and bully bosses. How does one tell the two apart? Well, in my experience, folks with ADHD will inevitably blame themselves for any missed deadlines or forgotten important project components – usually to the rejective sensitive extreme – while self-absorbed bosses will simply assign major deliverables with less than twenty-four hour notice to employees whenever they suddenly realize that they actually need something for a conference that they could have requested weeks ago if they cared at all about the “life” part of “work-life integration.”

The legacy of living the majority of my life with undiagnosed ADHD is that I got so used to taking longer to do the same tasks – and to being the one who felt compelled to work those nights and weekends just to “keep up” – that it took me a very long time to realize that the demands my boss places on his employees are unrealistic for everyone, including neurotypicals. It took me an even longer time to realize that my boss’s unrealistic timelines leave even those neurotypical employees who survived the Great Purge of 2018 crying in their office at 11pm sometimes.

Meanwhile, I’ve somehow become the one with the closest to true “work-life” integration of anyone left in the office. How did that happen?

Well, another fun fact about folks with ADHD: we’re quite good with doing ridiculous amounts of work at the last minute. We know how to write entire reports in one night that take NTs weeks when our panic is high enough. We may have first learned it in our unmedicated days, but even armed with two targeted medications, one passion planner, two linked Google calendars and about fifty million alarms to help us our manage time in the “now,” we still remember the tricks we learned to tame past foibles well enough to apply them to anticipating the inevitable failures to plan of our bully-of-a-boss.

My boss doesn’t have ADHD, but he does live in a permanent “I want it now” bubble of privilege that boggles the mind. Years of making up for unrecognized ADHD by burning the candle at both ends and the middle – forcing myself into levels of perfectionism that took a dangerous mental toll in other ways – have really paid off in his office.

I’ve mostly gotten to the point where I can predict what my boss will ask for in advance and can budget time from the comfort of my home office to do what I anticipate he’ll need within the timeframe a sane boss would allow for such work. As a result, I’ve had to back out on less of the “life” part of “work-life integration.” I’ve somehow become the lucky one on the conference line listening from home in fuzzy slippers with a cup of tea as my coworkers whimper on the verge of tears – or, worse, shout at each other about who most deserves the blame the boss will inevitably dish out while they’ve forgotten I’m muted on the line – from the office itself. Even when I do over-anticipate, I often find I can upcycle the extra work later anyway, and it isn’t really wasted time. I’ve somehow become the one who knows how to “manage expectations” with our bully-of-a-boss.

I did have a rare failure to anticipate this week, and I found myself working incredibly late a couple of days (and nights) this week. But, it is currently Easter Sunday and I am not working. To my understanding, others on my current project can’t say the same. Even though I failed to fully anticipate my boss’s most recent request, I at least had that “pull an all-nighter to manage the impossible on twenty-four-hour notice” ADHD skill as my last resort. My coworkers could not claim the same.

After a lifetime of feeling like the only one behind, it’s strange to realize that I’m probably having the most peaceful Easter of anyone involved in our office (other than the bully himself!) Since the bully-in-my-brain requires additional evidence that I’m competent, one of my former colleagues (a “good egg” who quit without another job lined up while I was on not-FMLA last year because she simply couldn’t take it anymore) recently told me over coffee that it took her months after leaving the office to “rebuild [her] self-esteem after [our boss] shredded it” and apply to other jobs again.

Those “good eggs” from the old regional office have pretty much all quit or been fired. My coworkers currently melting down at 11pm, screaming at each other – and working at minimum Easter Saturday, if not Easter Sunday as well – are mostly those who survived the office Purge through backstabbing, sycophancy or both. (The circumstances that led to my own survival were very unique. Most survived by selling something – be it soul or semblance of social life – instead.)

I have spent a lifetime feeling like I’m somehow the only one struggling. I think that feeling that I’m somehow the only one who is struggling to keep it all together in my (toxic) work environment is common among the neurodiverse. I think a lot of us still feel, on some level, that maybe if we masked better, were shrewder, were smarter or were just somehow generically better that we would feel less permanently overwhelmed and no longer find the concept of “work-life integration” so laughably out of reach.

