October 4, 2005
Research


She hated her job, especially towards the end.

On her last day at the office, she sent her mother an e-mail. "It's getting to be a bit too much for me," she wrote, trying to keep it sounding lighthearted."Better opportunities prevail." The last thing in the world she wanted to do was worry her mom, who had problems of her own to deal with: illness, a recent death in the family, multiple financial concerns. Mom had always been her source of strength, inspiration, connection, comfort: it was important, now, that she provide the same in return.  While she was at it, she sent a quick change-of-email-address note to forty or fifty of her closest friends and professional acquaintances -- including her best friend in the office, with whom she often exchanged sneaky, vaguely anarchic messages about  co-workers, whenever things were slow -- warning everyone that her office e-mail address would shortly be unplugged. "You can reach me at my Yahoo address until I'm working again," she told them  ... although she didn't seem to know exactly when that was going to be. She'd been conducting a quiet under-the-radar job search for the past couple of weeks, using the office computer and fax machine to send her resume to various craigslist.com postings.  But nothing had jelled just yet.  

That was OK. She planned to spend the next little while just 'chilling' around the apartment. "It's time to take some time for myself," she e-mailed her Office Buddy.

"I completely understand," her Office Buddy sympathetically replied.

The job had started out just fine. She had a nice lady boss. Her co-workers were polite and helpful, at least in the beginning. The money was good. Her job duties didn't seem terribly overwhelming  ... mostly just a lot of typing and filing, typing and filing, typing and filing. The industry was new to her -- and, she privately felt, boring as HELL -- but she stuck with it, mainly because she had kids and she needed the money. Over the course of weeks and months, though, the job had gradually begun to cave in on her. She began feeling overworked and unappreciated: a lethal combination.
She started making stoopid embarrassing mistakes. She was called on the carpet on more than one occasion, mostly about her attitude or her attendance. "I'm in trouble again today," she e-mailed a friend, after one particularly unpleasant trip to the boss' office. She started taking more sick time than was strictly kosher: the pressures of the job were interfering with her health, her sleep, her mood, her motivation. Some mornings it was all she could do simply to crawl out of bed.  Eventually she realized that she had gone from liking her job ... to barely tolerating her job ... to outright LOATHING her job. And it showed. In her mind, it clearly became a case of quit or be fired.  

So she quit.

After she wrote the e-mail to her mother, on her very last day on the now-hated job -- after she sent out the change-of-address notification to her friends and family and professional acquaintances -- she went through her Outlook Mailbox and meticulously deleted everything in her Incoming Mail folder. Months' worth of messages from her mother, her sister, her friends, her Significant Other, her Office Buddy, all went into the computer trashcan, deleted permanently to keep them safe from prying eyes.  

Unfortunately ... she forgot all about the 'Sent' Mail folder.

"So why did Kristin leave, again?" I casually asked one of my co-workers yesterday. I'd already been told that my predecessor had officially left due to 'personal reasons'  ... nothing too specific there: ultimately, we ALL leave because of 'personal reasons' ... but now that I'd spent the better part of the last hour reading through the sent e-mail she'd accidentally left behind, my curiousity was piqued. 

How difficult IS this job, anyway?

My co-worker -- who, as it happens, was my predecessor's secret e-mail Office Buddy -- shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "I think Kris just wanted to find a job closer to home," she said, her face betraying absolutely no emotion, one way or the other

I nodded understandingly -- Yeah, that can be a deal-killer -- and went back to my desk. And then I went into Outlook and deleted all of Kristin's old e-mail.

Do I feel at all guilty for reading somebody else's personal correspondence?  Yes and no. Yes, because this is the sort of line I try not to cross, as a rule, ESPECIALLY on the job. The workplace is rife enough with small violations of privacy and space, as it is. I try not to contribute to that if I can help it. On the other hand, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to read into the head and heart (and mailbox) of the person who sat in my chair before *I* did. Considering how important this job is to me -- and how swiftly a new job can go hideously awry, as we've all learned through painful previous experience -- I consider this more 'research' than 'violation.'

And from the sounds of things, the 'head and heart' of the person who sat here before I did were pretty conflicted.
 
Which makes me wonder: what is *my* office e-mail going to be sounding like, six months from now?  Will I still be yammering on and on about how great my new job is: how convenient, how challenging, how rewarding, how perfect  ...

... or will I be writing a sad sneaky little e-mail to my mother, on my last day at the job, reassuring her that better opportunities prevail?

It'll be interesting to find out.



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more importantly  ...  did I remember to delete my Dirt Company mailbox before i left?