I thought I’d start August with a great story. This is a true story that happened to me 30 years ago and was entered and won an award at the Writer’s Digest short story competition a few years ago. It was one of the most memorable experiences I had in my business career.
Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I knew it would happen. It would just take time. The steam was slowly building and it was getting near its boiling point. When it received too much pressure constantly, eventually it would explode like an ancient volcano lying dormant for so long. I was not aware it would happen soon.
I parked my car in front of my office building. It was one of those muggy days in August 1988. The sun was shining brightly and as the wind shifted, I could smell the stench coming from the recycling plant a quarter mile away. It was giving me a headache already and it was only 9:15 in the morning. I was late already but that was not new. I never came to work on time. I usually got there at about 9:30 am. But I made it all up by staying late every night. Whether I came in early or not, I would stay late anyway so I decided to go late to avoid the traffic.
I got out of the car and picked up my briefcase which was full of worksheets I took home the night before. I had been working for three years then as a Controller in a company in Roslyn, a couple of miles from the historic town. In spite of my working late, I still took work home every single day. Work seemed to pile up. The faster I worked, the more work my boss gave me. I stayed late every night and worked weekends too yet my boss went home at 5 pm every night while I stayed late catching up on things I could not do during the day. I put in a 70-hour week all the time, working till 7 at night, sometime till 8 pm and a couple of time till 10 pm during the month-end closings. I also put in a day’s work on Saturday and half a day on Sunday. It was a grinding work schedule. My boss was constantly calling me into his office and we worked on schedules after schedules all the time. He kept thinking of making more schedules every day and of course more works for me. I did all the ledgers and the financials together with tons of supporting schedules and my boss reviewed my work before we released the financial statements every month. All these paper trails were wearing me down.
I barely made it to my office and the phone was ringing already. “Good Morning, how may I help you?” I answered. I knew it was Howard. He must have seen me walk in. His office was near the front door.
“Can you come to my office?” Howard would say.
“Sure. I’ll be right down,” I said.
I grabbed my yellow pad and my pencil and walked to Howard’s office which was three offices down the hall. All schedules had to be done in pencil. That’s what Howard wanted. I passed Gloria’s and Bob’s office. Gloria would wave her hand as I passed her open door. Bob would smile as I stepped into Howard’s office. They knew my day started already.
It would be like this all day, walking back and forth to Howard’s office. I got my exercise everyday just going to Howard’s office. It would be less than an hour and my phone would be ringing again and it was Howard again wanting me to go back to his office. Few times, he would just want to show me some new forms he made or how he arrived at some numbers. Politely I nodded and then would walk back into my office. I could not get much done with all these trips to his office all day.
I remembered one Christmas and we had an exchange gift. I had the most unusual present and it was from Gloria. She gave me a pair of small roller skates as a gag present. She said I needed them to go back and forth to Howard’s office. Everyone started laughing. They all knew how I spent my day.
I was so tired that day. It was a Friday and all week I was working like a dog and I must be so exhausted that day. It was not even 11 am and I had gone to Howard’s office three times already. He was giving me more work to do and telling me that I did not do what he wanted me to do the last time. I knew I did it right but he kept on nagging me. I must have been too tired but for the first time in my professional life, I stood up and yelled at him. I told him I did what he wanted me to do and I was tired of him giving me more work to do and he never appreciated what I did.
I stormed out of his office, walked past Bob’s and Gloria’s office in rage and banged my office door shut. I was furious. I was out of control. I called the Personnel’s Office and told Pat, “I need a new boss. I can’t take it anymore.” I’m sure Pat heard the commotion. Her office was next door to Howard.
I started crying and could not stop. I was in hysterics. What had gotten into me? I did not know. All I could think was I was fed up. I could not stand his nagging anymore.
A few minutes later, I heard a soft knock at my door. I heard Jerry’s voice, “May I come in?” Jerry was the Vice Chairman of the company. His office was across the hall from mine. I was sure he heard me bang my door shut. I got up and opened the door. Jerry walked in and locked the door. He was a towering figure, a six and a half foot man and everyone was afraid of him. I was not. I knew he liked me. Pat said so because he knew I worked my tail off. He was always my mentor.
“What happened?” Jerry asked.
