March 15, 2012
The Ides of March were when Caesar was assassinated, and my spirit at work was likewise killed on the above date, when everything went crazily, inexplicably, no-way-to-see-it-coming downhill. When my job went from something I enjoyed to something I dreaded and I went from a happy-go-lucky non-profiteer to an unwilling participant in a ruthless, cut-throat game of Survivor, The Corporate World. People should know their place in the office hierarchy. You are hired to do a specific job in exchange for a salary, so just do your damn job. I know there are always going to be those who strive to climb the corporate ladder, but the majority of the worker bees need to keep their noses to the grindstone or it can lead to anarchy. Take for example my office, which quickly devolved into Lady of the Files (Get it? Like Lord of the Flies but we were women and in a corporate setting!). As a general rule, whenever I have been moved to tears by frustration or other negative behavior in a job, it is time to move on (basic life lesson: work should not make you cry). Your boss should be someone who has your back, not who throws you under the bus at any given opportunity. And in turn, your job is to always make your boss look good. I know what I am talking about because I have had amazing bosses and I have had horrible bosses.
For instance, my first job out of college. The corporate world was a big eye opener after being surrounded by like-minded people in my small, all-girl, Catholic high school and then in a sorority throughout college. I realized I had no choice in the people with whom I worked, and after hearing numerous horror stories from my gainfully employed fellow alums, quickly realized that I had lucked out with my co-workers and boss. I sold advertising in a trade magazine for a private, family-owned publishing company, traveling all over the country and making a damn good salary (I had hopes of getting on as an editor, but they pointed me in the direction of the money instead, despite my credentials). At a convention in Miami, my boss and I attended a fabulous poolside party sponsored by one of our advertisers. They just happened to manufacture an ingredient similar to gelatin and featured it in—what else?—Jello-O shots! There was a dj and a limbo contest and as I tried to bend my back parallel to the ground, my boss held my head up so I could get low enough without hitting the stick. Upon successfully dodging under the limbo stick, I was promptly presented with yet another Jell-O shooter as the dj stuck his microphone in my face, asking, “What would your boss say if he could see you now?!?” to which I happily responded, “he was the one holding my head up, helping me limbo!” and my boss and I toasted with a Jell-O shot.
Several years later, when I worked in membership development and special events for a museum, I went into my boss’s office to break the news of my heretofore very private decision to get divorced (side note, of course I thought no one knew how unhappy my marriage was, but anyone who knew us both could see it). Here is how the conversation went (in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that she was well on her way to marriage #3):
Me: “Do you have a minute to talk?” (she had an open door policy and most work-related conversations always just began without any preamble).
Boss: “Please tell me you’re not quitting!”
Me: “Well, I’m not quitting my job here at the museum, but I am quitting my marriage. I’m getting divorced.”
Boss: “Oh, is that all!? Thank goodness! We couldn’t bear to lose you! Take a few days off, go shopping, call me if you need anything.”
So, in a comparison of good bosses vs. bad bosses that is as in-your-face as the chiaroscuro in a Caravaggio painting (did I mention I double majored in English and Art History? Go ahead, take a moment to Google the artist, you’ll thank me later for teaching you some good cocktail party conversation fodder), when my job brought me to tears, I knew it was time to move on. And I also know of what I speak here, too, since I have been moved to tears of frustration with two previous jobs, both of which I quit. So in this latest episode, I sucked it up for over a year while I collected a paycheck and actively sought employment elsewhere, keeping at it because of the insurance for my family. Then I realized that insurance isn’t worth it if I have a heart attack or stroke because of stress, or suffer liver failure from drinking too much. Although I learned the “work-shouldn’t-make-you-cry” lesson in two previous jobs, this time I stayed as long as I did for two reasons: one, everyone knows it is easier to find a job when you have one; and two, because I felt, as a mother, how could I quit and leave my family with no insurance?
My darling husband finally helped me see that I wasn’t just miserable at work, I was miserable all the time which of course was impacting the very people I was stressing myself out to protect! So we made a plan…we cashed out the last of our investments, paid our bills out for six months, and decided I would take a six month sabbatical from the working world, enjoy the summer with our son without cobbling together a crazy (and expensive) series of summer camps to accommodate a work schedule I hated, and start this blog so I could write on a regular basis and maybe even parlay my writing into a freelance career. When I quit, it was so freeing, I felt instantly lighter and hopeful. Although it would be easy to wish I had done so sooner, I think the timing was perfect because Tyler and I got to enjoy a couple of weeks together and then he started a new job for which he is perfectly suited.