The 1st Chapter of Why I Am My Own Boss
This story was submitted anonymously to the Work it! Working to Live and Living to Work collection as part of the October SEEQ sessions.
In college, I became the student manager of our rec center as a Junior when it was usually offered to a senior – i.e. someone who had seniority – but I was recommended by the outgoing manager and the adult boss had already seen my commitment and ability to lead. I had a lot of autonomy – he gave me the outline and I ran with it. I hired students, created the work schedule (by hand – there were no computer programs available to us), handled personnel issues and even fired someone. That boss ended up leaving mid-way through my senior year (I’m guessing for a better job) and one of the Deans stepped in as his temporary replacement. So at this point, I’ve been working there for three years and managing 1.5. The Dean started micro-managing and making demands that I didn’t agree with – for example, she wanted the student worker stationed in the weight room to wipe down the machines after people used them. I had two issues with this; I had hired these folks for a job where they were told they could do their homework while policing the weight room – i.e. yelling at guys to stop horsing around or to put weights back on the rack. The machines all got cleaned by the custodians twice day and sweaty people could use the provided towels to clean the machines themselves. I know R-MC is a private school, but I thought it was ridiculous to ask the student aids to clean up after the rich kids sweating. I felt really protective of the students I had hired and scheduled, and I pushed back hard. There were several other changes that were dictated – one week it would be this rule, and the next it was to try something different. She didn’t ask for guidance, my thoughts, or my opinions. She didn’t check to see what wed already tired in the past or why we did what we did. She flippantly made changes and wanted me to be the one to enforce it. Maybe a few of her ideas could have been improvements, but her style pushed me into defensive mode so after the first few suggestions I’m sure my immediate reaction was to think the worst. She didn’t exactly create an environment that fostered discussion and teamwork. So when a meeting was called and I sat in the conference room with the Dean and a 3rd person who I cant remember, I was so excited when she asked me for my opinion of the changes. Finally! They are asking for my input! My experience can finally be used in the decision making! I can get things back to normal! So I shared my thoughts, my opinions, and I answered her questions directly. And then she fired me. On the spot. And this is when I learned: to survive in the adult world, when a person in power asks for your opinion – they might not actually want it. So I get to decide, give them THEIR opinion and keep my job, or share my opinion and be at their mercy, Spoiler alert – this is not the only job I’ve been fired from. 😉 I also learned about management styles. I did really well under the manager who gave guidance and support with a lot of trust and autonomy. The Dean who dictated, micro-managed and make changes on a whim, not only created a miserable work environment – she also put all of the focus on me. I was the conflict. I was the problem. The best part is after firing me, she offered that she could help coach/guide me so I could learn from my mistakes for the future. I said no thank you as I packed up my belongings with my eye stinging with angry tears. Was there room for me to become more positive in the face of change? Room for me to change the way I communicate my opinions? Could I polish all aspects of my personality? Yes to all these things. But she was a manager by name only, she was not a leader. She took no responsibility for her part. She wanted me to CHANGE. Whereas I was hungry to GROW. That was not the environment for me.