Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice, that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
Every other week, I answer a call for advice, and every other week, I share my views on something I observed- I call this Observational Wisdom.
Today’s Observational Wisdom is about a topic we all deal with at one time or another.
Not being appreciated at our job.
The boss thinks because they are in charge of our paycheck, thus our livelihood, thus whether we starve to death or not, he or she can just mistreat us, because he or she CAN. No amount of good work, or hard work is appreciated, and said boss may even behave disrespectfully of us in front of peers.
If we speak up about it, said boss might just say “If you don’t like it, go work someplace else,” or even some roundabout version of “Well, you deserve it because you are such a lousy worker.”
I was fired from a job in 2011, my last day at that location being in 2012. I had dug my heels in, and held on for four-and-a-half years, and endured a lot of unnecessary stress. It was so bad, I had begun to question the meaning of life, and some days, did not see any point in getting out of bed. I actually mused that if this was all there was that life had to offer, I did not know if I cared to live anymore. I had always been somebody in love with life, and was not making any plans to end things, so I decided I was not suicidal. The job had to go.
Because I had let myself get so downtrodden and exhausted at that job instead of getting out early on, I was at a loss for what to do, or where to look for another job. This field is what I entered after college, and although I am deaf enough to not function over the telephone, but function well enough in person, and my husband had an income, there were no deaf or hard of hearing programs that would help point me in the right direction. That in, and of itself was disheartening enough, and I had internalized the abuse from hateful bosses at that job. It was to the point I thought I was useless, and was terrified nobody else would hire me. So I just stayed put. This was the biggest mistake I made in my entire life.
The day I was told I would not be working there anymore, I had actually said a prayer on my lunch break to my god to “get me out of here.” Sometimes, the answer to a prayer is a big fat “No”, and sometimes, the prayer is answered a mere four hours later. I knew not to fight my firing, and to just go with it because it was a miracle I was getting out of there.
The reasons they fired me were deemed unacceptable, and so, I got lots of unemployment.
I took the time to look into going back to college and getting a degree in another field. Since I have my BA already, and could not decide what else to do, I never went back.
I did a bit of volunteer work at a nearby haunt- yes, a haunted house- and was VERY appreciated. I was not used to being treated well, and being thanked for my work, and chalked it up to the fact I was doing work for free…then, they sent me a little money, and I admit, it made me cry because it made me feel appreciated. I did not know how to handle that.
My first official paid job after being fired was at a place I’d done part time work for years, and I did a part time assistant manager job there. My supervisor was very appreciative of me, and when she resigned, the new manager bought me lunch and I helped orient him to some of the aspects of the job. When he got fired, he came to see me to tell me his side of the story. Let me mention he had been a librarian for 34 at one of the schools where I went, and had later managed a local bookstore. After he got fired from my part time job, he took another bookstore position, and said he would put in a good word for me if I wanted to work there.
I wound up taking a full-time job in retail that was not too big of a pay cut from what my “career job” pay had been, and my hard work was so well appreciated, I was voted in as employee of the month my first month there.
Nine months later, I came down with a chronic illness that put me out of the workforce for two years.
During that time, I volunteered at a local thrift shop, and still do volunteer writing for both The B.A. Observer, and for Pagan Pages emag. I am also still in touch with some of my retail co-workers, and every time I go in to shop, I am asked by at least one person when I am coming back.
I now have a part time job at a local metaphysical shop since I started doing better.
At every job but the “career job” I did for over a decade, I have ALWAYS been treated with respect and appreciation. At all the “career job” positions in the field I was working, I was talked down to, and treated unworthy of the air I breathed.
Let me add that my clients were happy with me in said “career job”, and some of them were very upset when I left. I got cards, and gifts galore, and even one of the people tasked with getting rid of me gave me a card saying I handled the whole thing a lot better than most people would have.
No, I really didn’t. It created a major crisis for me, and although we did okay financially, I have emotionally, not fully recovered from things that were said, and done to me during the time I was at that job. I just held my head high during my last days there, and did not let them see me crumble.
I realize I had plenty of opportunities to get the hell out of there, and was actually on the way in to resign two weeks after being hired, but changed my mind. My greatest regret was not resigning that day.
I could have just worked for a while at my part-time job until I could have found something else.
However, since it was what I believed to be my dream job, it turned out to become a nightmare. I insisted in trying my best, and refusing to admit defeat.
The result was, I got my ass kicked all over the place for four-and-a-half years, and my career in that field is officially over. I am eligible to work in that field still, but I just can’t deal with it. I was actually offered a job by a lady I had worked with at that awful location, at her new location, and I made every excuse in the book to get out of it. I just can’t do it.
Moral of the story- I realize we had a major Recession that changed jobs into an employers market as opposed to an employees market, which it ought to be. I understand that work is a four-letter word, and they call it work for a reason. I understand work cannot make all our dreams come true, and nobody is going to pay us to come do everything we want to and be ecstatically joyous all day.
I can live with that.
What I cannot live with is being so damn miserable at a job that it makes me feel like I’d be better off dead.
I know a lot of people go through this every day of their lives in soul-sucking, hostile environments made so by bad management. I have come to the conclusion that management is a talent, not a skill, and most people are just bad at management. They get into it for higher pay, or an inflated ego, and stay on a major power trip 24/7. They make their employees lives hell. This seems to be the norm rather than the exception to the rule in certain fields. This is the reason why so many young people are against the emptiness of big business where money goes straight to the top, and staff are treated as slaves. Bad managers like to snidely say such workers have a sense of entitlement, and want the world handed to them on a plate. Quite the contrary.
The point is making is, learn from the biggest mistake I made in my life. Do NOT do this to yourself. It is not true that things are the same wherever you go. Some things maybe, but abuse from management is not something that is inescapable. You can do better, but you have to get out there and search for a better situation. Don’t be like I was, and kid yourself that a hostile environment is all you have to look forward to. Also, don’t be frightened into staying someplace because you fear a new job might wind up being worse. Sure, who knows? It might. However, it also might not. It is absolutely worth the risk to try, and find out. The worst thing you can do is just simply give up, and stick around because you feel there is no hope.
Yes, there is too, hope. I am not saying the first day you decide you want out, you will immediately find the greatest job on earth, and you will live happily ever after. I am not saying to quit a job without another one, either. I am saying to try and to believe that there is something better out there than whatever awful, miserable job you are stuck in. Someday, you will be unstuck, and you want it to be on your terms, not your abusive managers.
Also, understand that managers like that never truly appreciate anybody. Don’t be fooled if they are chummy with somebody else at the office. If given half a chance, they will stab their “best buddy” in the back and throw them under the bus to save their own skin.
Brush up your resume, and start looking for a way forward in your own career. You won’t regret it.