Tech Support Issue #10: spoiler alert

Dear Tech Support, 

I recently saw via Instagram that an old friend accepted an offer in the specific org at [tech co redacted] where I used to work. It’s a toxic environment for sure but in subtle ways I’m not positive someone would pick up on in the interview process. I left on good terms but on some level wish I’d spoken out about a lot of things there including a very negative experience I had with a team lead at the end (I still have legit revenge fantasies lol). Should I warn her about what she’s getting into and who to watch out for? I’m torn because we’re not that close, she sounds really excited about it, and also #pandemic!

Signed,

Torn about yucking someone’s yum

HEY TORN

Woweee…the expression “yucking someone’s yum” spirits me back to when Cynthia Nixon was running for New York governor and ordered a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and lox one day on the stump and we all laughed and laughed, so united in our agreement that her yum WAS a yuck (“lox her up!” the tweets said). The American mood was light. No mail sorting machines were going missing in a blunt, craven attempt to undermine election legitimacy, no protesters were getting beat up by police, though they actually probably were (Ferguson), but it didn’t matter as long as we had Obama up there, a papa to make us feel proud, who could make it all make sense, at least rhetorically, within an accepted framework of American values. Things mattered, or maybe they didn’t, but it was fun to laugh about it either way. But now all we have is a tense giggle in the face of even more devastating combustion of both democracy and the planet. Shrug emoji!

But back to YOUR yum vs. yuck (*John early voice* …I’m weird!), *rubs temples, eyes closed* I’m seeing a yellow light here. They didn’t ask for your opinion and anyway, workplace experience is maddeningly subjective. Even the places I’ve gone on the record saying are super-toxic (*cough* Google Creative Lab *cough*) I’ve marveled at how lots of people (or at least some) seem fine there, or have made it work, or just don’t see the problems the same way (I assume this is either their Meyers-Briggs type OR the color of their aura OR having time-traveled to the present from a Mad Men-era ad agency). That said, toxic environments (especially ones that have cultivated a shiny, cool, you-should-feel-lucky-to-be-here image) seem to be pretty good at sucking people in and warping their sense of what’s normal and acceptable, eroding their sense of worth and will to pursue better opportunities, etc. There’s some value in signaling to the newcomer like “it’s not normal there”—I think that opening that line of communication could be compassionate and helpful (the whisper network IS sisterhood…). I’d probably attach something cryptic to a cheerful congrats (the shifty eyes emoji? “if you ever want to talk through anything, I’m here” with an extremely long ellipsis?). But then honestly I’d probably get distracted mid-message draft and soon enough it’d be “wine time” (@mommies) and I’d forget about it and then months later I’d see them again on Instagram and be like “oh, what ever happened to that?”

I would maybe think about this differently if the “very negative experience” with the team lead was something illegal or abusive or if you feel that by not speaking up you left other people in harm’s way (I’m such an indiscriminate gossip-hound that I’m finding myself desperately curious about what went down, so feel free to reply w/ the specific tea! I live to serve [and be served]!) but even then, yeah, I don’t think the dm to the new person is going to kick off a satisfying arc of restorative justice (it’s never too late to sue, she says cheerily!!). Because it does sound like the person who could most use your help…..is yourself. I don’t know what heals the part of the subconscious that cultivates elaborate revenge fantasies (and honestly I believe in the clarifying and creative power of the occasional furious, vindictive dream) and maybe part of that is showing up for others who have gone through what you did. But it’s also all the normal/boring stuff like time and wine and therapy and voodoo dolls and remembering that hurt people hurt people and that our time on the planet is transient and maybe we were a little harsh on Cynthia and that cinnamon raisin lox bagel…who are any of us to say that someone’s yum is a yuck? (unless that yuck is truly harmful in which case….YYYYYYYUUUUCCCCKK!)

Taking the next couple of weeks off newslettering so see you in September when I presume Covid will be over and democracy will be “stronger than ever”. In the meantime: solidarity with the Pinterest walkout. A perfect inside joke for my fellow two million FAANG workers. This Ed Markey ad rules. Askclairest@gmail.com for your troubles!

Hang in there,
Claire