It’s a bizarre realization that I’m potentially actually doing better than most at this whole “work-life integration” thing lately. I kind of wonder if that lesson will ever truly sink in.

While I’m oddly good at managing my boss’s unrealistic eggspectations, I’m still terrible at managing my expectations of myself. I still default to not feeling good enough, even as I celebrate that I, at least, am not working on Easter. And, I still panic that no one else will ever want me at another job that will let me get away from the current toxic one.

Yet – as toxic as my work environment has become – I have a lot to be proud of in the way I’ve handled it. I just need to find a way to believe that. I shouldn’t need those months of rebuilding self-esteem that my boss seems to inspire even in NTs after (and before!) he is done with them. I kept my job during the Great Purge without resorting to any of the underhanded tactics that so many of those currently cracking under pressure did.  I did so while living with multiple chronic illnesses. And, I even did so while simultaneously fighting a statewide system that closed its eyes to substantiated abuses in my own personal Hell to boot. I doubt any of the others currently in the office would have been strong enough to pull that off.

Enjoying my Easter free of Sunday texts from my boss is a good reminder that being neurodiverse doesn’t make me a lesser employee. In some cases – especially those involving my boss’s failure to plan and to keep his own human mask from slipping – it makes me a better employee. I may have a harder time hiding my struggles sometimes, but I am far from the only one overwhelmed or feeling the strain of my boss’s management style. Neurotypicals struggle too.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate. Here’s wishing you a truly work-free couple of days off this week, whichever days of the week those are, and work-life int-egg-ration that actually favors the Easter egg component!

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

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9 thoughts on “Work/Life Int-egg-ration

  1. None of my ‘psych professionals’ can agree if I am ADD or ADHD except the one who left the practice and his hands were tied cos my insurance won’t cover that drug class for adults.
    All I know is when I was on Focalin, I got stuff done, wasn’t so flaky, and no one questioned my intelligence or sobriety.
    Without Focalin, I am like a bubble headed cartoon walking into walls and concentrating to walk and chew game at the same time.

    Here’s some levity for you: I failed the personality test to work at a sub sandwich shop. Apparently, choosing only pictures of cute animals means I can’t be cordial to humans and do the sandwich artist gig.
    Not sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shame they don’t need a vet assistant in your area. Animals >> people. Do you remember the name of the assessment? Breaking dumb corporate assessments just to prove I can is something that actually makes me feel less PTSD panicky. They are pretty much universally based on shaky – at best – science. I can’t use that fact to prevent companies from administering them anyway, but if I figure out the algorithm of any of the ones you’ve taken I’d be happy to help. That one…seems even more b.s. than usual. Like, b.s. enough I wonder if even is something I could find an administrator guide to so I could break it, or if it’s something someone made up in house.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am still trying to wrap my brain around the ink blot tests from the olden days. If I am having a good day, then I see kittens and puppies and rainbows. If I am having a bad mental day, then I see the grim reaper, corpses, and death.
        That isn’t science, that is logic. Everything looks bleak when you are depressed or stressed.
        I am going to keep trying different places, maybe they need a kennel cleaner or something and I could pet the fluffies while scooping up or whatever. That would make me feel a hell of a lot more helpful and worthwhile than packing trash bags or making sub sandwiches. We all have our niche, those were not mine.

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  2. I’ve mostly gotten to the point where I can predict what my boss will ask for in advance and can budget time from the comfort of my home office to do what I anticipate he’ll need within the timeframe a sane boss would allow for such work…

    This something that struck me that people w PTSD do. We anticipate the next move and needs of the abuser. I’m just struck at how you worded this here bc I’m very much reminded of how I anticipated the unstate needs of my abuser and bully so as to avoid the onslaught of blame and verbal assault sure to come if I didn’t stay on my toes and think ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That…is so true now that I think about it. My job includes predictive analytics, and I’ve always wondered how it isn’t second nature to everyone to calculate the reactions of those in power by default during such predictions. But, I grew up having to balance the system on one side and the people that that same system should have been protecting my family from on the other.

