Friday, January 9, 2015

Mystery Solved

You can sometimes spend years wondering about something and then, out of the blue, find out the rest of the story.

This week a coworker and I were discussing the general atmosphere of working where we do. It's not the healthiest work environment there is. We were discussing how your advancement or lack thereof depended on the label that got attached to you. If you have a reputation for asking questions, life does not get easier. If you have a reputation for knowing an important person, life does get easier. Gladhanding works better than working. There is a strong atmosphere of cronyism here.

Since we were already being a bit forthcoming with our work troubles, I decided to volunteer what I thought my label at work is. I said, "My label is 'the pregnant lady.'" He looked confused for a moment and then the light of recognition came across his face. "You're right," he said. "You're right! And that's bad around here." We then had a little bit of talk about how wonderful these people are in affirming your choices in life as long as you make the choice they want you to make.

And then he said, "Do you remember A_ who worked for D_?" The name did not ring a bell. He then told me the story of a young woman who had a baby and came back to work and then decided very quickly that she could not bear to be separated from her baby and quit work. The point of his bringing her up was that when she returned to work, the people around her were very invested in which daycare she should choose (had chosen) and when she started expressing misgivings about the arrangement, there was a lot of rah-rah talk about the greatness of having a career, how wonderful the daycare was, how it would get easier over time, and she needed to stick it out. They thought her desire to be with her baby was ludicrous. He said that when she quit, they were furious, especially since they had gone through all the trouble of setting up a lactation room for her.

The lactation room! I mentioned the situation of the lactation room in this post about my nursing/pregnancy streak.

I had pumped for years making do with whatever arrangement that could be found and all of a sudden this other employee had the red carpet rolled out for her return from maternity leave. I was miffed. So this coworker knew about the creation of the lactation room from about four years ago and I sprang at the opportunity to find out more. And now the rest of the story:

It turns out that before she had her baby, she was shown my humble little bathroom. She told them the bathroom wasn't good enough and that they legally could not force her to use it. I knew that technically my bathroom did not meet legal requirements, but it wasn't in active use and I was just happy to have a place, any place, to go and a key to boot. Getting the key was victory enough. I didn't want to press my luck on the rest of it.

But she had an ace in the hole that I did not have. Her husband is a lawyer who knew someone important higher up the chain. Apparently after she had her baby and was on leave, her husband talked to someone who talked to someone who declared that a lactation room must be created. And that's when they made the mad dash to officially turn the sad, neglected bathroom into an official lactation room before she returned from leave. Her husband knew someone who could rattle some cages.

When I was consulted about what such a room required, I was insulted with their obvious concern in getting the room remodeled before this woman returned from leave when I was already using the room every single day. There was zero concern for me, only that this other person had an acceptable place. I have always felt conflicted about that room. I was grateful to have it. To have a clean table on which to put the pump. To have a place to sit down and a lamp to use so I did not have to pump under the harsh glare of florescents anymore.  But the nicer condition also represented my status in the department. Those happy arrangements were not really meant for me. I was not their object. I only had use of them.

I always wondered why this particular person was considered such a valuable employee that they turned a room upside down for her. Especially since we were in the same chain of command and had the same boss-boss. (You know, the boss's boss.) Especially since she was so quick to leave again which made me think she wasn't a high-charging career type. Not that I knew her; that was only a supposition. But why, when I had shown loyalty and perseverance in the job, why was I such an afterthought? And now I know. Her husband knew somebody and that, around here, makes all the difference.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

It's always satisfying to know the rest of the story. But how despicable. I'm mad all over again on your behalf.

Jenny said...

To be completely honest, I wasn't really upset with the room set-up before they changed it. It was private and I had a key. Having the key was such an improvement that the rest of it was very much an afterthought. Yes, it had an ugly toilet in it, but nobody used it. It wasn't the nicest thing, but I didn't think it was worth it to agitate for something else. It served its purpose and I was fine with it. I know that kind of thing can cause more trouble and hard feelings and I didn't want to seem like a princess. Being seen as demanding doesn't necessarily work out well. So it wasn't like I had requested something nicer and been denied. They said this is the place and I said okay. No, my irritation came from pumping in this room for years and then suddenly, without much explanation, they moved heaven and earth to quickly make the room quite nice. It was one of those, "what am I? Chopped liver?" moments.