Leaving the company I loved*

*I use the term “love” loosely here, mostly because it is easier than really enjoyed or liked working for. The passion I felt for the company doesn’t come close to matching my continued loyalty to Lowe’s or Wawa, but that may have just been because of the people I worked for.

Out of college I found myself in a crummy job losing more money than I was making. They had promised me I would be come Marketing Coordinator after a few weeks in the “field.” After a couple of months, I was still packing my car, rolling up my sleeves and heading out with everyone else every morning. So I approached the boss and asked for the position I had been promised, told him it had been long enough. He did offer me the position, but at less an hour than an entry level cashier makes; I didn’t accept and that was the end of that.

There I was, slowly depleting my savings account as I attempted to pay bills; being picky about a new job, while still willing to take anything I could get. I am pretty sure I interviewed with just about every questionable company there was, I even sat in on “introduction” meetings to sell brands like Melaleunca. I applied for anything I could that wasn’t retail and that’s how I ended up with an application submitted at AppleOne.

AppleOne is a temp agency and one of their clients was looking for a placement and that, well that is how I ended up at WT.

I spent just over five years at WT; I can still remember my interview for the temp position where I talked about my extensive customer service background, my most recent stint at Lowe’s, and how I felt this position was a great way for me to get into a great company and grow my career. I openly told them that first day that my end goal was to leave their department and transition over to marketing.

Spoiler Alert: that transition never happened.

The day to day requirements and responsibilities of my job grew over time. My initial role as a call taker developed into workforce administrator with limited responsibilities. Eventually I was responsible for select offices and other transactions, then for maintaining the call center system, developing the call center training, creating our process documents, and eventually taking on management roles. I was the first team member in my department to ever get a promotion and that promotion was to a position created just for me. I am beyond grateful for the support and confidence that the senior leaders in my department at WT had for me and know I couldn’t have grown to the professional I am today without them.

Where the role of my job was more than manageable, the management of my supervisor was not. There had been various incidents over the years, altercations that rubbed me the wrong way, and a lot of people on the team absolutely despised her. But, I had figured I learned to manage the non-sense, how to let it roll off and not bother me.

Turns out I hadn’t. A lot of that non-sense rolled off my shoulders and into a bottle where it stayed until the bottle burst. Conversations where I was told I needed to lay my clothes out for work before I went to bed or that I needed to wake up 10 minutes earlier. Conversations where she dictated what my life should be like outside of the office. Times she told me that I could study for a Masters’ degree in communication, but not on her time.

The conversation that filled the bottle to its brim was the one shortly after my breakup with Henry.

Just five days after the breakup I was scheduled to work from home, I happened to not spend the night at my house that night and it turns out it was a good thing I didn’t. When I got home that morning, Henry had been there, he had set up dinner, left a gift, slept on the couch, and didn’t clean up. About the same time I was digesting what had happened, I got a message from my stepmom that Henry was at her house looking for me. I decided taking a shower could wait and that I needed to change the locks to my house before I could log on to work that morning. So I did.

On the phone with my Dad, attempting to let him know I was safe, I closed the door, locking the new locks I had installed. Before I could even finish telling my Dad that everything was fine, there was an aggressive pounding at the door yelling that I had to let him in, questioning how I could have changed the locks. My Dad told me to hang up and call the police, so I did. As the phone rang to the local station, I sent my boss a message saying something had come up and I wouldn’t be able to log on to work on time and didn’t know when I would be able to. She promptly responded asking if I was okay, to which I replied I would be. She told me to stay safe and not to worry about logging on that day. It was the first time, in five years that I had called out of work.

After the breakup I struggled to keep things together, there were so many emotions that I wasn’t prepared to face, there was a lot of fear beneath the surface and disbelief about everything that had been happening. I had truly lost my light and the smiling face that had greeted everyone in the office in the morning, was buried in the computer, cautiously checking the phone, mumbling “hi” to people who cared to say anything as they passed by.

I did all the same work, but without the smile or the happy-go-lucky attitude, and that apparently was a problem.

My boss called me into her office one day to “express her concern,” she flat out told me that my attitude had changed and that was a problem. She told me that I needed to get over what was happening in my personal life and should be cheery at work again. She said I was checking my phone too much, then followed the statement up with “but you are still getting all your work done.” She told me people on the team had complained that I was “cold.”

