I never thought I'd say I was grateful for losing a job. But looking back, I can now see the true misery of the situation.
The company I worked for was a good one, but the region where I was employed was treated like the unwanted stepchild of the corporation. As a result, our office was poorly managed, and the employees there were treated -- from the corporate office to our office managers -- as if they didn't know the first thing about doing their jobs.
However, for my first few years there, my direct manager was fair and pleasant to work for, so I stuck with it. Then a new person took charge of several departments, including IT.
Death by a thousand cuts
"Big Boss" worked out of the company headquarters, located some hours from our region. We expected to someday meet him in person -- how wrong we were. But we very quickly learned that Big Boss embodied the term "micromanager." What we lacked in face-to-face communication was more than made up for in phone calls, emails, and check-ins.
For example, Big Boss would give us a task list to do every week, often with more items than we could complete. He would tell us, "This is in case you don't have enough to do during the week -- you don't have to get it all done."
But we learned very fast that what he said and what he expected were two very different things.
At the end of the week, if we didn't complete every single item on the list, we would have to defend ourselves over the phone and explain in detail why we didn't get it done. If we were working on a multiweek project, we had to break down exactly where we were and how much we got done that week. It didn't matter if we had a server fail, had to travel to a site to fix something in an emergency, or had anything else come up -- he chewed us out if we didn't check off every item on the list.
Working for Big Boss, it felt like the sands were constantly shifting beneath us. Some weeks, he would tell us to come up with a list of what we wanted to get done. Other weeks he would change his mind, and he would produce the list. I guess one detail was certain: There'd always be a list.
Big Boss never complimented us or passed along positive feedback -- he never even seemed like he had a smile in his voice over the phone. He was always grumpy or upset, it seemed. Every time his phone number showed up on caller ID, I'd get sick with stress and wonder what I had done wrong this time.
A lot of people had been leaving the company for better jobs. I checked around for opportunities, but was already working overtime merely to make it through the items on the list. I was getting burned out in the process.
Plus, any time off (including doctor's appointments -- emergency or otherwise) required at least a week's notice and a detailed description as to why and where we'd be, per Big Boss. When we talked to HR about this, we were told, "He's your boss -- you have to do whatever he wants."
I did finally get to meet Big Boss in person -- when he arrived at the region's HR office to give me my pink slip.
The work situation had not been good, that I knew. But sometimes you need a comparison point to understand your true misery.
When I started at a new job, the differences between the two work environments was immense. The new boss complimented the employees. The tasks were manageable, and when obstacles arose, we were encouraged to prioritize. We were trusted to do our jobs, not micromanaged. I felt like I'd climbed out of a dark pit and into the light.