June 13, 2007

Paranoia! (Or, What Do You Know That I Don't?)

Early Sunday morning, I woke up gasping for air. It didn't take long before I realized I'd had a bad dream. It involved Dunkin Donuts, a Cinnabon store, a coworker and the message that I'd no longer be needed on a project I'm currently working on. Yes. Work sent me gasping for breath in the middle of the night. That hasn't happened in a while.

You know how dreams, especially bad ones, leave you with a lingering feeling of unease? Well, consider me uneasy. And I can add that unease to my heaping helping of existing unease (a virtual cornucopia, if you will) since I am, by nature, paranoid. Regardless of the kind words, positive reinforcement, accolades and favorable performance reviews I receive on a regular basis - not gloating but I've got a wall full of awards - a part of me honestly believes that I will, at any instant, lose my job.

Am I alone on this one? Please tell me I'm not.

(As an aside, I should mention that, following the work dream, I had a dream in which I was trapped in a massive country estate in Austria. I was leading a family out of the booby-trapped house. Once we'd escaped, we were chased across the Sound of Musicl-like countryside by a machine gun-wielding plane shaped, oddly, like a house. I have no lingering fears of mansions, house-shaped planes, plastic explosives or Austrians. I wonder why that rule seems to apply to my job and not small European nations and their citizenry.)

Posted by Chris at June 13, 2007 6:58 AM

i always fear losing my job...why? because i am brutely honest..but you know what? they EXPECT that from me after all this time...i have a low tolerance for stupid people (can you tell I may work at a helpdesk kind of situation?---just walk away from the computer please and don't look back!)I work for a school, and it being the last day...most of the people i deal with seem to have stuck their heads up their ass and forgot what they've been doing all year...go figure
my reviews, as far a performance are always good, but the basic comment "can be rough, should practice a little more honey instead of vinegar when dealing with people" (huh?) when i do practice "honey" people think i'm sick, don't wanna bother me with their issues, and therefore, i'm not really helping them am i? i get the job done... everyone is happy in the end... but.. they keep me in the basement...and sometimes that feeling of impending doom comes over me...

as for booby trapped house? i think its the fear of your impending change of residence...and just when you think you have it ready to go...you are gonna think of something truely horrifying you may have missed while preparing for your "staging" (did you get rid of that nest of spiders? or will someone coming thru your house be greeted with little spider babies?), or, what if it sells like tomorrow cuz somebody who knows your realtor friend finds out your house is on the market and just like they did with you... pointed out your house was perfect for them...and you are just not ready this soon...
i acutally had that happen once! put the house on the market, it didn't sell even with 150 people walking thru it... waited a year, put it up again, anticipating the wait... 3 days! yep, that is the stuff of nightmares...

Posted by: the unicorn at June 13, 2007 7:58 AM

Dream interpretations:

1) Despite the praise and accolades you receive, you have a strong sense of self-doubt and self-criticism and feel you are less than deserving of the rewards bestowed upon you by others. This leads to a constant feeling of impending doom, that at any moment someone will discover "the truth": that you are a fraud. And your entire world will come crashing down upon you.

2) Nacho bean burritos with jalapeƱos for dinner. Again.

Posted by: Jon (was) in Michigan at June 13, 2007 7:59 AM

I love my boss. He's a great guy, lots of fun and good to work for. We work in a very informal environment, and interact with employees all across the building, not just in our own departments. We visit each other regularly. And yet, every. single. time. he walks into my lab I tense up, just knowing I'm in trouble. Just certain that he's come to reprimand me, or fire me. Now, I've NEVER been in trouble here. But still...

See? You are not alone :-)

Posted by: Alissa at June 13, 2007 8:00 AM

I am constantly afraid that I am about to get fired. For almost four years, I was the assistant to one of our VP's. He was very supportive and appreciative of my work, he gave me really good reviews, he told other managers what an asset I was to the organization... Then one day not long after I returned from maternity leave, I came into work, and he had put a meeting on my calendar to "discuss a few topics." I worked myself into such a frenzy that I was in tears in someone's office, convinced I was about to be fired on the spot. The meeting was actually to discuss how to lighten my workload some, since the boss was afraid he was going to burn me out, and I didn't need additional stress with a baby at home.

Posted by: MamaKaren at June 13, 2007 8:47 AM

Oh, you are so not alone in that paranoia. My boss heaps on the praise but I'm still scared to death that I'll do something stupid just once and that will be the end of it.

Posted by: Jessie at June 13, 2007 9:06 AM

Just because you are paranoid does not mean that no one is out to get you.

