Heaven Help Us

Last night at work was rough. It’s the third time I’ve had to be the referee, or maybe better referred to as a bouncer, to fighting co-workers. This time, my magic wasn’t strong enough, and I thought for a moment I’d have to call security to break up two guys ready to take it to the parking lot. I was awake past three this morning, still reeling from the experience. I realized dealing with conflict is hard. I couldn’t come up with the magic words to dispel it – not last night.

For most of my adult life, I have been self-employed. I haven’t had to deal with co-workers much, but I don’t have bad people skills. Everyone comes to me with their problems and expects me to fix things when they go wrong. Everyone says I’m the calm, cool, and collected one, and the nicest person in the department.

There are many times I should have spoken up, and several co-workers have encouraged me to lay down the law. In fact, just the night before, one of those involved in the fight told me he wished I would take charge. For some reason, they think I’m the one who should.

Confrontation just isn’t my thing. I also have the fatal flaw of needing to be liked by everyone. Mostly, I just pick my battles, and I’ve lived long enough to know that most aren’t worth fighting. However, I have a feeling, one of these days, I’m going to live up to the lyrics of the “Coward of the County” and knock a couple of people across the floor.

It’s worse that one of those involved in the fight is a traveler – a temporary contract worker. Hospitals have a lot of them. There’s always some tension in the air when a contract worker is brought in. Nobody wants to be critiqued by a fly-by-night co-worker who is being paid three times as much, yet has fewer responsibilities.

It’s impossible to get along with a traveler who is a know-it-all. Even I got into an argument with him last night, which is like Mary Poppins slugging Winnie the Pooh. It’s the first time I told someone at work what I really thought. Well, my boss wants me to be more assertive!

I’m thankful for the contractors, though. The department was a disaster earlier this year, with very few experienced full-time employees. If it wasn’t for the travelers and workers coming back from retirement, I would have had to quit. The workload was way too much.

The American workplace today is a disaster and across the board, affecting every industry. I don’t know what the country will come to when all the Boomers leave their jobs. Sometimes, I think they’re the only ones who want to work. I don’t know why they have such a strong work ethic. Maybe it was all that nuclear testing back then, or lead paint, or LSD. We joke that the only way they’ll leave their jobs at the hospital is on a gurney to be wheeled to the morgue. It’s just down the hallway.

I work because I have to, or I’ll starve. I don’t have any ambitions in the workplace. I guess I live up to my generation’s slacker mentality. All I want is a nice life with a good balance between work, home and play. Yes, I want to be good at what I do and respected. I’m competitive that way, but I don’t need to be on top, barking out orders to others.

Today, when I was checking out at the grocery store, I made sure I was extra nice to the cashier and bagger. There were only two registers open with long lines of customers, but all the customers were being patient. I think Americans are coming to realize that we’ve been taking out our frustrations on the wrong things.

I don’t know what the all the answers are, but I do know it’s rough out here in the work world. Last night, was the first night I wished I was a drinker. I sure miss those anxiety meds sometimes. Going through life 100% sober isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Well, Monday is less than 36 hours away. Heaven help us.

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