Tag Archives: frustration

The New Cheese: The no-win competition

It’s been a minute since I’ve contributed anything for TNC. What am I saying? It’s been more than a minute since I posted anything at all… 

I’m sorry. With all the best of intentions for posting more regularly, I find time passing with a remarkable rapidity while I’m juggling flaming brands and suddenly it’s been months between posts. At least I know I’m not alone in post frequency lapses as my friends Tangent and Tess have both attested to in their own forums. Life happens and as previously attested, time passesAnd that is about as much apologizing as I’m going to do on this point… back to what prompted this post…

Competing. Now, all in all, I have to say that healthy competition can be very beneficial. A lot of erudite folks have actually done studies to show that children among peers actually progress better when they have evenly matched colleagues to spur their own creative or productive efforts in competition. There is absolutely nothing wrong with competing or testing our own abilities against those of others. There are large amounts of money spent and made off of this concept on a professional and even amateur levels of this in sporting events. However, it isn’t limited to just physical prowess.

Competition is everywhere. It exists in academia. It exists, obviously, in market and business. It exists in the workplace. Employers in sometimes well-meaning but unthinking ways attempt to encourage productivity or innovation by creating competition and comparison in the office. In the purity of form, there really isn’t anything wrong with this either. Humans tend to excel when given something to exceed, even when that something to exceed is their colleague or a team in the other department or a different segment of the business. But, it can be taken too far. Additionally, it can become a lifestyle or a culture and that can become stressful and unhealthy.

Every job has expectations. Most employers have to set a scale of some sort that identifies when an employee is meeting or exceeding (or even failing to meet) those expectations. In artistic or creative arenas, the esthetics become the measure of acceptance and success. However in the more prosaic areas of toil and with larger workforces, you have to have something a bit more objective. It would be wonderful to just say everyone deserves the same increase or bonus, but that is neither feasible or realistic. Also, human beings are … well… human. If Sally looks over and sees John sitting on his laurels and doing nothing but knows that she is paid the same as he is regardless… Sally wonders why she should have to work so hard. She might (if she has no pride in her actual work) give up and decide to slack off like John. “We’re all getting paid the same anyway… why should I bother?”

And there it is… the downside of the competition/comparison game…

The bigest fail point of competition or comparison is that when we start trying to evaluate score and tally it up by comparing ourselves to some other person, we are always going to lose. This isn’t just in the workplace, by the way. I talk to couples all the time who have gotten stuck in this imaginary scoreboard where one party always thinks they are doing more than the other. Nobody wins. Everyone feels like they get the short end of the deal. It creates resentment and hurt feelings and antagonism instead of support. In relationships, it generally takes a while to counter the mindset of the score-keeping competition. I end up spending a lot of time trying to get each party to start feeling more like a team player instead of looking to see how they are getting short-changed in the system. The same occurs in the workplace. Overly competitive environments breakdown sense of team and turn everything into silos of influence where people hold back information and decline to help so that they can “out perform” that guy over there or the other business segment.

Again, I’m not saying that competition is a bad thing. It often results in better options for a customer as people try to offer better for less. However, in less purely capitalistic arenas (and when taken to extremes), it can lead to negativity. Comparing oneself to others constantly generally leads to resentment and lassitude. “I’m never going to be like her/him… so, quit trying?” or better yet, “It wouldn’t matter if I did ten times the stuff they’re doing, I’ll never get the credit. So, I’m just going to do what it takes to get by…” It’s depressing, and for managers who try to encourage the best performance from all members of their team it’s exhausting, disheartening, and sometimes quite infuriating. Again, it’s applicable in other, non-work instances because whenever people compare their own input into a situation, relationship, or project, they always feel like they are doing more than the other participants and getting less out of it. Aaannnnndddd… resentment again.

