Imagine, if you will, that you work in an office where as part of the normal workflow you must work every other week at a different location. You pack up all your stuff – you might even need to put it in a large briefcase on wheels – and go to another desk in another building. Then, after a week, you pack it all back up and return where you were.
Naturally, you have a different supervisor on these alternate weeks with different expectations of you. Sometimes those expectations are made clear, but it’s hard to keep it all straight in the chaos and you end up messing up a lot. You feel embarrassed when you make a mistake and the supervisor gets angry because you should be able to manage. The supervisor doesn’t have to move locations, you think to yourself.
You have different jobs to do with a different team of co-workers. Sometimes you get along great with one team and not with the other. There can be nasty office politics at work as well. The two supervisors are constantly competing with each other and one or both of them will throw you under the bus when anything goes wrong. They each sabotage your work with the other’s team so their own team can have an advantage. There are work secrets on both sides that you are privy to, and not allowed to speak of even though it would help everyone get the results that will move the whole business ahead.
Want to quit yet? Think again. This is a job you can never leave. It’s forever. You feel like the whole crazy thing is somehow your own fault. If only you were better at what you do, you could have landed a job in one of those businesses where people get to stay put in one goddam place and just get their work done in peace. It seems like everyone but you works for a normal company like that. If you get fired, you will never work anywhere again. That would be a total catastrophe.
You pretend to like your job, but you feel crappy all the time. If you like the atmosphere at one area better than the other, you feel scared because the supervisors can tell, and it will only be worse for you if have those thoughts. If you try to change the system so you can just stay in one place, you feel guilty because you know that half of your work is going undone and the rest of that team are struggling without you. You try to keep calm but sometimes you just explode over nothing. Everyone around you thinks it’s normal to work like this. It makes you forget what you are even upset about.
Now, look at your stepchild and tell me what you see. Did this shift your perspective just a little?
A stepmom is like the HR professional who has to do her best to support this employee through what she hopefully understands is an impossible situation. If she does her job well, the employee might actually dump a lot of unhappy feelings on her because there is no other place to do that. The best she can do is be a good listener and try to help the worker keep things straight. She can explain that everybody sees what a good job the child is doing and that it’s really OK to mess up sometimes. She is not a punching bag, and she will alert the child when they are using her as a stand-in for one of the bosses instead of as an ally who is trying to help. It is really hard, often thankless work.
One day, she will get the recognition and appreciation she deserves. Maybe even a promotion.