Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Life Happens When You Aren’t Paying Attention

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On Friday, May 27, I walked through the front door of my workplace.  It was quiet, not a soul around except for the company owner.  It’s usually bustling with activity.  He followed me into my office, closed the door, and said, “This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  You’ve been here for a long time and you’re like one of the family, but I’ve got to let you go.”  It’s a family owned construction firm.

I’ve been working there for fourteen years, and I’ve been the office manager for, oh, I’d say seven of those – though I realized a long time ago that was just a glorified title.  It made me responsible for a whole lot of stuff without having any real decision making authority.  But it was a good job with good pay and I understood the whole family dynamic.  The owner’s wife was one of the staff.  Can you imagine “managing” the owner’s wife?  It ain’t gonna happen.  She comes in when she wants, does what she wants while she’s there, and leaves when she wants.  How do you manage that?  You don’t manage anyone whose last name is painted on the door and signs the front of the checks.

I’ve worked my butt off for them.  In fact, I worked my butt off for them before I was office manager; before I make good money.  That’s why I got to be the office manager.  I learned every aspect of their business, saved them countless dollars trouble shooting IT problems, implementing new software, taking apart computers and printers and fixing them to go back out into the field.  Any time other employees were out, even for extended periods of time, I stepped in and kept things going.  The last office manager we had before me had a conflict with two of the other employees and they were let go.  I stayed until 7 and 8 p.m. picking up the slack while I watched him walk past me and out the door at 5 p.m. on the dot.  The owner’s wife has a myriad of health issues, not to mention the fact that she’d rather not come in at all most days.  He insisted she be given integral, vital tasks.  Things she taught me to do she now has to call me into her office multiple times per day to get assistance because she doesn’t know how to anymore. 

That hurt; to just be “let go”.  Do you know why I was let go?  Because post divorce, existential crisis, job burnout causes depression.  I wish I had walked away on my own terms.  But no, once again, my stubbornness bites me in the derriere.   I thought I could handle it all.  I did seek counseling and received some antidepressants.  I did go through a bout where I had a horrible time concentrating.  And therein lay the problem.  I thought that since I had been there so long and had proven myself a valuable member of the team and that I really was like a member of the family that I could admit that to my bosses.  I was wrong.  Everyone else there has been through their share of health issues and it’s all worked out okay for them.  The minute I admitted fallibility they no longer trusted my numbers.  I became a liability.

I learned some very valuable lessons through that.  Not the least of which is:  just because someone tells you you’re like a member of the family doesn’t mean you are.  They’ve caught one of the actual family members sleeping on the job in his truck while the workers were, well, working.  His last name is painted on the door.  He’s still there.  The owner’s wife plays solitaire while everybody else is picking up her slack because she has vital tasks that are date sensitive and she can’t quite remember how to do them anyway.  She’s still there. 

I did learn that they had already replaced me with someone who was in need of a job who was a close, family friend.  I think there might be more to the story than I really know.  The new office manager is a man.  This has always been a good ole boy system.  So part of the problem is that I didn’t have the right plumbing for the job.  I wasn’t hard enough on the “girls”.  A man could do that better.  Can’t wait til he’s hard on the owner’s wife.  That’ll go over like a lead balloon.  The trick to that job is to make her like you, because if she doesn’t you’re done for.   It pays to know the family politics.

When he told me I was fired I was shocked.  I wasn’t expecting that at all.  Devastated was more like it.  But I didn’t let it show.  I just smiled politely and said,  “I’m sorry you feel that way.  I’m sorry it’s worked out like this.  Thank you for the opportunity.”  I packed my things and left.  I went home, cried for a while, and fell asleep.  When I woke up Saturday morning I felt this utter sense of relief.  Timing is everything.  Sometimes you just have to know when it’s time to move on.  The job had become more stressful than I think I had realized.  I was looking for a job when I found that one and I have a skill set that will enable me to find another. 

I’ve just taken a little vacation from real life.  I haven’t posted much, haven’t read much and just generally have been relaxing.  But it’s time to get back to real life.  Life happens when you aren’t paying attention.  Sometimes it sneaks right up on you and says, “Boo!”.  Things happen and some of them are in your control and some of them aren’t.  The real measure of you’re character is how you deal with them.   

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14 thoughts on “Life Happens When You Aren’t Paying Attention

  1. Two thoughts: 1. That sucks, and I'm sorry to hear it. I hope it turns out to be a good thing over the long run. 2. When they call you up to ask where something is or how to do something, be sure to explain that you'll have to bill them for your services. (Prior Employer did that to my wife a couple of times, and that was her response.)

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  2. I'm so sorry to hear about that, and sorry to hear the way they treated you after all of those years of service. :-(Who knows though? It may just turn out to be the best thing that has happened to you, besides connecting with your handsome Brit. 😉 You've got a good attitude, great work ethic, and skills to match, which is sure to make you valuable on the job market.I don't think that there is much I can do, but if I can help, don't hesitate to ask.Oh, and I agree with Mr. Mock about charging them consultation fees for help. 🙂

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  3. I'm also so sorry to hear that this happened.I agree with Michael, though – if (when?!) they call asking for help bill them for it. There's no such thing as a free ride.

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  4. I'm so sorry D'Ma. I can only imagine how hurtful that must have been. That is the exact reason a lot of people are afraid to get and ask for help as far as mental health is concerned. People have such a stigma about it.I do hope that much better things are around the bend for you. If I can help in anyway I would be happy to. :)Maybe a trip to see the Tour Guide sooner than later now?

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  5. D'Ma,You showed considerable grace and restraint. You're a lovely person so I'm especially saddened that you weren't shown the loyalty you gave the company for so many years. I'm hopeful for the opportunities that are likely to come your way now.Thinking of you.

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  6. This really makes me sick to my stomach. I was let go from a great job after five years and it blew me away.You should have said something in our chat last Sunday night!

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  7. Oh boy! That's heavy stuff. So sorry. I hope you're taking extra special care of yourself these days!

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  8. D'MaI empathize with your situation. Nurturing a position, investing in it, then losing it–that hurts. I've been going through that process, under different circumstances. The unfairness of it all just makes it so much harder for me to look forward to the good things coming, sometimes. So, I'm happy to hear the purpose you are finding, and the spark of life. I'm there, too. I would not choose the process I've been through again (if I could avoid it), but now, I'd never, ever take it back.Like Michelle said; take extra care of you. Your character has proven itself. Pamper it. chesha

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  9. Ouch! I lasted about three days in a family-owned business and walked away from the game. My husband got fired after 2 years being the first (only) non-family in management in a family-owned business. It is just a really tough sort of job to hold onto. Kudos to your character that you were able to make it work for 14 years. That's amazing. And makes a very good statement about your people skills. But the fact that you felt relief is also very good. To be somewhere for such a long time sometimes makes it hard to see when things have gone from good to okay to really not so good as this job obviously had. I'm so glad you have now got the space in your life for a whole big something new!

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  10. Ouch, I feel for you.Everyone else has already said what I'd have said so I'll just say 'ditto' and leave it at that.

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  11. Wow, guys! Thanks for all the encouragement and empathy/sympathy. This really has opened the door to new opportunities and possibilities for me, so I'm in a pretty good place about it. Given my new direction, if/when my former employer calls me to ask a question, the time will definitely be billable!

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  12. Their loss. Your gain. 🙂

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  13. Of course, I am sorry. Never like these types of shocks. Hopefully, this will push you in a new direction.

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  14. Thanks, Zoe and DagoodS. It has pushed me in a new direction. I'll be far better off in the long run.

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