So, when is it ok to compare, or perhaps, is there a comparison that can be more positive? Why, yes there is! It is absolutely free, and if you call in the next 5 minutes… oh wait, that’s something else. What I mean to say is the best comparison is always to our own performance. When we are looking to others instead of to our own performance past and present, we’re never running our best race. For many, winning against someone else only involves doing the minimal effort to just surpass rather than giving it all we’ve got. The best competition is always to better our own performance and achieve personal goals, taking pride in that outcome. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love recognition and external praise/reward as much as the next person… it’s just if I rely solely on that for my sustenance, I’m probably gonna starve, but that is a whole other issue (SELF-PITY PARTY FOR ONE, YOUR TABLE IS READY!) Consistently working to improve and seeking self-approbation for achieving a goal can be incredibly satisfying. For myself, I enjoy a friendly competition now and then, but the true wins for me will always be judged on how I did against myself.

Grant me serenity… nope, time for your 4th reboot


Technology, the bastion of science and engineering, brain children of visionaries that see options for taking away the burden of the menial from busy modern working people… I don’t think it’s working. We have wonderful things in the world these days. Pieces of electronics that allow us to talk to people on the other side of the planet face to face. We have magnificent gleaming, sleek equipment that perform complicated mathematical calculations in nano seconds. We have incredible gizmos that can see into the human body and identify problems before they become catastrophic. We have space-going vehicles that travel to other planets and even to the ends of our galaxy and beyond.

It’s amazing to me. Maybe I’m showing my age. I can remember a conversation that I had with my father over a decade ago now. We were talking about a prequel of a science fiction franchise and wondering how they would address the issue of technology since we had at that time many of the things from the original version of said series. How would they have technology that was ahead of what we already had but still having room to grow for the original (which was at that time filmed over 30 years prior).

So, with all the advances of modern technological miracles, tasks that once would have taken great effort and time are now completed in the blink of an eye… and, why in the name of all that is holy am I consistently plagued by technology that takes up way too much of my day? Things that should take an instant with the marvels of our electronics now take even longer than I could have managed manually and menially because of glitches, freezes, and generally unpleasant gremlins in the works.

What is especially perplexing to me is the sheer number of updates that seem to be pushed out through the wires and wireless signals of the internet and networks to effectively shut down all productivity while various changes are made in operating systems and other software. The timing is a bit baffling as well. It always seems to happen when the process will cause the most amount of bottleneck, slowdown, chaos possible. I can understand when security concerns or “backdoor” issues present that there must be a correction for the safety and security of our data and privacy, but seriously why can’t this be scheduled for a time when I don’t need to actually be performing a function on the machine.

windowsupdateremindercountdownOne of the most baffling situations is my work computer. We have an IT department that will push out updates to all the different systems and software on our machines through the network. So, I totally get that it depends on my machine connecting to the network. However, I’m not entirely sure why, for instance, my entire week was plagued by the update-reboot two step. I might even be less irritable if it would tell me that the reboot thing needed to happen as soon as I got logged into the system. Just a little “Hey, don’t get too deep into anything because we’re gonna be asking you to reboot about 17 times in the next hour.” But nooooo, it waits. It waits until I’ve opened multiple applications and projects and am hip deep in spreadsheets and reports that took their sweet time to open, let me tell you. Then, it says “Reboot in 57 minutes…” Really?!? 57? Not an hour? Or possibly any round number? The point is, it’s not like I’m going to get anything accomplished in that 57 minutes. Truthfully, it will probably take me that long to save and close all the crappola I have open. So, I manage to get it all buttoned up and if the timer has not run out, I click the “Reboot Now” button. Go get coffee.