I sucked it up and tried to be more friendly to everyone, but by that point I didn’t really care and I was angry that she had even said those things to me.

At the start of 2015, WT had merged with another company becoming TWT. It was the second merger I was going to be a part of in my time with the company and the last one still left a bitter taste in my mouth. I worked in the corporate function, so there was almost a guarantee that one of the teams would be packing their bags eventually.

Though, prior to that I had begun looking for ways to make the next move and really turn the job I had into a career. I explored positions in the Marketing department and realized that wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was offered a great opportunity with the internal communications team, but apparently that wasn’t meant to be. I had the global heads of my department helping to guide me as I attempted to begin my career. Everyone seemed to be on my side, except for my boss…

After the merger, a new HR team was being developed and would be headed up by one of my favorite people in the company (he doesn’t know this, but I referred to him as my bff). As jobs began to be posted for new positions in this new merged world, I reached out to my TWT bff to inquire about his new team. It was a few months of conversations off and on, pointers on things I could do to better prepare myself for that kind of move and direction to keep doing what I was doing. I eventually met with his counter part from the “T” in the new company name. I think it is fair to say that both parties were interested in having me on their team. The conversations were reaching the point that they recommended I tell my boss, so I did. They wanted me to help them on small projects as they came up, work so they could see what I could do and I could show them what I was made of; it would give me the experience I needed to make a smooth transition to their team. It had even been recommended that I start working on my transition plan from my current team.

I mustered up the courage and approached my boss, asking if she had a moment to talk.

“As you know, I have been looking for ways to grow into my career and areas I could move to,” I started, “The opportunities that I have had haven’t panned out, but with the merger *my TWT bff* has gotten this new team and I have been talking to him and *his counter part* about what I need to do to be considered as a candidate for it.”

I told her how they wanted me to help out with some small projects and that it would help get me ready for a transition. I told her how they were planning on approaching her and her supervisor about it, so I wanted to tell her in person, that I didn’t want her to feel “blind sided.” Turns out she did.

Things hadn’t been great in our working relationship leading up to that conversation. I had gotten the cold shoulder for going to Texas to train team members so she didn’t have to. It was seen as a negative when I was doing the extra things to further my development that we had talked about in my annual review. And, the moment that others showed interest in me REALLY moving to their team, well shit hit the fan. I was told not to press the topic and further has it had really hit a sore spot with my boss, that I had to wait. My boss pilled more and more work on me, giving me every meaningless and unfulfilling task. She stopped managing in a semi-logical order and found a deep distrust in the people on her team. She began setting my team members up for failure, and transitioning work from team members with seniority and experience to temp-contractors that she liked more. She insisted that I micro-manage my team like she had hers. She micro-managed every last thing I did and became upset with me for telling the temp team members I supervised that they could work through lunch on a day the office closed three hours early to try and make up some of the time they would be missing.

It had hit a point where I couldn’t leave the frustration at work, where I felt trapped, and was bursting into tears as I told Kevin about work.

For a while I would wake up for work in the morning with a nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sometimes it would go away by the time I got to the bus, other times it would linger through the morning at work. At one point, it lingered all day, I became dizzy, couldn’t focus and felt like I was going to pass out. I left work early that day and spent the next two at home. The doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, chalked it up to severe dehydration, even though I drank a ton of water every day, and gave me medication to help with the nausea.

I remember thinking to myself on countless mornings that my body was trying to tell me something. It turns out it was, I was just wrong about what. I had assumed that everything was my body telling me that it couldn’t keep going at the pace it had been. That 4:15 am alarms and 11 pm bed times after derby was something I just couldn’t sustain any more.

In January of this year, that nauseous feeling turned into panic attacks at the sound of my alarm. They started manageable at first, so much so I didn’t recognize them to be panic attacks at the time. But in a matter of days, they mounted to full blown attacks and every morning that my alarm went off, my body went into panic mode. Tears would stream from my eyes as I gasped for what ever breath I could get in. My heart raced, feeling like it might explode from my chest. Snot ran from my nose, my body trembled., my head pounded, I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t stop it.  All of it lasted right up and through the last alarm on my phone going off at 5:15 am, telling it was time to leave for work.

Kevin would hold me in his arms, helping me focus on my breathing and come back to reality.

Soon the panic attacks consisted of images of driving in to traffic, a desire to see the headlights of a tractor trailer coming at me. Work had driven me to the point that I wanted to take my own life, my body made that loud and clear.

