Last week was a bad week for me. Every year my company has two conferences – in January we have our internal conference for employees only where we bring our entire sales team from around the world to a resort and update them about our new products, strategies, etc. My department helped to run the event this year. Our other conference has been cancelled since the recession hit. It was a yearly event in June where customers show up to learn about how to utilize our products better and it’s a great time for customers to get a chance to talk to our executives. This year is the first time since the housing market crash that we’ve held the conference. I guess management believes that the economy is coming back.

Since I was an intern when we used to have the Conference, I was not allowed to go. Only full time employees were sent to run the event. I heard all the stories though – late night skinny dipping, body shots, party after party…I really wanted to go this year. I’m over 21, I’m full time (and therefore eligible to attend) and I wanted to be a part of the madness and drunkenness that is The Conference.

At the end of October my boss Ching asked me if I’d be willing to attend as part of the support team. I gave a resounding “HELL YES!” and she warned me that they didn’t have the final list for the team; they just wanted to see who would be willing to go so they could make a preliminary list. She would know if I was going after our Internal Conference. Subsequent emails and “talks” given to my department emphasized that they wanted to keep the support team as small as possible since most of us are hourly and that would get expensive. Plus most of the department was hired after they stopped having The Conference, so they wouldn’t have many experienced people helping out.

During the Internal Conference I was asked to get to the hotel (a 20 minute drive from my house) by 6:45am every day. Why? So that I could put up “reserved” signs around the breakfast tables for the various morning meetings. And I cheerfully did it knowing that this was a test to see if I was worthy of going to The Conference. Everyone had similar requests – staying up all night to tweak a presentation, being run ragged around the hotel just to find a specific item – it was like being hazed. But we all knew it was worth it if we could only go to The Conference. I would often stay until 10pm doing odd jobs for people. I was helpful and constantly walked around trying to see what else I could help out with. At the end of Internal Conference Ching pulled me aside and commended me, saying that I did a great job and this would really impress the people making the final support team decision. Maybe my dedication and hard work would earn me a seat to The Conference.

One week after Internal Conference, Emma was hired. She’s not on my team; she’s on my boss’ arch nemesis Yelena’s team. I didn’t think much of it at the time.

I waited and waited for a decision about my status. Everyone at Anonymous Software Company was buzzing. Who was going? Who was being left out this year? I didn’t hear anything. So I waited. And waited. And waited. At the beginning of May everyone who had received their confirmation already started buying plane tickets. That’s when it hit me…I wasn’t going. No one had told me either way, but I wasn’t buying a plane ticket. I wasn’t trying to decide what to bring. I hadn’t received any official email inviting me. I was going to be one of the sad few in my department left behind. No parties. No body shots. No skinny dipping.

Then I heard the news that caused my heart to shrivel in my chest…Emma was going. Emma who hadn’t even been with the company for three months. Emma who had never even heard to The Conference before March. Emma who didn’t have any special skills or experience. I had FIVE YEARS seniority, but I wasn’t going. I was fucking livid.

I took some calming breaths, did a shot, ground my teeth and wrote a polite but emotionally distant email to Ching saying I understood she tried to find me a place at the event, but I knew I wasn’t going. The strong undertone of my email was the accusation – you didn’t tell me I wasn’t going. You didn’t have the balls (both literally and figuratively, my boss is a chick) to let me down personally. You just waited until I figured it out myself. My boss is the type to tell it like it is, so I wasn’t just disappointed that I wasn’t going, I was pissed that she didn’t have the decency to tell me herself. Passive-aggressive has never been her style and I didn’t appreciate being the first person she tried it out on.

For weeks I gave fake smiles as everyone in my department giggled over what they were bringing and set up their flights. When they got new cameras or joked about what customer parties they had been invited to I didn’t let a whiff of my envy shine through. They were gone all last week and every time I showed my face outside of my department, I was hounded with questions.

Oh why aren’t you at The Conference?

I’m shocked you were left behind!

Who else was left behind? Oh, them? But why you?

You have more seniority than X, Y and Z who all went…I tried to smile through it so that I didn’t seem like a bitter bitch. It took all of my energy and goodwill, but somehow I did it.

Today, everyone is back and raving about how great it was. If I have to hear “Oh Zoogie2, you should have been there!” one more time, I might just stab the next person with my scissors. Or staple their shirt to their chest. Maybe even pour my coffee over their condescending heads.

Then Poww’s boss CGirl showed up. She asked how my week had been and then told me: “I wish you had been able to go. I remember at Internal Conference you were always there on time, even though it was really early in the morning. It would have been helpful to have you; some people who went were perpetually late and refused to help even though they weren’t busy. I know you wouldn’t have been like that. Ching told everyone how she wouldn’t have been as stressed if you had been there.”

“Well,” I said softly, “remember me next year!”

I feel a little better since hearing that, but I’m still pretty pissed. Proving yourself doesn’t matter. Seniority doesn’t matter. All that matters is who you work for, specifically if you work for Yelena you get things others don’t. This isn’t the first time that her team has been given priority they didn’t earn. Maybe I should transfer departments.

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