And now, hopefully, the machine has finished its preparations and is now ready to be productive with me. However, I failed to take into account the passive-aggressive nature of the beast. Apparently completing all the updates and downloads and everything that is needed in one happy session and reboot is just not part of the programming. Once again, the hateful system waits and lets me get complacent enough to open projects and start into my work before… “Rebooting 57 minutes…” It won’t do it immediately, just waits for me to be in the middle of things. “Oh look! She’s opened all her @#$%. She’s really getting in the groove. Tell her to reboot now.” Yes, I know there is usually a feature to postpone the cycle, but honestly, you can only postpone it for so long and it annoyingly will continue to pop up and remind you. It’s often just better to just get it over with.

chickenclickyesApparently the gremlins that live in the computer network also like to play this game when there is a meeting, teleconference, WebEx, or presentation to be done. On these occasions, it seems that you cannot even delay the situation until the end of said meeting or presentation. “Rebooting NOW!” because we know that there are a bunch of people waiting for you to share a PowerPoint display or explain with visuals why targets are off and reports are screwy.

There are days when I take it all as a sign that perhaps I was supposed to take the day off. Wouldn’t that be nice? “Hey there. Sorry. I know that you need me to get that project completed by close of business today, but the computer has told me that I have to take the day off so it can reboot 173 times. How does tomorrow work for you?”

There are days when I question whether the convenience of our modern technology truly outweighs the frustration and delays that occur while they are babied and maintained. While a part of me knows that with extremely rare exception the technology we use do not have sentience or personality, it is difficult to resist believing that there is something in there just messing with me. It is at those moments that I find going to get a cup of coffee is a better choice than chucking the machine out a convenient window.

Technology deity…
Grant me the patience to deal with random errors,
The strength of will to wait for ridiculous boot time (and multiple reboots),
And the wisdom not to take a hammer to the piece of equipment that would take too much of my finances to replace.

The Ongoing Struggle of a Type A Woman in a Type B World…


It’s been a while since I’ve posted… in truth, it has been an age since I have felt I have the time to write. Isn’t that a shame, too. I know you all are waiting on the edge of your seat for me to say something profound.

That’s a joke… in case you were wondering.

The sad fact is that I have been too busy, or possibly too distracted to write anything on one hand. On the other hand, I’ve been terribly worried that anything and everything that might flight off my fingertips would be in the nature of a horribly alienating rant of biblical proportions or so very “emo” that it would set up depression in the heart of a reader that Prozac couldn’t fix (No, I actually do not think Prozac “fixes” anything, but you know what I mean).

Just to let you in on a secret… that maybe isn’t quite so very secret… I’m a Type A personality. Shocking! I know. Try as I have to fight the label and the traits, it seems I am doomed to always fall under the category. I don’t like it. I really don’t. I get very offended when people tell me that I am such a thing, or at least I used to get offended. I still feel a twinge if someone refers to me in those terms. It isn’t so much that being a Type A person is so very, very bad. At least, I don’t think it is so very, very bad. Oh, lord, I hope it isn’t so very, very bad… and off the tracks I go, giving you an excellent example of why I haven’t been able to bring myself to type anything lately. As a Type A personality, I do tend to overanalyze and rethink and second guess and re-analyze a bit.

Once upon a time, there were really only two types of personality in this particular classification. There were the Type A’s, who were the task-oriented, goal-oriented, pushy, bossy, busy… you get the idea. There were the Type B’s who were laid-back, go-with-the-flow, roll-with-the-punches, experience life, enjoy the right… yeah, hippies. Ok, so, not really hippies, but again, you get the idea. The point to all of it was that a lot of people with letters after their names (I can get away with saying this without being terribly derogatory because I have a couple or three of those letters myself… they totally do not give me any discounts when buying coffee or pop) ran some statistical tests that indicated that Type A people were more likely to have cardiovascular health issues than Type B people. It is pretty intuitive actually. Picture that Type A who wants everything in order and it its place and getting blood pressure increases because they are going to be late due to unforeseen circumstances like traffic or a Type B person having a friendly conversation at the checkout counter of the local convenience store while waiting to purchase coffee. Yeah… like that’s never happened to me, right? Anyhow, the idea was that Mr. (or Ms. I don’t want to appear to be sexist… though there was a point in time where it was shown that males were more likely to be Type A than women… but I digress again) Type A tends to sweat the small stuff lending to higher stress levels and putting more of the strain on his/her cardiovascular system. Type B persons would tend to be less tied to time schedules and wouldn’t get torqued if the person in the 15 items or less line had 23 and couldn’t find their wallet once they were rung up on the till.

