When I first started working my last job, I was hired as an office administrator. I was getting paid $15 an hour, and my main purpose was taking care of the other employees in the office. I was initially hired to replace my friend who had been promoted based on her educational background (that we shared). This didn’t mean much to me at the time, but it would come to mean something to me later on.
When I first settled into the job, it was very easy to see what kind of work it would be. The founder was located in another country, which wouldn’t be an issue, except that management was so poorly designed, there may as well have been no one running things. I had one boss in my department. Shortly after I was hired, my manager was promoted to the manager of another department, while still acting as manager of my department — of which I was the only member. The other department he now managed had several people. However, it turned out he had no skills for managing a department he was unfamiliar with, and was quickly demoted (not before wasting plenty of company funds hiring and subsequently losing five employees within the span of two weeks).
This didn’t really affect me, but it made me lose a bit of the respect I had for my manager. I thought this was being a bit harsh at the time, and I was biased in that he was the sole manager I reported to. But I felt like I was working in the most unorganized office I’d ever seen. At this point in time, I promised myself I would stay for one year before I quit, just so I had something relevant for my resume (I was four months in at this point). For the next two months, not much occurred. My friend was getting antsy about her position — the only co-worker in her department was nearing the end of her contract, and to my friend’s knowledge, the department head was not going to extend it. It wasn’t surprising to either of us — any time I saw that co-worker’s computer, she was browsing Facebook instead of doing any actual work. My friend didn’t even know what her co-worker was supposed to be doing.
Within that two-month frame, my friend decided she would stay the remainder of her tenure (she was also on contract) and leave due to the unorganized nature of the company. I wholeheartedly supported her plan. Once my six month anniversary came by, my friend simply had quit. At this point, her department was now vacant.
My manager asked if I would be interested in moving up in the company (yes, those were the words he used). I said yes, of course. Within a week, I was set to take over for my friend’s position, but with other duties as well. I was now to be the social media marketer and editor.
Now with my promotion I had a couple of meetings with my absent boss — not my direct manager, but the head of the company. We talked over the phone and agreed I would be in charge of the various social media accounts, as well as starting a newsletter-like feed to send to clients detailing highlights of our company and partners. I suggested we get permission from our partners. My boss refused to budge; he stated that because the information I would be reporting on was public information, there should be no issues with reporting on it. He wasn’t wrong through a legal standpoint, but for the sake of partner relations, I knew this was going to blow up in our faces. He put his foot down, and I could only follow.
Now, along with the designation of some tasks that I didn’t stand behind, for various reasons, I was still waiting on meeting my boss face-to-face to discuss my promotion. I was getting a pay raise, but I hadn’t been told what. That was a mistake. The first time I saw my boss face-to-face, he told me he had back-to-back trade shows so we would discuss my salary together after those were taken care of — any missing money from the time of my promotion would be added to the following paycheck (I’d seen him do this with another co-worker already). I wasn’t happy about it, but I wanted his full attention when we had this meeting.
Within a week, I found out that my boss had actually returned home right after the last trade show — he had been in another state, and hadn’t come back into the office before returning to his stationed building. I was at a loss. I contacted my manager, who was working in the other city. He was coming in a week for what I thought was a more permanent stay, if only because I was the only other person in this department.
I should have asked (or demanded) a conference with the higher-up boss, since he’d already slighted me once. Instead, I waited for my manager to arrive and set up a meeting right away. My manager let me know he wasn’t actually prepared to take on this new role (apparently he hadn’t been the head of the department when my friend was there and had been promoted without knowing, I don’t know all the details). So he was actually completely unprepared for anything I had to say in terms of my concerns about the projects I was heading, or in terms of my salary. He said the boss had returned due to a family emergency and would be here in a week.
And so I waited, again.
The second run, I never even got to talk to my boss. He was in and out of the office on a tight schedule, and was doing trade shows when he wasn’t in — I couldn’t even get him on the phone. At this point, I knew this conversation wasn’t happening. I hadn’t even been denied by my boss — I was being avoided. Nothing screams incompetence like avoiding an employee you promised a raise. The cherry on top of all of this was, right before he left, we had a group meeting where the company head announced my promotion in front of everyone — proceeded by him leaving to talk to a client.
