The Next Chapter

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You know how you can kinda sense when things are about to totally change in your life? As if having a baby wasn’t enough but the whole time I was home with my baby on maternity leave i kept getting this feeling that everything was about to get derailed on the company train I have worked so hard at for the past 11 years. Little things kept happening here and there that made it obvious that things were about to get interesting. The way the office handles things like this though is never respectable. They always keep you in the dark and just resort to lying to or evading you to get as much of what’s needed until they’re ready.  It was pretty obvious when the wife, who never really involves herself in the company, all of a sudden came on the scene.

I structured my maternity leave so that I would have 20 hours of vacation time each week. That way I would still have a check every week and could keep paying my insurance dues. I also told them I was happy to help from home with anything I could do from there if the staff got too busy. They took full advantage of that asking me to do lots of stuff but then said they were under the impression I was going to do it all for free. Apparently years of spending extra time at my own expense isn’t appreciated but expected now. So then they decided to have other staff start working on things two weeks before my return because they said they didn’t want me combining my vacation time with any work from home even though the office was slammed.  Then they decided to have someone else start doing the payroll, compensation packages and budget work that took me years to perfect and who had no idea about anything to do with it but then asked me to still come in on the weekends to do other things. So I got a feeling the sharks were moving in. Only that little voice in my head just kept saying, “It’s okay, you’ve got more important things to worry about now”. So I went with it. Whatever.

Less than a month i’ve been back to work and everything has been falling apart. The work they had redistributed to others while I was out wasn’t done at all so I came back to a circus of stuff to do which apparently is what they wanted because they’ve basically been making me the bad guy for being gone. Yes, even though I offered to help while I was out to avoid all this. God forbid you have a baby and screw everyone over.  The owner and her minion are making changes that I have voiced are not in the best interest of the company.They’re in cahoots with what they can change up and everything is in an uproar. Always stirring the pot. “The Minion” is the old office manager who left about 10 years ago to be a stay at home mom. Only her husband decided he hated her (imagine that) and checked out so she divorced him and needed to work again. She and the wife who owns the company get along very well because they both like to cook things up and throw wrenches in things without fully thinking things through. Everyone in the office can’t stand her but deal with her because they have to. Once she came back everyone pretty much knew it was only a matter of time. And when I found out I was pregnant I pretty much knew how this story was going to pan out. “When the cat’s away the mice will play”. So when all of a sudden the wife starts calling the office umpteen times a day and having closed door conversations with The Minion the staff knows that the tides of change are rolling in and that something’s up.  It’s okay though. It was all their decisions to be made and I had better things to occupy my time with anyway now. I was slammed with work and then consumed with baby.

The trend of the place has been to keep cutting our budget to continue the owners’ lavish budget in Florida. It’s a very “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” theme with them. They have a $12 Million mansion on the beach, movie star neighbors, plastic surgeons on speed dial, trips across the country for a Vegas show or a shopping trip in Beverly Hills, trips out of the country. For just small business owners you’d think they’d invented the Post-It or something. And it’s all paid for by our company. I fight tooth and nail to be able to get our lawn mowed or leaking roof fixed and they are spending thousands on pool boys and landscapers. Our office furniture is literally falling apart and they’re buying thousand dollar custom swivel chairs. I made it work though. We always just eked by thankfully having a staff that would tolerate low working conditions. I made it work for them because there was no other choice.

The economy has sucked for a few years now that’s no mystery but things are definitely improving. Lots of people are still out of work so we should feel lucky to even have a job  they’d remind us. I never bitched about the fact that I haven’t had a raise in pay for the past six years or that the last raise I did get more than six years ago wasn’t even actually a raise in pay but the company offering to take over my cell phone bill. That way it helped reduce my out of pocket and got them a tax write off instead of having to pay more taxes for incasing a salary. I just went with it and kept busting my arse, appreciating having a job just like they wanted us to.