      Reading the power dynamics of a room and attempting to at least “see it coming” is just what C-PTSD does. There is an aphorism in the data world that regression is only as predictive as the variables you put into it. One thing I *never* fail to do is to anticipate the human ability to race to the bottom, ever. It kind of sucks in places that aren’t unsafe that I still feel compelled to predict the ways they *could* become unsafe before they can hurt anyone I care about, but my office *absolutely* is unsafe. No question. So, you are probably right that part of how I anticipate my boss’s screw-ups and abusive deflections of blame alike are probably because they mimic those I have had to learn to anticipate since childhood as a matter of survival.

      I claim my genie-wish-level dream job would be the head of data for one of the major government social service agencies. I also simultaneously assume that could never happen because I am honest to a fault with my analyses. Anything else is too close to the manipulative twisting of my reality I experienced as part of past abuse. Honesty isn’t exactly a recommendation to high-tier government, sadly 😦 But, someone really *should* hire a person like me who both knows math and has experienced trauma. Trauma survivors are probably a lot more resistant to the kind of stupid “the models will be fantastic forever” assumptions that were government norm even before the orange oligarch took over and which contributed to the Great Recession of 2008. I grew up in the 9th Circle of Hell. It is second nature to me to include in my implicit models the idea that *any* weakness in any grand plan for growth will inevitably attract the unerring attention of privileged, self-centered idiots to drive that race to the bottom. Maybe if someone hired me to draft policy, my instincts for how abusers will exploit loopholes would actually do some good for once…

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  3. Lavender,
    I am going to have to google this work life integration thing but it sounds like your boss is using it as a way to further step all over those ‘under’ him, in order to elevate himself.
    YAY for you and YAY for recognizing that you are actually the stronger one of the bunch, because you must be made of steel in order to have kept your integrity, made it through the purge, plus gone through all that you have gone through with illnesses and ongoing struggles from the 9th circuit of hell. BRAVO. This post made me happy for you and happy for all those who struggle in this world with situations of systemic abuse and/or unfair bosses, ninth circle of hell situations, and other various ‘jack wagons of humanity’. We are all stronger than we realize. Keep up the good fight and I hope your weekend surpassed all your egg-spectations!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. https://www.adp.com/spark/articles/2018/10/the-evolution-from-work-life-balance-to-work-life-integration.aspx

      This is, I guess, what it means in generic corporate speak. It still feels like another excuse to demand more of employees that takes away from families, etc., even when it isn’t him saying it. The article feels skeevy all by itself. But, my boss takes it *way* further. His version of “work on the go” is literally we can all be available at all times. He won’t ask us to track an hour here or there for a doctor’s appointment – but I’ve been at weekend Community Day events for Pokemon and had my phone die because I drained it catching Pokemon. I missed a text demanding an impromptu meeting that same Saturday at first. I saw it later and was screamed at for half that meeting for not replying when I had a “virtual office” and should have been always available. He regularly sends emails at 11pm and expects things the next morning because we have the technology to do it. I mostly preempt those late nights by just anticipating his needs. Another commenter wisely pointed out the abused become oddly prescient about anticipating the needs of abusers. I hadn’t really thought of it until that comment, but that probably plays into it as well as my own skills. But, even I once or twice I just turned in crap and went “well, then give me more time to sleep or you get what you get.” He still reminds me enough of past abusers my therapist always carefully says she can’t clinically diagnose him while she effectively *does* diagnose him at the same time, but sadly he isn’t even remotely the worst abuser I’ve dealt with in even *the past year.*