And so it goes… Type A personalities were felt to be less healthy because of that sweating-the-smalls thing, and Type B got the rep for being so laid-back that they never really got anything done since they don’t set much store by accomplishment. NONE OF THIS IS ACTUALLY TRUE. It stands to reason there are traits and similarities, but people are individuals. Most of these personality things are a continuum, not a light switch that is ON or OFF. Which leads to the next evolution… and more types. Since society could not be satisfied with two types that might have varying degrees of how they fit, a couple more were identified. Type C’s are like Type A’s in being detail-oriented, logical, focused on goals and tasks, but seemingly with less of the heart attack in the wings situation of getting completely bent over the small stuff. In fact, they sway more towards not rocking the boat and leaving the big decisions to other people. They are way less concerned over the big pictures or ultimate goals than the details. They would rather examine the puzzle and put together the pieces than actually finish the whole 5000-piece-high-difficulty monstrosity and gaze upon the finished result with a sense of accomplishment. They seem to be a combination of Type A and Type Be personality, but they can get bogged down into the details to the extent they never finish the job. Type D’s are what someone at some point categorized as “distressed”; thus, D… for distressed… get it? These are pessimists with an external locus of control who believe that everything happens TO them and cannot be impacted BY them taking action. This is obviously the extreme of the type, but Type D’s are susceptible to depression, as you might well imagine.

Why am I even discussing this? Well, it has occurred to me that the most difficult part of being a Type A is that we can control our own behavior and very little else on this planet. That makes it a bit like torture when we are trapped in situations where our drive, focus, and task-orientation doesn’t do squat: In other words, when we have to wait and nothing we can do will change it.

I am the world’s worst Type A in situations where nothing I can do will impact it. It could, possibly, turn this Type A into a Type D if allowed to spiral out of control. I am first, and foremost, a control-freak… which is a common trait of the Type A’s of the world. I make lists. I cross things off. I make plans. I have back up plans. I have back up plans to back up my back up plans. I have not only plan B but plans C through Q, typically. It is how I try to avoid being taken aback by contingencies that I didn’t expect. I literally try to expect the unexpected… BUT the world doesn’t quite work like that. Especially my world, it seems. Whether I like it or not, I work and live in environments chockablock with Type B’s and C’s and D’s who aren’t nearly as concerned or involved in planning and acting as I am myself. Additionally, the laws of physics and nature have yet to obey my commands, and that is highly unlikely to change in future… but I do continue to try.

For the most part, I have developed my own coping mechanisms for living in the less than pressed world full of beings that do not realize that being five minutes late will cause me agony the likes of which no one without Type A personality will understand. To me, it is about consideration and valuing the time and efforts of others, but I have, after many, many years grown to understand that not everyone has this sense of concern nor do they possess a desire to control their environment and outcomes to that extent. For me, having a list of tasks that is due by a certain time will prompt me to start getting said tasks done as quickly as possible so that if any snag happens to present, I have time to sort it. This usually results in me handing over all the necessary work and elements far ahead of the deadline and waiting… and waiting… and waiting for some bureaucratic process in the ether and Bureau of They to be presided over by a Type B person who believes everything will just fall together… or it won’t, and that won’t end the world… Type C who is more concerned about their data or details than my project… or some Type D procrastinator who might feel that it isn’t worth hurrying because they will just screw it up anyway.