I stood there by the door. I could not speak. I started crying again. I felt like a child and could not stop crying. Jerry put his arms around me and tried to calm me down. I finally did. I went around and sat at my desk and he sat at the chair across my desk. I tried to compose myself. I told him what happened. He had to be told. Whether I was wrong or not, I probably was wrong acting the way I did, but I could not help myself. I did not know what got into me to act that way.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should not have done that. It was unprofessional the way I acted. I’ve never done that kind of thing before.”
“I understand. It’s all right,” Jerry said.
“I’m really sorry I lost my temper. I promise I won’t do it again.”
“I know he is difficult. I’ll talk to him. Don’t worry about it,” Jerry said and left.
I locked the door as soon as he left. I didn’t want to see anyone. A few minutes later, I heard another knock.
“It’s me. Pat.” I heard from the other side of the door.
I got up from my desk and opened the door. Pat, our Personnel Manager, walked in. “Sorry to hear about that,” she said.
“I should be the one to say I’m sorry,” I said.
“No. Jerry came to see me. He and Bert will talk to Howard,” she said. Bert was the Chairman of the Board.
“I really want another boss. I can’t take this thing anymore. You know I work hard here. Probably more than anyone else but he does not seem to appreciate it. I’ve had it with Howard.”
“I know you work hard. Everybody knows,” Pat said.
“He was impossible. But I don’t know why I acted so badly.”
“You must be so stressed out.”
“Maybe,” I said lamely.
“Why don’t you and I go out to lunch?” Pat suggested.
“No, I can’t. Not in my condition. I’ll work through lunch. I want to be alone.”
She left and I turned on my computer. I hadn’t turned it on all morning since I had been going back and forth to Howard’s office.
It was almost noontime. I grabbed my brown bag although I didn’t feel like eating. I couldn’t seem to stop crying. I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I took a few bites from my sandwich. Finally I calmed down. I started to do my work. No one seemed to bother me now. I had no idea what was going on outside my office. My door was locked. I didn’t want to see any one.
By 2 pm, my phone rang. I barely said hello and heard Mike, the President, on the other end of the line. “Would you come to my office please?” Just like that.
I said, “Sure, I’ll be right over.”
I powdered my nose and looked at my compact mirror making sure my eyes were not swollen. They were a little red but I composed myself. I opened my office door and walked through the corridor to the right passing all the offices. Howard’s office was closed. I went straight to the corner office where the President’s office was. I knocked lightly on the door.
I heard him say, “Come in.” I walked and tried to smile. He motioned for me to sit. There were two chairs in front of his desk. I sat down on one on the right next to the wall.
I sat solemnly and waited. He said, “I heard about you and Howard.”
I tried to apologize. “I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to get so upset. I don’t know what happened?” I was on the verge of tears but I controlled myself.
He looked at me and said, “We know you work very hard and we also know Howard. Thanks for being such a good sport.”
I tried to smile. “It’s okay. It’s part of the job.” I shrugged. I was waiting for him to tell me I’m fired. I waited.
He opened his drawer. I was very nervous. I saw he pulled an envelope. I saw something pink. My heart sank. I knew this must be it.
He handed me the envelope after taking out a pink note. I stared at it. My hand was shaking. I knew I was getting fired and this was the formal letter. I looked at him.
He said smiling, “Open it.” I opened the envelope. My eyes popped out. I saw a check. I looked at it and at him in disbelief.
“We want you to know we do appreciate your hard work. Bert and Jerry talked to me. It’s the least we can do. We want you to stay.” They probably thought I would quit which really crossed my mind. They also knew it was hard to replace me at that point because I did most of the work in my department.
I was looking at the envelope and said, “You don’t have to do this. Dealing with Howard was part of the job. Although I would rather have a new boss.”
“We know. We’ll talk to Howard and hope things will be different from now on. You can put that in Miscellaneous Expense.”
He got up from his chair and I knew the meeting was over. I stood and shook his hand and said, “Thank you.”
I went to my office and closed the door. I called my husband and told him the story. Then he asked if I was fired.
I said, “No! I got a bonus instead.”
“What bonus?” he asked.
“A check for a thousand dollars.”
He said, “Whoa! You have to do this more often.”
In a few months, I got what I wanted. They hired Kevin, our new Chief Financial Officer and Howard was out.
Until Next time. Stop and Smell the Roses.