They cancelled our retirement plan last year. It had been an IRA that was matched up to 3% the years before but then they decided not to match anymore so they had to roll it over to a 401k. Then they found out that they had to make a contribution at the end of the year and pulled the plug on it all together. Conveniently, they continued it for just the two of them – just stopped offering it to anyone else. The only benefits I had left aside from my cell phone bill being paid were my three weeks of vacation I’d earned for being there 11 years, my health insurance which they are required to pay half of under our policy, and the ability to earn commissions on months where our income exceeded our operating budget.

Every month at our meetings it’s been the same thing though “We can’t consider any pay increases because our money isn’t where we want it to be yet”. The economy is still just too bad. (Which is all fine and well when you don’t know that the company is footing the bill for all of their fine dining and shopping trips, all of their car payments, mortgages, insurances, personal expenses, etc.). It’s just convenient to use the economy as your scapegoat but it gets old after a while. You start to realize that you’re being taken advantage of. You start to get tired of staff continuously griping to you about needing more money or threatening to leave. You start to feel bad for staff who have to go to the public drive food pantries to get their holiday meals because they can’t afford to buy it when the company is footing the bill for a big fancy dinner out in Marco. You just start to feel it period. Had I not gotten pregnant I probably would have just continued working that way until I had a heart attack. I would have continued to work late and drive my husband crazy at never being able to get home in time for things. I would have continued to be chained to a desk, not having time to eat let alone pee during the day and just living off of coffee. Only when I became pregnant I HAD to start doing things differently. I couldn’t go all day not eating. I had to eat healthy, no more coffee. I had to pee dammit!

While I was out they also apparently decided to change our commissions program so that the staff could only get their monthly commission at the end of the year IF the company showed a profit. They say it was to avoid paying money out when we’re not bringing enough money in and are doing it to encourage the staff to work harder. Ever heard the saying “Can’t bleed a turnip?”. This sent most everyone into an uproar. Funny how they aren’t as naive as you think. They get the general idea that their rare bonuses are about to become nonexistent but what they don’t know is that the company never shows a profit at all. We’ve had years of more than $100,000.00 profits and they actually showed losses by the time they finished racking up “expenses” so the accountants could write it all off. It sucks to know that and but it sucks more to have it now affect your pockets.

So let’s recap, they had taken my retirement, they have taken my bonus ability, they had me slammed with weeks of backed up work because they refused to have it worked on while I was out. So now I’m left with my insurance and my phone bill benefits. I’m working three days a week for now and planned to gradually work my way back up to full time. For now it’s saving them more money anyway so I figured they’d be all for it – especially when I’m working just as hard in 24-25 hours a week then I did with 40. Only they announce at the staff meeting too that they’re also now changing the way they pay insurance and “other things” too but only for “part time” people which they announce really only effects me. He says they’ll call me later to discuss things. Gee, thanks. I could hardly wait.

My husband and I had talked about what we would do in this situation. We had a feeling they were going to try to mess with my compensation package at some point because before I got back to work The Minion was calling me to find out how much my cell phone bill was. When I got back to the office they had said they were changing how they paid it and instead of paying it directly to the provider as a tax write off they were going to start adding it to paychecks (they pay one other girl’s cell phone in the office too). Only they didn’t mention if they were adding it to my hourly rate, making it a once monthly payment on my check or what. I knew that they knew this meant spending more money in taxes too and I found it quite hard to believe that they would want to change it this way and actually pay more out of pocket than they had been. So I figured something may be brewing. Yet they remained silent and my check remained unchanged. My husband said that with us commuting two hours each way on the days I worked was already costing us over $50 in gas each day. Plus the cost of babysitting. Plus the time involved. He said if they started to tamper with my pay that I may as well quit. That I had spent 11 years making their money work for them and that I could just focus on making our money work for us. He said he was confident that no matter how tight things got, that if I quit I could succeed in making us stay afloat. That I was used to working miracles with next  to nothing so why not do it at home and with my baby where I can watch her grow and spend every minute with her? Well, you already know his take on my job if you’ve read some of my prior posts. He hated that place and everything they expected of me all the time. His confidence in me must have finally sunk in. That I could do this if I need to. We’ll make it work. The down side is that with us trying to buy a house we need me to show an income – even if just part time – so that means we would have to put  that on hold for a while. I texted him to let him know that something was brewing so I would know what to do. A few minutes later I got his response, just like we’d discussed, that if they are going to take anything else away at this point it’s time to just say “peace” and get the hell out of there. So then I waited for the phone call.