      There was a point last year right after I returned from leave where I was so damn broken and emotionally exhausted that, while I would never have quit because I needed the money to protect my Sibling, I was just so damn emotionally numb from the 9th Circle of Hell I had nothing left to fear from him. That was when I told him off about give me time or get crap, his choice. He’s running the organization into the ground alongside his employees. I have found something approaching work-life integration, but my keen predictive senses are quite sure I could keep him perfectly happy and I’ll probably still lose my job within a year or two because I fully expect him to literally drive the entire start-up to ruin. I *definitely* am seeking another job. But, for once in my life I’m attempting not to do so in the blind panic PTSD wants. I do *not* want to move cities again, and I don’t want especially to move to the true highest cost of living areas even around me, though I know there might be more options, because the same salary wouldn’t go as far, I have hobbies and friends here. I really don’t want to say, move to a car-dependent area on an opposite coast either. Public transit is so useful on bad symptom days. So, even though it scares me sometimes and PTSD says “flee fast, flee anywhere you can as quickly as you can because an abuser like him can destroy you,” I’m trying to realistically look for a decent job instead of just any old one on the assumption that if he was going to fire me, he’d already have done so. I don’t have forever – no one does, he’s too poor a manager to ever live up to his own claims to our investors – but maybe (hopefully) just once after so many experiences of having so little power in so many horrible ways, I can at least just say “I’ll manage this asshole just long enough to make my own choice. I *Iike* my current East Coast life enough that I won’t give it up without a fight.” I don’t know if that makes sense, but after last year I would like at least enough control over my life to just go “I don’t want to move cities. Hopefully someplace commutable and sane will hire me quicker than that idiot can bring down the whole remaining office…”

      So, well, he’s awful and I know it. But, I don’t want to let another asshole win by forcing *me* to uproot a life I worked hard for here in *this* city just because of him. Too many abusive assholes have dictated my life. So, well, yeah. I guess I do “manage him,” and I guess I am (comparatively) good at it. Just continue to wish me luck in finding that good job before his own mistakes bite everyone in the arse. That *will* happen someday, I’m sure, and I also have to keenly anticipate *that*, too, since I’m not sure the others he’s treating so miserably have thought that far ahead…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I think you have your awful arsehole boss pegged perfectly. And yes, chances are he is going to drive the whole start up into the ground so good for you for looking to get out.
        Totally relate to wanting to approach the entire thing from an ‘I will not panic about this’ PTSD flare. I will definitely be pulling for you there!!!
        You have your head wrapped around this very well. Regarding victims of abuse being able to ‘anticipate the needs of abusers’ I agree, I think it’s one of the ways we adapted and were able to survive. It may not necessarily be a bad thing though, but a gift. So long as your anticipation of those needs aren’t costing you more than you have to give on any given day, it could work to YOUR advantage in keeping your job and storing up energy too by staving off potential battles you don’t have the energy to fight. Regarding the work-life-integration thing–your boss totally seems to be doing a typical ‘abuse tactic’ in twisting it into something it was not intended to become. I am self-employed and there are times when traveling or on vacation that if I or my spouse takes a single phone call or he answers an email (I refuse to look at email when I am not physically at work), it can literally save us days of work upon our return. I would think that is a good work-life-integration tactic. However, neither one of us expects any of our coworkers (employees) to do likewise, in fact, we WANT them to take breaks wherein they can totally LEAVE work so that they have higher satisfaction with their jobs and their lives outside of work.
        The article on work life integration and the way in which your boss seems to be miss-applying it reminded me of an abuser in my own life.
        The minister who abused me twisted the scriptures about Mary and Martha (Martha was ‘too busy to visit with Jesus’) to brainwash me into listening to his weekly ranting phone calls. Whenever I told him I was too busy to talk to him, he said, ‘Don’t be a Martha. It’s more important to have relationships with people than to get work done.’ So, yeah, abusers all seem to share common tactics of taking something meant for the collective good of humanity and using it to further their own personal, self-serving, end goals of dominance and power retention and CONTROL.
        You’ve got this figured out, Lavender!! I am praying and hoping that a suitable career door will open soon and you will be outta there, stronger for having won the battle!!

        Liked by 1 person

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