Posted by: William at June 13, 2007 9:24 AM

I don't know if you have seen the commercial for one of the hotel chains, Holiday Inn, I think, where the guy is saying good night to all his coworkers. He goes around the room from the accountant to the helpful office girl etc, then gets to the guy hiding behind the bathroom door and he says "good night guy nobody really knows what you do"? Since returning from my maternity leave last summer to a new position in the company, that's how I feel. My boss thought that I was being under-utilized in my old position, but I don't really have a clear idea of my new one. I am forever fearing that one day the boss will come to me and say that they cannot figure out why I am working here and fire me. Since this is the best paying job I have ever had and I am the provider of the family, it scares me to pieces.

Posted by: Kim at June 13, 2007 9:48 AM

You're house is trying to kill your unconscious mind because it's laying the smack down on your conscious one in the process of trying to sell it. Unfortunately, your house appears to have access to firearms and has learned how to take flight, which complicates things in sort of a 'North by Northwest' kind of scenario. Good luck with that.

As for the paranoia, I was in the military for 14 years and had an exceptional career, which included the wall full of awards. I never, not once, felt like I was a success, despite everything happening to contradict such thoughts. It's a neurosis that will kill you if you let it. It very nearly did me in. Therapy works.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at June 13, 2007 10:01 AM

what in the world did you have to eat before bed Chris?

Posted by: jacquie at June 13, 2007 10:11 AM

what in the world did you have to eat before bed Chris?

Posted by: jacquie at June 13, 2007 10:11 AM

woah, de ja vu!

Posted by: jacquie at June 13, 2007 10:13 AM

I worry about losing my job too, even though I consistently get promoted and always have a ridiculous amount of responsibility.

I will heave a huge sigh of relief the day my husband finally finishes grad school and goes back to work. Of course, he's going to be a teacher, so no way will he make near as much money as I do, but it will be nice to have backup. Just in case...

Does that make me paranoid too?

Posted by: bad penguin at June 13, 2007 10:22 AM

I used to be paranoid. But it turned out I only thought I was.

Posted by: Candy at June 13, 2007 10:36 AM

My best friend here (also named Chris) is like that, always in fear of losing his job. It does not bode well for his work/home life though, because he's not good at boundries. It also hurts his salary big time.

Posted by: Brad at June 13, 2007 10:43 AM

Just a little note saying you rule, and I'm sure your job is very safe :-)

Posted by: Heather at June 13, 2007 11:21 AM

I'm so with you on that one. And the more stressed I am, the more paranoid I become.

Posted by: Maria at June 13, 2007 11:25 AM

Oh I've got the paranoia thing too. Everytime i see management having a meeting together, it's because they are about to sack me. I never think that they might be talking about any other members of staff or all the other things they have to worry about here.

Posted by: Katherine at June 13, 2007 11:26 AM

the hills are alive, chris...:)

Posted by: ali at June 13, 2007 11:46 AM

I used to be like that a lot. Less so about my performance, more so about general layoffs and concern about what I'd do if I was let go. You know what fixed it? Getting laid off.

I went to work for a startup and two months later they ran out of money. My boss came in, looking like someone just shot his puppy and said "Listen, we need to talk." My heart stopped. I knew exactly what he was going to say, "We're out of money. We're letting all of the engineers go."

I was okay. Shocked but okay. Not nearly as upset as I thought I'd be. Yeah, concerned about bills, rent, etc. but I think I was more worried about the possibility of it happening than it actually happening. I found a new job in couple of weeks and life moved on. While it would suck to have that happen again, it no longer looms over me. Why? 'cause if it did, I know I'd be okay. Frankly, I'm kind of glad it happened. I love startups but before that experience, I'd bail on a company the moment times looked tough because I was so worried about being laid off. Startups always go through tough times at some point, so I never saw any of them through. It feels freeing to have it over with -- I can stick with the startup, even in tough times, knowing it'll be okay. I know it sounds weird but that's how it worked for me at least...

I'm not advocating getting yourself fired though. It's probably better to just live with the paranoia. :-)

Posted by: Garth at June 13, 2007 11:48 AM

you are, most certainly, not alone.

Posted by: reb at June 13, 2007 11:59 AM

Oh, I'm totally with you, and with Katherine up there- whenever my boss is in a closed door meeting, it's always because he and the other people are talking about me and my poor performance. It never has anything to do with the fact that we're like, a law office with confidentiality requirements...

Posted by: Judy at June 13, 2007 12:21 PM

Didn't you get the memo? You need a cover sheet on those TPS reports, oh and I'm going to need you to come in Saturday.