My father had a great way of dealing with his Type A daughter. When I worked myself into a tizzy of frustration due to the Type B world I could not force to my will, he would calmly ask, “Can you do anything about it?” That was all. The first time he asked, I was almost offended (Well… as offended as a 7-year-old worrying about anything could be). He followed up with, “If you can do something about it, do it.” That floored me. I hadn’t really thought about examining the situation to see if there was a further action on my own part. Quickly, I assessed and decided I had fulfilled every possible part of my own requirements and any action I could take in this situation. Dad watched me and gauged precisely when I had taken appropriate inventory and again spoke, “If there is no action you can do to impact the situation, then there is nothing to worry about.” Just like that… at the delicate age of 7 years, I had heard the mysteries of the universe: If there is something I can do, I should do that instead of wasting energy worrying, and if there is nothing I can do, worrying is just a waste of energy that could be applied to some other task. Holy @#$%! Lightbulbs and lightning bolts and all sorts of astounding claps of thunder should have accompanied this epiphany. As it was, I think my father returned to reading his book (oblivious to the earthshattering revelations he had imparted upon his female offspring), and I went about my business of winding myself up into a tizzy again only to repeat my father’s words to myself.

It still isn’t automatic, even after a good many years between the first time I heard the wisdom and today. I still get frustrated with the inability to bend the world, time, the universe… and mostly other people… to my will. I grind my teeth (as evidenced by the new crown on a back molar where I broke it… *tsk…tsk*) and put my phone on mute while I vent profanities. I push and shove and try to make outcomes fall into the place where I want them, and the rest of the world continues blithely along without one bit of care that they are messing with my plans. And so it goes… I live my life as a Type A person in a Type B world. So, I stop sometimes, and I go for a run. I take a moment to reset. I stop the continual circle of rumination and pointless activity and take time to ask myself again, “Can you do anything about it?”

If any reader might like to find out whether you are Type A or Type B, Psychology Today has a test that takes about 15-20 minutes: http://psychologytoday.psychtests.com/cgi-bin/tests/transfer_ap.cgi

Artificial Unintelligence or the Day Siri Tried to Get Me Fired

So, there are entire site dedicated to the devil that is autocorrect. We have all seen and probably laughed heartily at the Freudian slips that our various communication devices seem to enjoy using to our abject horror. There are times when I am amazed and baffled at the hash that the circuitry seems to make of my simple exchanges. For example, who on earth would have gotten “Quetzalcoatl” from “mayonnaise”? For that matter, what the hell was the Aztec deity of wisdom and life doing in my phone in the first place?!? Points to ponder, that… Anyhow, as I was saying we all know that autocorrect is the bane of any neutrally classified conversation and the algorhythms thereof appear to have been deliberately programmed by a pubescent brain with a naughty streak that makes sexual innuendos from Captain Jack Harkness look like Sesame Street (extra points for those who got the reference). However, I believe that the voice activated artificial intelligence that have given personality to our smart phones may have exceeded even that threshold.

Though many of my brethren and sisters out there may have gone with other operating systems and their own flavors of artificial assistance, I have adhered to the evil fruity empire and that particular nemesis of my own… Siri. Please excuse my language, but Siri is an unmitigated bitch and works actively to make my life a more difficult place to live.

What could you possibly mean, Tananda? Siri does not have emotions or sentient thought. She is but a mere collection of programming and circuitry with only dichotomy decision making and search routines.

That’s just what she wants you to think!

Most people have the experience with Siri and other forms of electronic assistants of misunderstood speech and less than helpful answers. There was a whole range of commercials that made fun of GPS map systems with “RECALCULATING” as a regular punchline. Again, they are probably an easy target for humor since they have relatively simple interface and regardless of the progress one might perceive towards science-fiction-like computers and robotics, these devices are still in grammar school by comparison. It isn’t a negative observation, it is just realistic judgment of the initial stages of true human-to-machine interaction. To be completely honest, I’m not sure I want these things to get too clever. I’ve seen the movies, I don’t want to be controlled by our mechanical overlords, thanks.