I was seven months in, and counting down the remaining five months. After two weeks, my manager left — turns out he was only there for the new clients, he wasn’t relocating. Now, I was the only person working in my department and my manager was on the other side of the country — correspondence was almost exclusively through e-mail due to the time zone difference.
I didn’t know if it was because my manager was unprepared for the role, or if it took that long for him to go over my ideas, but almost everything I did required a week to be approved or disapproved. That first newsletter project was understandably met with negative feedback from our partners, and was discontinued after three days of its initial launch. The company head wanted to proceed with the project, but with e-mails to our partners explaining how we wanted to promote their business in an attempt to get approval and make our social media presence visible. Most of our partners declined, because they didn’t want to upset their other partners — they didn’t want to blatantly display who they were working with all in one place. If a rival company didn’t go looking, they didn’t have to know what was happening.
I had other ideas. I was working on the newsletter with ideas not just about our partners, but about our industry. I wanted to create relevant content that would benefit our partners as well as show the world we were up to date with all the new developments in the field. My manager didn’t see the relevancy. I didn’t mind being shot down, but he didn’t give me other work to replace the ideas I had proposed. I was now stuck in a position where I had minimal work to do, and all of my ideas seemed to be shot down with no explanation.
This continued for the remainder of my stay. Day after day, I came up with campaigns that would inevitably be rejected. My manager never came up with any ideas. But he also wouldn’t explain why my ideas didn’t work, or what direction he wanted to move us to. I was at a loss.
On the last day of my work, I had just wrapped up a project that was finally approved. It had taken all of the last three months to actually launch the very beginnings of the newsletter project. There were lots of issues with it — we didn’t have a place to post our blog entries; they existed only as LinkedIn updates that hopefully reached those looking for us. My manager called me an hour before the end of the day, and asked if the board room was empty. It wasn’t.
He took a deep breath and let me know I was being let go. I can’t tell you exactly what I felt at that moment. I was planning on looking for new work, but I hadn’t been particularly focused on it at that time. I was numb for the most part. This was the first job I’d ever left with no input on my end. My manager explained to me the reason was that the company hadn’t made as much money in the last quarter as they’d hoped. The ideas I had couldn’t be overseen by him, because he didn’t have the time to look into them — that was the sole reason I had been turned down before. There was no discussion about my ideas because my manager had never grown into his role. There were no results from my work, because my work never really went anywhere.
He told me I never formally got the promotion, because they couldn’t find any funds to allot for me. My manager let me know it was a pleasure to work with me, and that he wished he could do more but that his boss’ vision had been launched before he had the time to flesh out his own vision. I’d been swimming in an ocean with no designation.
What I took from all this is that I had essentially accepted a job that didn’t exist. My boss had created a job for me on a whim, and didn’t have the means to support it. As a result, my stable job was stripped from me, and I was placed in the precarious position that would never amount to anything.
It didn’t matter how good my ideas were or weren’t. I don’t know if they now have the newsletter as they intended. I know I started the framework for it, and contributed months into it right before I was let go. I don’t think they’d be so cruel as to use me for cheaper labor, but I’m also naive enough to trust beyond what I should. I should’ve taken the warning signs that had caused my friend to leave, or I should’ve stayed in my original position and declined the promotion, because I wasn’t presented with more details beyond “we have a plan.” I didn’t, though. Instead, I was left with a year of my life spent contributing to what I assume amounted to nothing.
My story isn’t one that says, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” I walked in assuming I’d have to work hard for results. My story is rather a cautionary tale to let you know you need all the details before you plunge in. If you don’t see a reason to believe things will get better, it probably means they won’t.
Sophia is a writer/artist focused on learning as much as she can about the world. She hopes to use her talents to eventually publish a comic that can host her specific voice, and provide a different understanding of the world. She believes everything has a value and nothing is created without reason; whether good or bad, there’s always something worth exploring — and she’s out to find out what that is.
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