Since Small Z arrived on the scene I have been working at home. (Have I mentioned that, should you ‘fall’ pregnant – don’t blithely inform your manager that you couldn’t imagine staying at home all day with a baby, and of course you’ll be back at work, three days a week, after three months? No? Consider yourself warned.)

Anyway, as much as I often whine that I am far more productive in the office environment, away from the interruptions that come with working from home, I have to say that I will continue to avoid returning, for one particular reason. Office politics. Kill me now.

In the past year, sides have been taken and lines have been drawn. And guess how many people there are in the office in the absence of myself, and not including my boss (the doctor)? Three. THREE. The two ladies who were there when I started, were joined by another woman when I left in March 2006 because we mistakenly thought we were going to build the catamaran in Northern NSW.

The woman who was to be the new ‘me’ is French. Let’s call her (as we have before) SoFrenchySoChic. And she is. Anyway, we all used to get on quite well. She and, let’s call her ‘Lola’ (the office manager) have never completely clicked. The other woman, ‘Sarah’, was always friendly with Lola, and there was an unspoken understanding that SoFrenchySoChic was a blow in, a bit of a drama queen, but a hard (although a little slower than they’d like) worker.

And me? I think one of the useful, but annoying things about me, is that I tend to get on with everyone I’ve worked with. Mostly because I nod and smile regardless of their agenda. It has served me well. I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve really battled with anyone. This is also because I don’t care about work. It provides me with the money I need to do the things I like. It doesn’t hold a lot of value, and I don’t invest a lot in it. Anyway, you would think, among three women who are all over fifty, that they could pull their heads out of their arses and get along just to make the workplace tolerable. But no.

Since I have not been around (and I don’t think it’s anything to do with my absence), SoFrenchySoChic and Sarah have become very chummy. SoFrenchySoChic has gone from being a ring-in to being very friendly with the doctor. Purely platonically. They share an interest in wine, food, and dancing. This has left Lola in the cold. Right where SoFrenchySoChic wants her. They have a personality clash, a culture clash (Lola is a Brit) and a lifestyle approach clash.

SoFrenchySoChic has impeccable style, is fit, vivacious, into gourmet food and art, has two young kids (didn’t get pregnant until she was 40, as she was too busy travelling the world) and as opinionated as she is outspoken. Lola is understated, a bit more of a ‘nanna’, smokes, has two adult kids, is Depression-era frugal, has a dry sense of humour and in her own quiet way is very opinionated. They have now reached a point of mutual loathing that makes being around them revolting.

When I go into work, I have to deal directly with both of them. It is SO exhausting making sure that I don’t appear to be ‘siding’ with either of them. From my standpoint, I have to keep them both onside – but Lola probably more so than SoFrenchySoChic, basically because she’s the one who pays me.

SoFrenchySoChic and I had to sit down together on Monday and sort out the work for the next few weeks. Lola had made a comment a few minutes before about our stand-in, Micha, getting through a lot more work than either SoFrenchySoChic or I do. This is really almost the eye of the storm. Lola is responsible for scheduling appointments and making sure that the files, including our reports, are there, ready for the Doctor, when the client comes in. We have to have written up these reports. In the last year or so, the reports have become more involved, more dense, and thus, take longer to do. When I began working there, at one point I was doing ALL the work myself in a four day period. Now? It takes SoFrenchySoChic working fulltime and myself doing two days, to just stay on top of it all.

There is constant deadline pressure, but most so on SoFrenchySoChic – who, I think, kept a lid on her feelings for a year or two as she is divorced, with two kids in private school and a mortgage. She needs this job. However, once she had Sarah and the Doctor onside, I think she felt able to be a bit more free with her thoughts in regard to Lola. And Lola…she is under pressure as well, because the buck stops with her – and she feels that SoFrenchySoChic takes too long over the files. *groan*

Anyway, Lola made a comment to me. And a few minutes later, as I sat with SoFrenchySoChic, she was saying [read the following fast, in a French accent]:

“I cannot believe this woman. Is she insane that she actually says that this Micha does more than we do. Honestly she has no idea. This is ree-deek-u-lous. It makes me laugh. It really does….”

And it did. She began laughing hysterically, as she banged the files down on the table. This was all for my benefit, and also so Lola, on the other side of the office, would hear her. I was stuck. I was obviously supposed to sympathise, but to do so would be bitchy to Lola, and to not do so would be, well…getting off the fence…and validating her complaints. What to do? What I WANTED to do was shriek at the both of them, bang their heads together and turn on my heel toward a strong gin and tonic, which I would drink while they staggered. What I did was just sort of make spinelessly indeterminate noises as I wished myself far, far away.

I had to physically stop myself, once I got home, from sending them both a terse email, saying that I wanted no involvement with their issues and could they please never discuss the other with me as I have to get along with both of them. ARGH. On the upside – I now have three weeks worth of work here at home – and I’m willing to pay $12 per Express-Post envelope to send ’em all back, just to avoid the poison.

/Rant Over. And here’s hoping I won’t get dooced. I don’t love the job, but it’s keeping the catamaran going…