Sure enough, they danced around the insurance and phone bills and said that they were adding the cost to the other girl’s check. They said they weren’t going to be able to keep paying 50% of my insurance costs anymore with me only being part time. They’re actually required to under our policy guidelines but I know that with me only being part time they can just say I don’t qualify period and terminate my plan all together. The other side of this is that the only reason I kept my plan and didn’t get on my husband’s was because we already aren’t meeting the quota needed with enrollments (it has to be half of the eligible staff) and if I terminated mine that would likely make them terminate our whole group plan and screw the other person on the plan out of coverage. But, no biggie, I can enroll to my husband’s insurance I guess. So what about my phone bill? Yeah, they’re not paying that anymore at all. The wife plays the “It’s his fault for doing it to begin with” card and he plays the “I’m the stupid husband and it’s out of my control” card like usual.   So there it is, the cue we talked about. I held back my tears at knowing after this long I could just be treated without any regard and just let them know it gives me lots to consider then. After hanging up with them I realized I was overdue for my next pumping section. Sitting in my office in dairy cow mode I reminded myself how much I hate having to do this here in this disgusting office that they refuse to take care of. I reminded myself of all the things I’ve done that have gone unappreciated and how when given the chance they apparently will screw me over at the drop of a hat despite 11 years of dedication. I reminded myself of everything my husband and I talked about. And I typed my farewell memo.

Of course the wife has no clue what my departure may mean nor does she care. Her and The Minion will make do she figures.The husband seems a little upset but basically said he was surprised that I came back at all. Had I known it would pan out this way I probably wouldn’t have. Could have saved myself the hassle. I realized they can take it so easily because it’s really the staff that are going to suffer again and they don’t care about that anyway. In fact it works better for them to have another scapegoat to cling to. Now they can blame my departure for everything. That I stuck everyone with more work. That I made things harder for the company. It makes me feel bad in a way. Guilty almost. That’s what manipulative people will do to you. They’ll make you feel bad for making decisions for yourself and your family. They’ll make you question it and reconsider and change your mind and just give them what they want. Only this time it’s not just my wellbeing I have to consider and throw away for them. I have a baby now. And it’s true, a baby changes everything.

So, 11 years of service have come down to nothing. It means nothing and is already being belittled. Soon I will be that ghost of the office that gets mentioned at Christmas parties and wondered about occasionally but blamed for anything when it’s convenient and go down in history not for what I actually did or didn’t do but for whatever they want to create. The one perk the owners can use to their advantage is shutting up anyone else threatening to walk with a pay increase now that “they have money to work with since they’re not paying me anymore”. It makes them the good guys again and makes the staff glad I’m gone too. They used that one before – Gave a $2 per hour raise to everyone in the office when The Minion left the first time to stay home with her baby. Everyone was so excited when they came in that morning… Then they were all upset when they came in the next morning to find a note from the wife saying it wasn’t happening. I remember that and smile knowing I won’t have to deal with that type of backwards business sense anymore. I won’t have to make excuses for them anymore. I won’t have to deal with any of it. I’ve spent 11 years making this family business work. Now it’s time to focus on my own family business. I always wanted to have kids and be a great wife and be that family. Then my career took over those plans. I rewrote my book. Or so I thought…until I got pregnant. Now my the book has changed again. Apparently you can have both stories in the same lifetime. The first part has been a wild ride. I’m glad to know everything I can accomplish when I have to and that I can do so well with so little in the business world. Now my story takes a turn into something new and unknown again. Something else I will have to learn from scratch. Something I will hopefully be as good at, if not better. But something much more important and rewarding. It’s time for the next chapter.

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