Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Losing It at Work Cringe

I cringe when I recall the time I completely lost it at work. My wonderful boss and mentor, Jill, took a sabbatical. Weeks later, another member of the human resources department, my dear friend Tammy, hugged me goodbye on the eve of her maternity leave. My role as the placid, behind-the-scenes-gal responsible for payroll and pension matters hastily expanded. My absent co-workers had dealt with disgruntled managers, workers and discipline. It wasn't my thing.

The managers now charged up to my office, barking about problems beyond the shop doors. Men in steel-toed boots lined my corridor. A red voicemail light never stopped blinking. The intercom system blasted, “Tracy Ryan! Please call extension 100!” In my eight years with the company as benefits administrator, pages for me were rare. Now they echoed through 200,000 square feet of machinery. Smiles grew infrequent on my thirty-three-year-old face. Blotches of frustration and a deepening frown line between my brows replaced them.

I appealed to upper management. I’m drowning, I told them. I need a buoy.

A temporary manager arrived in a smart suit. Jargon flowed from her lips, supported by gestures made with manicured hands. Amelia offered a wealth of meaningless organizational theory. Familiar with sterile corporate offices, she was green to the gritty demands of a fast-paced industrial facility. The P.A. system continued to drone for me, as Amelia artfully positioned a plant on her windowsill and gawked at the disordered stacks on my desk.

She heaped more on my suffocated inbox. Loopy writing covered post-it notes. Please handle this. Please provide me with a copy of... My buoy was a well-dressed lady who didn’t know how to swim-- her hands clasped around my neck.

“I’ll need you to write a memo ...,” Amelia directed me one afternoon, her mouth revived with lipstick.

I held my hand out like a crossing guard—STOP.

“Do you see my workload? Are you kidding me?” Blood swooshed around my ears.

Swearing ensued. A stream of f-bombs rose from my chest. I morphed into an expletive-hurling lioness. I hollered at this woman, calling her useless, ridiculous, and railing against the company with more vigor than the saltiest operator on the factory floor.

“Why are you cursing at me?” she blanched.

“Because I’m sick of this goddamn place and I don’t need you- a (bleeping) robot- giving me more $#@! to do.”

“How dare you speak to me like this.”

We stared. My adrenaline plummeted. I tried to apologize but my jaw opened and closed as if taffy stuck to my fillings. Amelia smoothed her neat hair.

The vice president summoned me, confused. He wasn’t certain he could believe Amelia’s report of my vulgar tirade.

“Did you really call her a useless piece of $&%#*^! @*($?”

“Yeah, I lost it.”

His expression indicated a curious mix of disapproval and excitement. He didn’t know I had it in me. I didn’t know either. I resigned a few months later, giving myself up to a try at stay-at-home momhood. It was time.
Please feel free to share your story of losing it at work in the comments section. Not proud moments...but they sure are funny sometimes.


  1. O Boy did I need your weekly cringe! I'm still smiling. Whew, you were absolutely in the RIGHT. Forget that saying "bite my tongue". I love it when I can relate.....

  2. Tammy "I'm so sorry I left you at that horrible place to go have a baby" LatifOctober 27, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    I lost my sh*t on the President of (same Co. as Tracy) a few short months later when I told him in no uncertain terms exactly what I thought of him and his useless, overpaid executive staff in my resignation letter.

  3. oh boy where do I start...I wish I had the hootspa to do that to my boss right now...she brings her toy poodle to work with her everyday, and it is a medical facility!!! Nicely done Tracey!

  4. when I was newly pregnant with my first I worked at a small social work agency. Much as you would expect from social workers everyone was kind and considerate to one another always. An hour into a boring meeting we were discussing a new policy. Everytime we discussed a new policy my coworker Devan had to discuss for at least 15 min how this would effect her EVERYTIME!
    So with hormones raging I turned to her and said ENOUGH you are going to do it like everyone else and that is that...then I went to the bathroom and threw up

  5. Toy Poodle-ugh. Does it yip too? Donna..too bad you didn't throw up right on her. That would have made a great finish.

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