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.