Posted by: Jeff A at June 13, 2007 12:29 PM

Any dream that includes Dunkin Donuts would freak me out. The one in my town never fails to have a line 20-deep when I'm in a huge hurry.

We were on vacation over memorial day and the first three nights of vacation I had bad work dreams. Eventually they phased out, but waking up on vacation thinking about work totally sucked.

I just started lurking around your site, but from what I've gathered in such a short time, you seem to lean on the side of awesome and I'm sure your job is secure.

Hope tonight is more peaceful!

Posted by: Pocklock at June 13, 2007 1:04 PM

I sometimes have dreams that my wife is trying to do me in. When I awake I have to keep my distance (and my back to a wall) until I regain my wits.

And I think you must be in on it, too.

Posted by: Lefty at June 13, 2007 1:33 PM

I feel that way all the time at work. Every time my boss calls me into her office, I am convinced I'm in trouble. And I never have been. Hell, I've never been fired. Yesterday, I was sure I'd done something wrong....and I got a promotion. Next time I'll still feel the same way. I can't explain it to you, cause I don't understand it myself. But I think it's probably common.

And dude, I so want a cinnabon right now.

Posted by: Phoenix at June 13, 2007 1:59 PM

Wow, I have never seen such long comments before on your blog. You really touched a nerve here.

I, too, suffer from fear of losing my job. I love my job so much and feel so lucky that I am afraid something will take it away. Not really being fired but just that the company will go out of business or something.

The machine gun house? Totally about the moving thing. Moving will fuck with your head. Be ready for that. I have had to move a lot and each time I have sworn that I lost years off of my life.

Sweet dreams.

Posted by: Debbie at June 13, 2007 3:15 PM

I have job paranoia down to an art form... it is nice to know I am not alone... but still, it is there and all... churning my dreams (day and night) into a crazy jumble of weird thoughts... job paranoia, needs a song, or at lest its own hat.

Posted by: blair at June 13, 2007 3:22 PM

Buy a house much? :)

Posted by: Pammer at June 13, 2007 5:11 PM

You saw my post on my appraisal. So yeah, you're not alone. I am constantly worried that I'm going to be fired in a big ol' way. I am also very paranoid about a million other things but we won't discuss that here :D

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at June 13, 2007 6:06 PM

I'm constantly worried my husband will lose his job even though he is well respected and very valuable. Blame it on the ENRONs of the world.
So, no, you are not alone.

Posted by: Nanette at June 13, 2007 6:31 PM

I sympathize as a fellow paranoid person (I was going to say freak, but I don't think it is that unusual). I always felt like if the wrong person caught me with even CNN open it'd be grounds for axing me.

So, no, you are definitely not alone.

Posted by: Jenn at June 13, 2007 7:33 PM

I can totally relate. I'm not paranoid about all things -- mostly just about work. I always wonder what people really think about the work I do, even if they say nice things to my face. Even right after getting a stellar raise or something, I'll still feel paranoid. Nice to see I'm not alone here.

Posted by: angela at June 13, 2007 9:22 PM

Dude, I cannot tell you how stressed out I am right now with dreams and sleep:

1) Don't really have a lot of friends in the area
2) Trying to get my brain to work more to study for the bar, which I am simultaneously sure I'll pass and positive I will fail
3) Worried about every facet of work that I won't start for another 2.5 months
4) What the hell is wrong with me?

I blame the lack of sleep, though. I need some of that...

Posted by: alektra at June 13, 2007 11:43 PM

Welcome to my world. It's called Night Terror Central. Actually not anymore since I am on 3 major medications, but after 10+ years I have earned to right to boast about my night fright capabilities.

Posted by: aimee/greeblemonkey at June 13, 2007 11:59 PM

I am always afraid that I'm going to get the axe. I can't imagine if I had a pet or another person that relied on my payroll. I'd probably be near hysterical everytime I get near a badge reader. It is much worse when I have been on vacation. I usually dream of being fired on the last day of every vacation I take. But I also think a lot of it is that the corporation I work for is slowly going down the tubes, so every 4-6 months someone is laid off. That would leave you feeling pretty shaky too, I'm sure. However, there is something to be said about being the lowest paid person in your department when layoff time comes back around again. Ugh. Most depressing comment ever.

Posted by: jessica fantastica at June 14, 2007 2:37 AM

You're spending an ass-load of money on preparing your house to sell, not to mention, buying a whole, new house... it's natural to fear losing the financial support for all of that dough dropping. But I'd say, "fear not." If all of your previous performance reviews are anything to go on,your job is safe. Focus all that restless energy on eating cream cheese smothered teddy grahms with the wifey and bean. ;)

Posted by: smoness at June 17, 2007 9:31 AM