Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games (Part I)

I’ve never had any apprehension about drinking the Kool-Aid (especially when mixed with vodka, or money), so it was no surprise that after a six-year stint working at a law firm that defended companies against claims of discrimination and harassment, I developed a deep-seeded belief that discrimination and harassment did not exist. 

I passionately carried this belief with me to a new job—the in-house legal department of an evil Power Company—and these beliefs took me far.  After only a year of working at the Company, I occupied an office coveted by lifers (never mind that it didn’t have a window).  The company was made up of 3,000 people and the CEO knew my name!  One Thursday morning, I received an email informing me that I’d been appointed “leader” of a company-wide process improvement team to manage the implementation of a new discipline tracking system—wait, this is where we cue the scary music. 

This “process improvement team” was to consist of me (feeble, little, 27 year-old, anxiety-ridden hypochondriac) and an assortment of eight seasoned, director-level participants.  In other words -- not going to fucking happen. 

Sitting in an office with the door closed hammering out work was something I could handle, but this “team” was to meet every week for two hours to discuss ideas -- I can barely eek out my name in a group that size.

So, I did what any rational person would do; I went home and bawled.  Then I bawled some more and lived for weeks in a state of sheer terror, until I decided to do what I avoid doing at all costs:  I would out myself.  I would inform my boss that I have severe social anxiety and, simply, could not lead the team. 

I mean, surely she would understand.  I had worked for her for almost ten years; I was a stellar employee; I carried her bags; I covered up her affairs, for Christ sake.  Who cares about a stupid process improvement team? 

So I popped two little, blue pills and stumbled into her office to break the news.  I plopped into the impersonal, beige chair as she sat stiffly at her throne looking gaunt.  Her piercing blue eyes remained fixed on the monitor in front of her as I heard the words falling out of my mouth.

“Janessa, I saw the email about the process improvement team and I-- uh-- I’m not comfortable being the leader.”

“Well, there are other process improvement teams being formed and no one wants to be the leader.  I’m not letting those people out of it, so I’m not letting you out of it either. Hisssssssssssss.”

“But Janessa, you don’t understand.  I have really bad social anxiety and I wouldn’t be able to speak in a group that size, let alone lead the team.”

I sat paralized as her eyes slowly lifted to callously meet the tears that had formed in mine.  In the back of my mind I heard a strange voice, “Let the ‘Games’ Begin...”

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