Do You Hear the People Sing?

I think I accidentally helped along an uprising of sorts at work.  It hasn’t broken through yet, but the grumbling is getting louder.

When I returned to work after being on medical leave, I noticed a markedly different atmosphere.  My library job, which I had loved so very much (where I actually had coworkers I could count as friends, of all things!), seemed to be coming to pieces.  One of the supervisors–who was always very understanding with my “back pain” and found me things to do while I was pregnant other than lifting heavy boxes and sitting on the floor, shelving books–moved to a position at another library across town.  Three new high-ranking librarians took her place.  Basically, we lost one person who actually did something concrete and feasible, like dealing with patrons and helping assign tasks that needed to be done, and gained three new administrators who sit in offices and talk to one another.  This made the very poorly paid front desk staff very angry.

After about a month of being ignored by everyone at work who I had once considered friends, I just about had a meltdown at work.  The stress of being back there was worse than the grief from losing my child.  One of my coworkers, who especially cares for me, asked me if I was getting counselling since that really helped her when her son died.  She quickly followed that up with an apology for interfering in my personal affairs, just that she was worried about me since I didn’t want to talk about it.  I was shocked.  She explained that the supervisor had told them that my baby had died and that they weren’t to talk about it to me because I would be “too sad” and didn’t want to talk about it.

The last time my supervisor had a conversation with me was after I’d been air-lifted to the hospital and I was in labour letting her know I wouldn’t be in to work that day.  I’ve told her absolutely nothing about my baby since.

I relayed that to my friend, and she was immediately shocked herself, then intensely angry that the supervisor lied.  She told another coworker right there, “Did you know she did want to talk about it?  That the supervisor lied to us about this whole thing?”  The second coworker immediately apologised, “Oh, I am so sorry we didn’t say anything.  We were only doing as we were told.”

My supervisor had instructed me, on three separate occasions from November to February, to keep quiet about being pregnant so no one at work would know about it.  I didn’t have the emotional strength to defy her and defend myself, so I complied.  She then told everyone not to talk to me about my baby.

It made the perfect situation for her to have 100% of the baby-related attention firmly centred on her, who miraculously turned out to be pregnant throughout this whole thing.  She’s due next month.

I confronted the supervisor about it, and she told me to go talk to HR.  So I did.  Nothing got fixed.  HR told me it was a “big misunderstanding” and clearly the supervisor hadn’t meant me any harm.  I don’t buy it.

A couple more weeks pass, and I talk to HR again.  I say that if a wrong was done, it needs to be righted.  Even an accidentally wrong statement made by a worker would be expected to be corrected and the offender apologise to the offended and those involved.  Why was this any different?  So she brought the supervisor in, we had a long, heated conversation that ended with her being instructed to, one on one, talk to every single employee and tell them they had “misunderstood” her since she had never said anything to anyone (her version).

At a meeting on Tuesday, the supervisor demanded to know who had started the rumour (after being told by HR to not talk about it in a meeting–only one on one).  A couple of employees calmly replied that the supervisor herself had.  She denied it, obviously.  HR had informed her that what she had allegedly done was illegal.  She’s afraid of losing her job.

In the aftermath, individual employees who cared about me have been angrily venting to me about her lies.  How she lied that I didn’t want people to talk to me, how she’s lying now that she didn’t say it and it’s a “big misunderstanding.”  I feel vindicated, knowing that I am not the crazy one, no matter what HR thinks.  

Truly, if I had felt at liberty to talk about my pregnancy, do you think I would have kept silent?  I spent a third of my life there–I value those women and their support and I longed for it.  I also thought I would be in trouble if I defied the supervisor.  I didn’t have strength to be defiant then.  I do now.

So the subordinates are angry, and boldly so.  I know nothing will be done, no wrongs righted, and life will go along just perfectly fine for the supervisor who stabbed me in the back after pretending to be a friend.  She gets to brag about her unborn child to every single person she talks to.  She denied me that joy.

Six months have passed, and I’ve never had those moments of joy and sorrow with my colleagues.  I’ll never get them.  Everything is past now–even though grief is still fresh for me, it will never be truly “new” again.  Everything that goes on now is just scar tissue.  I can’t take back those lost months.

“She’ll get hers,” my coworkers say.  But I don’t want her to “get hers.”  I want her to undid what she did to me–go back through the months and fix every wrong that happened and make it turn out differently.  That’s what I want.

Obviously I won’t ever get that.

So instead we grumble and fume and think we can actually do something when we’re underpaid, undervalued, and powerless.  If we stood up to the administration, the library would cease to run.  But we won’t.  We value our jobs; we’re expendable.

The sentiment reminds me a lot of this song, and the truth of our utter powerlessness to really fix the wrongs in the world, no matter how big our hearts are:

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One thought on “Do You Hear the People Sing?

  1. this warms my heart. there is love around you.

    “I want her to undid what she did to me–go back through the months and fix every wrong that happened and make it turn out differently. That’s what I want.” YES. I have these realizations too- like I was searching for the right medication to make me feel better and then realized what I really wanted was a pill that would bring my daughter back.

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