Siri has, to this date, gotten me lost in some very unsavory situations and locations. She has a determined lack of desire to allow me to contact my mother by calling or texting. Instead she prefers to attempt to send the messages meant for my mother, my husband, or friends to business contacts and superiors who might not really appreciate being told that I love them or asking about various locations for planned debauchery. More than once I have attempted to ask the cow to “Call mom” or “Text Ted” to have her say, “What would you like to say to Doug Rodgers?” Seriously… or should that be Siriously?!? How on earth did she get that name from “mom” or “Ted”? It can lead to what I might like to call… “complications.” I’ve been brought to the brink of violence towards this disembodied entity that resides in my phone. More than once I have been diminished to the point of cursing at her with a string of profanity that rivals George Carlin’s Seven-Words-You-Can’t-Say-On-Television. To which Siri (proving that she is passive aggressive and has a seriously sadistic bent) replied “Okie Dokie, artichoke” at one time and “I was merely trying to help” at another. See what I mean?!? She’s evil. However, nothing quite compares to the day Siri tried to get me fired.

That is what I said. You read it correctly. It is my sincerest belief that while Siri is supposed to be without true sentience or personality, she secretly has “woken up” and become my archenemy and wants me to die a horrible death… or at very least be fired and forced to live in ignominy and humiliation for the rest of my days. So, for the record, I’m putting it on paper… well, not paper, but electronic version thereof… you know what I mean! I want witnesses dammit!!!

For those of you who do not know, I am actually a manager of a team of outreach specialists in the field of healthcare. I have quite a number of them who work for me, but in the infancy of the program, I had but three. Bless them, they worked hard and put up with all my stumbling attempts to define what our program would become. It was a struggle, but we made it… and I digress. As it happens, one of my first employees was male. He came to our employment relationship well recommended with a good many years of experience already under his belt. We’ve since that time gotten to know each other pretty well, but starting out, things were the stiff and professional interactions you might recognize. Everything was still very new and personalities were still figuring themselves out a tad. I primarily was trying to do my best to give an impression of professionalism to inspire confidence in the people working for me.

So, as the business day came to a close one evening, I was heading across town in my jeep. Like a good many people in the workforce today who need to communicate quickly in a variety of circumstances, my crew uses texting. Before any of the HIPAA-aware folks out there start freaking out, no protected health information flows through these lines. It is primarily a way of addressing generic information and safety considerations. Things like, “I’m leaving” or “I’ve arrived” to indicated things that the police have lovely codes for like 10-8 or 10-77.

On this particular day, we had been struggling with a case and trying to access resources in a very short timeframe. My staff member texted me as I was driving to say something along the lines of being unable to fulfill all the requests that were made of us that day.

Now, I’m not one of those who will text and drive. I’ve always seen it as dangerous, and given my propensity for clumsiness and lack of coordination, it would just be idiotic not to mention being illegal in most states these days. However, I do have Siri to assist me with these things. She asked, “Do you wish to respond?” I answered in the affirmative, and Siri said “What would you like to say to….?” So, I responded by speaking into the air, “That’s ok. We will just have to deal with the rest tomorrow.” Now, for those of you familiar with the interface in question, you know that she repeats the message back. For those unfamiliar, the next horrifying response from Siri was, “Your message to … says ‘Ok. I guess I’ll show you my breasts tomorrow.’ Do you wish to send?”

As you might imagine, for all my safety precautions using hands-free options and avoiding texting while driving, I nearly capsized my poor vehicle attempting to prevent that missive from sending along the airwaves. Imagine if you will, me trying to capture from the air the words as in slow motion the word “Noooooooooooo” flies out of my mouth. I could see the nightmare before me during my exit interview in human resources, “So, Dr. Haren, can you please help us understand how you thought it appropriate to sexually harass your employee by threatening him with your breasts?” Oh yeah, that would have been a hoot! Now, looking back, it makes for an enormously humorous situation that we can all get a chuckle from, but I can still almost capture that moment of panic when I thought Siri would likely send the message anyway.

As it stands, I’m still employed and not under any investigations for inappropriate conduct. I have foiled the little electronic @#$% so far. May I continue to be vigilant!