This is a conversation from a recent call used with permission (name removed.)
Her: My boss fired me because a project was late while we were without power.
Me: So he was totally unsympathetic that there was a hurricane and you were without power for 4 days? (Referring to Hurricane Irene.)
Her: Yes. He didn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t just my house and I couldn’t just go to a coffee shop or something. Everyone was without power. Eventually my phone died so he just started screaming at my voicemail.
Me: And you said this project wasn’t urgent or for a client? Why was he so insistent?
Her: Actually it was something he’d only decided to do a few days before. It didn’t seem to be a priority at all until he couldn’t reach me.
Me: Ok. In your email you said you wanted to try to get your job back, right?
Her: Well.. yes I guess.
Me: Are you sure you want to work for someone like that? I think you already know it’s time to look for another job.
Her: (Sigh.) It’s just a relief to hear someone else agree with me. I feel so guilty about the whole thing. I don’t think I’ve ever apologized so much.
Me: I don’t think you’re responsible for a hurricane.
There are so many directions I could go to say how wrong this situation is. As our conversation continued, I could see she was almost abused in this business relationship because he blamed her for everything that went wrong. So she felt stuck between needing the job/money, feeling guilty and trying to fix things, and wanting to run for the hills.
I’ve tried a number of times to describe what dehumanizing employees and contractors is and this, my friends, is just that.
Fortunately we made a game plan and she is well on her way to finding another job or taking on freelance clients. We discussed warning signs of bad bosses and clients to work with and what her ideal client would actually be. Similar to abusive dating relationships, it’s very easy to slide back into the pattern. So she and I will be both be carefully watching out because she doesn’t deserve to feel guilty enough to cry from relief again.
As for her former boss, I see several probably things happening. Because he won’t have anyone to blame and with his attitude he’ll have trouble finding a new assistant and within a few weeks I’m willing to bet he will call to be all smiles and sunshines begging her to come back. After she turns him down, he’ll either go through a dozen assistants in the next year or unfortunately he’ll find someone else who will stay out of guilt.
What tips do you have for my client coming out of this nasty job relationship?