I’ve truly been working on my people pleasing ways. I’ve let go of several friendships, stopped accepting unwanted invitations, and amped up my fitness routine. You would think after all that hard work, everything would be rainbows and rose petals. Not so much. Apparently self-improvement is quite the process! This week, my insensitive colleague hit a new level on the asshole-o-meter, and I’ve realized my acceptance of toxicity is more deeply entrenched in my being than I initially realized.

On the best of days, being a writer/editor at an oil company can be quite a ride. The company has seemingly bottomless resources and a unique jack-of-all-trades work culture. Job titles hardly limit your contributions to the company — I’ve been able to get my hands dirty in graphic design, photography, and marketing. However, being the go-to person in a publications group can be overwhelming. During my breaks, I often find myself typing with lunch on my lap, or staying well into the evening to ‘get it all done’.

Fourteen days ago, my boss came to me and said, “You need to stop working. Like now.”

My company’s HR policy allows a limited number of vacation days to be carried over into the next calendar year. Since 2018 is right around the corner, I needed to hit the road. I typed up my handover notes, emailed them out and left.

Over the next few days, I ran errands, slept in, and prepared for my upcoming trip to the United States. During this time, my insensitive colleague sent me several WhatsAp messages, “Are you coming in today?” and “What is the status of XX project?” and even “Can we meet later to discuss project XYZ?”.  The people pleaser in me wouldn’t allow me to ignore him. I responded with helpful information (things that he could have read in my handover) and even contacted the graphic designer and translator on his behalf. After a few days of silence, I’d hoped the training wheels had finally come off. His next message revealed how wrong I was.

“Kate. You’re hardly ever here. I have been thrown this, along with a lot of other work and been told to get it done. I know you’re busy. So am I. Let’s be civil and get this completed- even if it does mean you want to just pass it over. Feel free to talk to me in person if you prefer.”

By the time I finished reading it, my blood had practically sublimated.

The one project he was ‘busy’ with, I’d held his hand through the entire process and completed quite a bit of it. The same project I’d juggled on my own, along with several others the year before. The publication he’d “been thrown” was a magazine issue which I’d all but completed. He only had to review the press proof and give the final approval to print. I tried to respond, but he kept saying, “Let’s discuss in person.”

Visions of missed deadlines danced on a thick layer of guilt. Was I truly mistaken in my anger? I’m ashamed to admit that I dropped everything and went in to the office. I made my edits to the press proof and sent them to the graphic designer. After seeing my bosses serene expression and smile when she saw me, I realized  I’d been tricked into coming in and completing even more work on his behalf.

I marched into her office with the magazine and a children’s book I’d also handed over. I showed her each page of my hard work and reiterated that I’d only left my colleagues with final administrative tasks.

“I know. That’s why I told him he needed to learn to multitask.”

Although I’m glad she stood up for me, I’m disappointed that I doubted myself. I pour my heart into work and I deserve a vacation free of nagging insensitive jerks. So here I go.