Believe it or not, for two whole weeks, I… liked my job. And my boss wasn’t even on vacation. Although I wish she were on permanent vacation.
For several months now, I’ve been sans direct manager in the office, which puts a heavy burden on me because I have to perform a manager’s job at 1.5% above minimum wage. Finally, the long-awaited (yet dreaded, too) day arrived and my boss hired someone. Of course, she had passed over someone from the store who was more than qualified for the position, but I’d expect nothing less from her. My new manager, I’ll call her “Nancy,” boasted a two page resume, tiny font, single spaced, narrow margins. She had worked at very high levels in the company, which was a plus, since, to someone from the outside, the company’s culture can be a little… surprising.
I knew things were looking up when I came into the office on day four and she was already in the scheduling system, entering and adjusting shifts. I had been worried about how to even broach the subject of that software, let alone teach it, and here she was, using it like a pro.
I was delighted to meet someone on the same wavelength with regard to work ethic and priorities. There was no need to modulate my voice to suppress any notes of condescension towards my superior when repeating myself for the fourteenth time. There was no need to repeat or stress urgency. I have always preferred to play second fiddle, the ideal underling: shuffle in, stand at attention, await my orders, and carry them out.
The most delightful part, aside from my burdens finally been eased, was that Nancy also understood me on a personal level. Just slightly less than twice my age, she recognized many traits of her younger days in me. She saw my inherent insecurity and lack of confidence, characteristics which I work hard to hide, successfully fooling most people. She needed no time to learn the meaning of my facial expressions, laughs, and intonations. It felt wonderful to finally be understood. We had so many odd things in common, it was almost uncanny.
It was exactly two weeks after she started. When I entered the store, I noticed the alarm was still on, so figuring she was scheduled later in the day in order to close, I didn’t think much more about it. I was in the back office counting money, looking forward to the day (if you could believe it), when an obnoxious knock sounded on the door and I opened it, barely stifling a scream of horror: I was face to face with the teary face of the store manager, i.e., my boss.
“She just resigned.”
“Ha ha ha!” Another one bites the dust.
“Why are you laughing? This isn’t funny.”
Apparently, Nancy didn’t think the store was very safe (alarms were going off when they closed the night before. And maybe she heard that someone had been held up at gun point one time. That probably didn’t help.) She didn’t want to close the store so many nights a week, and she didn’t like how my boss never closed. She had hinted here and there that the job was different than what she expected.
On paper, our store seems pretty lame. Low numbers, poor staffing, often the laughingstock. But no one expects what they find when they show up. Oh, no, they don’t. None stay for long because they burn out after six months. In fact, there is another manager right now who gave her notice two weeks before (she was kind enough to give a month’s notice). So that’s two down. But at least we still have a couple left. One time we had zero managers, after we went through a stretch in which we lost one a week. Now that was funny.
I think working two weeks, quitting with no notice, effective immediately, has to be a record, though, even for us. Pretty pathetic when you consider her sterling resume and whom she had worked for in the company. And apparently she showed up in sweatpants to deliver her resignation.
My life hasn’t changed dramatically because she wasn’t there long enough for me to have handed off many of the responsibilities. But during the short time, I felt almost—almost—blessed that something good finally happened to me there.
I didn’t realize until she arrived that for the last several years, no one has taken any interest in my development. Because I’m not on track to be promoted—I don’t want to be a manager, nor would I be selected anyway because I get too “overwhelmed,” which I define as “sense of urgency resulting in things getting done”—it’s taken for granted that I’m just a fixture in the office. I’ll do everything for you, short of wiping your ass. When you’re even slightly competent, there is no attempt to help you improve because then you’ll try to leave.
I can only think of three pieces of feedback I’ve received in the last couple of years—communicate better (my boss said this to me through an intermediary), speak up before I become frustrated (this after throwing a fit and slamming stacks of paper around), and don’t make copies from copies (I made a photocopy from a photocopy).
I actually felt a little bad for my boss. I think her tears were real, not the crocodile tears she is famous for producing when you tell her what a horrible person she is. Her job is objectively too demanding, and yet another manager quitting adds one more forty-hour job to her plate. Imagine the strain this puts on someone as stupid as she is.
Let’s face it—the new manager would have quit anyway because the honeymoon with my boss usually only lasts three weeks at the most. When I found out someone new was coming, but before I met her, I was so worried about how, as a new manager, she’d side with my boss in everything to curry favor and ruin my life. But quite to the contrary, she picked up on it immediately.
My boss: “I drove six hours to Buffalo this weekend and spray-painted some candlesticks for my daughter-in-law.”
Nancy: “Ah, so you—”
“How is your training going?”
“Well, I spent yesterday at N. Store and we went over a typical day in the life of—”
“What does that mean?”
“Ah, well, we—”
“I’m cold. Good thing I’m wearing my jean jacket.” My boss exits the office.
Nancy watches the door for a moment. “Did I miss something?”
“Nope,” I reply. “That was a completely normal conversation with her.”
This is just a silly conversation, but there were many other things, of more consequence, that seem to have been regarded as abnormal.
So it’s just me and my boss again, like old times, old times being three weeks ago. I will never have any respite from her, and in fact I believe that someday there will be no one left but me and her.