When I moved, I felt like I had three strikes against me: I was blonde, and a chick, and from California.
It would stand to reason that these weren’t strikes at all, being that I’d spent nine months interviewing with them and they knew exactly what they were getting. But then again, I never found it easy to reason with Connecticut’s people the whole time I lived there, so I suppose that point is moot.
The person whose position I filled was one of those unfortunate types who felt very comfortable telling me that it was my role now, and that I should “figure it out” – “it” being anything I had a question about. He seemed consistently unhappy and was always too busy to be bothered.
Aside from that gem of a human being, I had a twitchy supervisor who always made me uneasy. During meetings, casual conversations, lunches – you name it – this person’s knee would be rapidly bouncing up and down, and there would be major fidgeting going on. He’d be squishing a stress ball, tapping a pencil and rapid-firing words as though there would never be a chance to speak again. There was way too much energy radiating from this person in good times to make me want to be anywhere in the vicinity if and when things went bad. And they did.
It was a January afternoon, and many in the office were out working Super Bowl-related events. I was in the office getting ready for the NASCAR season. That time of year also happened to be review time, and HR had circulated a new form for employees to fill out about themselves.
It was a confusing form that I’d asked HR to clarify. They said to interpret it in the way that would best enable me to answer the questions about myself. Awesome, thanks for that clarity.
I sent my completed form to twitchy supervisor, noting in my email that I found the form confusing. I explained that I’d like to talk through it at his convenience, so he set up an end-of-day meeting for us.
I walked in, and he asked me to close the door. The meeting went something like this:
Him (armed with a print out of my review, and with knee bouncing up and down): “So, I printed this out.”
Me: “OK, great. I have a copy, too.”
Him (pregnant pause, more twitching): “This…this has to stop.” He was holding up my review form.
Me: “…what has to stop?”
Him: “This. This!” He was no longer holding, but was now waving my review form in the air.
Him: “This! This is bull$h!t!” Then he threw the papers in my general direction. They fluttered to the ground.
I don’t remember much about what I said next, but he said that my performance was crap and that it needed to improve. I challenged him and asked why and how this was coming up now since I’d never heard anything before, and he couldn’t really give me an answer. I do remember asking him if he had anything in my file about any “performance” issues. He said no. I remember saying something like, “Of course you don’t,” because I knew I had client emails, internal emails – many emails that alluded to no such crap, as noted by their thanks and praise.
Then the fur started to fly. Fur, in this case, was in the form of pencils which were thrown at me. Scissors were jettisoned across his desk in my direction. Next, a tape dispenser. Then the pencil holder came my way.
With the door closed and many people out of the office, the guy had completely gone off the deep end. Of course this would be my luck. I can’t remember specifics, but I definitely conveyed that he was, in fact, acting inappropriately.
“No, you’re out of line!” he yelled at me. “You’re a manager!”
Not really sure what that was supposed to mean, I came back with, “Wrong, you’re out of line. You’re my SUPERVISOR.”
I told him that I quit, and all he could do was stammer back at me.
“You can’t quit – you can’t quit! Daytona is a few weeks away!”
“I know it is. But you know what? I just did. I quit.”
What I found amusing about the whole situation was that the guy went off – throwing things, even – over a review form that I completed about myself. Not him, not someone else, me.
A review form that I acknowledged was confusing, and that I wanted to talk about to get his guidance.
What room is there to blow up? None. It was just the way he was wired – not that it excuses anything.
Sometime after dissolving into a puddle of shocked, angry tears in the bathroom, I went numb. Had I really spent nine months interviewing to have it end like this? I drove home. I think I called my parents and told them I was jobless. And even though I heard my mom’s voice in my head saying, “Never quit a job unless you have another one to go to,” I couldn’t have been happier.
I set my alarm for the next morning, determined to stick to some sort of routine. At 7:00, it went off, and music started playing. Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” filled my room, and the happenings of the evening before came rushing back. I snickered to myself, knowing that it had, in fact, been a bad day – but it was a bad day that led to a lot of good. It was the start of a new beginning, and it taught me so much about the kind of place I never wanted to work at again, the kind of people I never wanted to work for again, and all I had before me was opportunity.
And I was thankful.