Swimming Upstream In Molasses

I am demoralized today. It’s as if my previous post was a preamble of sorts for the trajectory my work life would take. I’ll start with my arrangement to work from home 2 days a week. Last week, QA director asked me to come to his office. After closing the door, he opens with, “Do you remember when we agreed to revisit your work from home arrangement in April?” This comes as a surprise to me because we did, in fact, revisit this subject during my performance review in which QA Director told me that he was fine with allowing this arrangement to continue and that he would defend it if questioned about it. I reminded him that we had revisited this issue already and that he had agreed to allow it to continue indefinitely. I did not remind him that he subsequently made the case to me that I had been granted some monumental favor. He brushed this aside like the consummate gaslighter that he is and complained that other people had been ‘asking him for things’ and it was getting difficult because our department has a stated policy that employees only get one day a week to work from home. This incident is not the first time that QA Director has said something only to later pretend that he never said it. He asked me if this was ‘demotivating’. I sat there trying to figure out what I should say to this, since there is a constellation of issues that serve to demotivate me and since I am actively preparing to exit this job within the next 2-3 months, I said simply that this alone was not a demotivating thing. I did not say that adding it to a growing list of things which I find objectionable about working here was basically confirming to me that the time had come for me to move on.

We had a discussion in which I said the policy itself made no sense and reminded him that another employee had been granted full time remote work. I didn’t mention that this kind of privilege seems to always be granted to male employees. I am saving that one for my exit interview with HR and the Glassdoor review I will be writing after I leave. He hemmed and hawed and said that this kind of arrangement is given to employees only when the role is ‘right’ for it and QA roles just aren’t that kind of role because QA people need to go to standup meetings. I guess creating a conference call for a 15 minute meeting once a day is just too hard. The only difference I can see between a QA role and any other technical role at the company is that it is the one technical function which is performed mostly by women.

After he jawed on a bit about the difficulty of handling employees who aren’t getting all the same perks and how everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, the meeting took an interesting turn because he asked me if I thought things in the group were better now. I know that this kind of open-ended question typically means that he is on a fishing expedition, so I asked what he wanted to know about specifically. He asked me if I thought things between me and Principal SDET were better, which was funny because she has been on maternity leave for three months. I said that we had not spoken to one another after The Great Test Case Labeling Shouting Match. This rang my unspoken subtext radar and made me think that the reason my work from home arrangement is being revoked because Principal SDET wants something similar now that she has two small children, one of them a 3 month old nursing baby. I don’t personally like Principal SDET and I definitely don’t think much of her technical prowess, but given her situation, I think some more work from home time would be a reasonable thing to ask for. It really screws up breastfeeding to not be able to feed a baby on demand. It made me sad that QA Director’s response to this situation is to take away a perk that I was told I could keep just to avoid giving this flexibility to a nursing mother.

I suspect he also was trying to find out if I knew that Principal SDET’s minion has been grumpy and insecure about our new hire because he thinks she is getting paid more. I know that The Minion spoke with QA Director and wanted more money. The Minion has been positively insufferable with the new hire. He has been acting like he is her supervisor, dumping tasks on her and demanding that they be done within a specific time frame that he pulled out of thin air. He gave her the task of writing UI automation for some dashboard application and said she should be done in three weeks. She went looking for test cases in JIRA Zephyr and found none because The Minion and Principal SDET are just too good to do something as lowly as write test cases. She began writing them, but the Minion told her to stop and just start coding.

Junior Engineer Who Should Be Senior and I had a good laugh going through all the test automation code in Stash that The Minion and Principal SDET wrote. We are both bewildered that Principal SDET and The Minion are treated as if they walk on water by management. The Minion claimed that he spent three weeks writing UI automation for the dashboard application that was made obsolete by changes in the application which is why he dumped it on the new hire. Neither Junior Engineer Who Should Be Senior nor I could understand how a couple small page objects and ten simple tests could take three weeks. Junior Engineer Who Should Be Senior is inheriting an automation project that was written by Principal SDET. The developer is over the moon because Junior QA Engineer Who Should Be Senior has a great reputation for getting automation done. He complained that the automation that existed was terrible and that he constantly had to patch it up just to get it to run, so he as delighted to be getting an automation engineer to re-write it.

But I digress. There is something interesting about QA Director’s sudden about face on work from home because for the last two and a half months he has hardly been in the office at all himself. His dog is sick and he needs to be at home a lot to take care of him and ferry him to and from doctor’s appointments. He has even stopped alerting the rest of us whether he will be in the office or not on any given day. He is burning through PTO like there is no tomorrow. It makes me wonder, given his employment history of short stints at several jobs in row, if he will flame out and be out of this role within another year. He reminds me a little of another boss I had who also had a similar employment history and condescending attitude towards female subordinates. He flamed out spectacularly in under two years.

I think the thing that pisses me off most about interacting with QA Director is that I always have the sense that he is just waiting for me to stop talking so he can start talking and push whatever agenda he has. He has taken to interrupting me during my status reports in team meetings several times to remind me to keep things in mind that a retarded monkey would know are important, like, “Make sure you focus on the highest priority stuff” and “Stay focused on what’s important” and or to ask a question that reveals an assumption that I don’t know basic shit about time management and task scheduling. I really dislike people who talk down to me. At no time have I let a higher priority task go undone so I could noodle around on something I liked more. Another habit I have noticed is that he addresses female employees with ‘Young Lady’. This would be charming, maybe, in a totally different context, but not in the workplace. It has a weird, diminishing quality and if I wanted to unwrap it even more, it has a lot of weirdness in it regarding ageism and women too. I’ve come to the realization that the only direct supervisors I’ve ever had who treated me like an equal, took me seriously and listened to me are women. Every male boss I’ve ever had has been very dismissive, quick to assume I don’t know what I am talking about or listened to me only halfway with that “Waiting for my turn to talk” attitude.

So, now we have a new manager who, predictably, is also a man. He has hardly said a word to any of us since he started, but has been going to lunch and interacting a great deal with upper management. Not that I wanted him to buddy up with anyone because that kind of thing makes me not trust a new supervisor, but it does reinforce the feeling that this place is a boy’s club. Once thing I need to keep my focus on is getting a few more years experience and then striking out with my own consulting business. I am sick of working for patronizing dudes who themselves are not particularly competent and who want to hire people like themselves. I am still pissed that the only people who got fired are two women over fifty. Another manager in different location was not fired, but demoted to Principal SDET despite having a terrible track record. All five of his senior engineers quit and they were vocal on their way out about how little they respected his management style. Yet, he still has a job and my boss was sent packing.

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