I worked five days total at TWT in 2017. After the first four days of the new year, I called out four days in a row, saw my therapist and made that appointment with the psychiatrist.

On January 11 I sent this message:

Boss,

I apologize for the inconveniences my recent absences may have caused. However, it has recently come to my attention that I will need continued medical treatment for an undetermined amount of time. This will mean more appointments with doctors than I have previously had.
Currently, the hope is that there will only be about two appointments each month. However, given that the appointments may not be scheduled far in advance I have submitted for FMLA and will be submitting an accommodations request.
With the accommodations request, I will be asking to have two additional floating work from home days each month that can be used to make doctors appointments. I can coordinate with my doctor to the best of my ability to take the latest available appointment; however, those appointments will require me to work from home and log off at 2:30 pm to make.
Currently, I am in-between appointments and hope to be back in tomorrow. Should anything change, I will let you know in the morning.
Sincerely,
Heather

I didn’t make it in that next day.

The fifth and last day I made it to work I did it because I felt like I had to. I had been receiving constant text messages from my boss asking me to call her, when I would be back, why I wasn’t there, and more. That day she called me into her office, told me that she had only come to work that day so she could see me in person if I made it in. She told me she was worried and asked if I was okay. She agreed to be understanding and even let me leave early that day. At that time, I didn’t plan for it to be my last day in the office.

The next week, as I continued to battle panic attacks and thoughts of suicide every morning, that understanding she promised began to disappear. Kevin began silencing my alarm after the initial panic attack began, because with each text message notification my phone alerted me too, the panic came storming back.

I was frustrated and felt like a failure. I had to work, I had to pay bills, I couldn’t let this get me. I had worked through being sick, I had dealt with this for five years; I just needed to suck it up a little bit longer and make it through. But the truth was that I couldn’t. There came a point where I stopped driving my car because I was truly worried I would purposely veer into the next lane.

As my boss persisted that I call her to discuss what was going on with text that read, “call me,” or “can you call me now?” and I would continually ask her to email me anything she needed to my personal email address. One morning I woke up to a message that read, “Sent you an email. Would like you to call me” received at 6:32 am.

I checked my inbox, found no new emails from her and sent:

Hello boss,

I received your message this morning, but have not received any emails. Can you please make sure the message was sent to this address (Correct email address for the 10th time)?
I understand that my absences maybe causing hardship for the team. However, at time, I need to do what is best for me. At this time, I am unable to make the commute in the mornings and unless working from home on a regular basis is made an option, must take PTO. All of the days I have been out due to my condition have or will be reported to MetLife as FMLA days.
I will continue to work with MetLife and my doctors to ensure the best course of action is taken.
If there is anything I can address while I am out, please let me know.
Sincerely,
Heather
She replied hours late, asking me to call her again.
Our employee relations team member got involved with my leave after I reached out to our leave administrator for assistance on how to handle the situation. I began the process of submitting for STD that day.
My boss left me alone after that and I continued to navigate my leave of absence and the mounting depression and anxiety.
In the end, I determined that returning to work wasn’t in the best interest of my health or recovery, and on the final day of my leave, on February 7th, I tendered my resignation…
After meeting with my doctor today as a follow up, we have determined that I cannot return to work with TWT, as it will not be of aid to my continued recovery.
As such, I am tendering my resignation effective the end of my leave of absence.
I thank you all for your assistance with this process during this difficult time. Likewise, I thank each of you for the opportunity to learn and grow within my career while with TWT.
I hope that you will share with the rest of the Human Resources and TWT team my appreciation of the time spent working with them. Should they like to keep in contact with me, they are welcome to add me on LinkedIn.
Joan & Melody – If possible, I would like to do an exit interview. You can reach me via email or phone.
I will coordinate the return of any equipment I have and the picking up of my personal belongings.
Thank you all again. I wish you each and TWT nothing but the best in your future endeavors.
Sincerely,
Heather
The last time I was in the TWT office was January 13th. That was the last day I saw my team, the last day I saw my boss and I had left just like it were any other Friday.
I wish my story at TWT could have ended differently,;there had been so many people at my side, team members eager to see me succeed, I had been eager to succeed. But I never really figured out how to manage my bosses actions, I let them fester just beneath the surface. I pushed them down and marched on until they wouldn’t stay down any more.
*Some names have been changed
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