July 24, 2012

Letter to a Dear Friend

Hi honey,

Sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday -- the day just got away from me. I've been thinking about you so much and wish there was something I could do to help you through this time. The only thing I can think of is to let you know that I'm here for you, to share things I'm reading and websites I find, and to let you know that I understand what you're going through -- maybe even more than you do (I know that sounds crazy but let me explain).

I'm sure I told you about my life at FedEx? I had worked myself into a position there that was comfortable, if not very challenging. I had been there for 20 years, had 6 weeks' vacation, and made a decent salary. But there was the typical BS that comes from large corporations -- the "our employees are our most valuable asset" insult -- and a boss that was truly insane. Really she was. Also, as a courier, I was starting to notice some physical limitations. Due to a bad knee, I physically couldn't do the job anymore. So I did the next best thing. I took another job within the company. Why give up my seniority and holidays just because I can't carry 30 pounds on my back for 8 hours and work for a woman who makes people cry?  I left my downtown co-workers and all my customers (whom I adored) and took a position at the airport, working in a department called Trace. This is where customers, looking for their packages, call to find them, have them redirected or redelivered. This is where really, really angry people call. This is also, as it turned out, an even more dysfunctional department than the one I left. And one where no "trace" of training was provided. I was thrown onto the phones and told to just figure it out.

So I tried. I tried my best.

While I was trying (and failing) I went to my doctor and told her I was beside myself and that, while I didn't want anti-depressants, I needed something. She gave me Ativan (lovely little drug by the way). I went back to her after a week of Ativan and said that I thought I needed to go on stress leave, that things were so out of control, other people were dropping like flies. She said to try meditation (WTF?).

I lasted 6 weeks.

I was on the phone with a customer, a man who so verbally abusive my brain couldn't register his insults fast enough.  Yet I was not allowed to say "excuse me Sir, but I don't feel this conversation is productive, nor am I comfortable with the level of abuse you are subjecting me to, so I'm going to hang up now". We were told that the customer is ALWAYS right and that we had to stay on the phone until their complaint was resolved. Realizing I would never resolve his complaint (I wasn't even sure what it was) I did the next best thing. I told the angry man that I was putting him on hold to look into his concern and that I would be right back. I got up from my desk, walked out the back door of the building, across the parking lot to the chain link fence that surrounded the FedEx property (picture a prison). There I stood, clutching the fence, sobbing -- gut wrenching, wracking sobs. Sobs so deep you can't breath.  So loud that the Purolator couriers standing across the field (100s of meters away) heard and suggested I scale the fence and come join them. The Great Escape! After I was completely dehydrated, I went back inside, splashed cold water on my face and walked into my boss's office and told him that I was done. He looked at me like I was a code talker and said that yes, if I needed to go for lunch that would be fine. I said, NO -- I'm DONE. I'm leaving and never coming back. I said that I was throwing in the towel on 20 years, 6 weeks' vacation, pension, the works, because my life was worth more than this. Because I was worth more than this. I said there was a man on hold -- by now a really, really, REALLY angry man -- and that I was leaving him on hold.

I walked out the door, got into my car, drove home, popped an Ativan and turned on the TV. I stayed that way for about two weeks. The boyfriend would come home from work (he still worked at FedEx BTW) to find me on the couch, wonky from drugs, crying over a Grey's Anatomy episode that I had recorded so that I could watch it over and over again (remember the one where there was a bomb lodged in a patient's chest and Meredith agreed to stay in the room with him -- and he exploded?).

After two weeks, I brushed myself off (remember I had quit -- no short or long term disability or employment insurance) and decided I needed to do something, I just wasn't sure what. So I started with lunch (well, actually I started with a shower...). I met a friend at her office downtown and while waiting I picked up a copy of the newspaper. The classified section as it turned out. And in there I found an ad for a maternity leave replacement for one year for ParkLane Homes.

So I do understand completely what you are going through. And I want you to know that you have two options. You can choose to stay. Or you can choose to go. Only you can decide what is right for you right now, but do know that nothing will change with your employer.  NOTHING!!! Even if you find a new position there, nothing will change. Even if your horrible boss gets hit by a bus. NOTHING!!! Even if you get validation from upper management that your boss is insane and you were right. NOTHING!!!

If you decide to stay because you are afraid of the alternative, then do what you can to listen to that fear and figure out why it wants you to stay and what it is you are REALLY afraid of. Read what you can (positive things that will help move you to a great new place). Take advantage of your employer's wellness support programs and go to a career counsellor.  Have them help with your résumé, your interview skills, even with trying to figure out what it is you'd really like to do. They are there for you and they can't tell your employer they are helping you work on the most kick-ass résumé ever. Then, take a deep breath, realize your worse fears are coming from your lizard brain and that you won't end up living in a van down by the river, open the back door, walk across the parking lot and get in your car and drive away. Drive towards the life you deserve, the life that's waiting for you to grab hold and give it a great big kiss.

Ok, here's my recommended reading for the week and website:

Escape from Cubicle Nation

The first 40 pages are going to rock your world (not that the rest of the book won't but you will recognize your employer and you will realize you are not alone, you are not crazy or ungrateful).


I love you and I want you to be happy. The best way is to feel like you have all the say in your life.  It's your life -- no one else gets a vote. NO ONE!!! You are not a democracy. You are a country of one so start ruling baby. You are Queen!



July 3, 2012

La Grande Pomme en Paris

Some people love chocolate.  Some people love wine.  Some people love Cuban cigars.  But if you ask me it doesn't get much better than this.