At 11pm on October 4th of this year I emailed my two weeks notice to my job.
I had been working tirelessly for 5 years for a specialty roasting company primarily conducting hiring and training, providing direct support to the managers below me, and indirect support to our 20+ employees. I made sure operations ran efficiently and I did whatever possible to make sure our employees felt cared for and listened to, and were able to perform their jobs effectively. I liked my job, sometimes loved it, and I knew that I was good at it.
My job started out pretty good. I felt respected and cared for, and I gained fulfillment from my work. I liked my coworkers, I loved my employees, and I felt like mostly my values aligned with the company’s values. But as time went on and the company grew, I found that the owners were making more and more business decisions I didn’t agree with. Business decisions that in my opinion seemed ill advised and a lot of the time lead to failure, many times putting in jeopardy the job security of our employees.
I started spending more and more of my time doing damage control and taking on extreme efforts to keep morale up amongst staff. I would put myself in the middle of a bad situation and do what I could to pacify all parties, mostly trying my best to stop the shit from rolling downhill, while still acting in support of the company’s best interest.
But after enough time of this it suddenly dawned on me that I was actually working for my alcoholic father, and as in so many other relationships, I found myself perpetuating family of origin patterns at work. I could no longer, in good conscience, work to move the company forward, and I found myself moving further and further away. It wasn’t good for me, and I knew it wasn’t good for my staff. So I decided to quit.
I wrote a very brief email notice and included no details as to why I was leaving. I simply stated that this was my notice, that I would be staying 2 weeks, or longer if we discussed another date, and that I was available to speak in person the coming week. I figured there would be a discussion. After all, I helped build their business for half a decade. I was fully ready, willing and able, in fact expected, that I would be asked to help tie up lose ends, possibly train my replacement, prepare the company and my staff for my departure, and leave on good standing. While I hadn’t been feeling great in my position as of late, (actually this job has caused me MAJOR anxiety and stress over the years, but I was in a lot of denial) up until this point I was just thinking “you know what? maybe this just isn’t the right work environment for me.” I didn’t have the highest opinions of my bosses, but that was actually a new occurrence. Like I said, for most of my time with the company I actually felt a mutual respect and understanding. I thought that all small businesses are crazy places to work, and that even though there were some negative aspects, mostly there were a lot of perks to my job. Get this, they had even thrown me a party to celebrate my five year anniversary this past May.
On October 5th at 8am, less than 24 hours after putting in my notice, I received an email from the owner of the company informing me that in fact this would be my last day and that I should return my keys and company credit card immediately- my final paycheck would be ready by noon. No “thank you for all your hard,” no “we would love some feedback on how to improve,” no “why are you leaving?” no “what are you currently working on?” no “could you train your replacement?” no, “we will be sad to see you go.” Absolutely nothing- just the ego-knee-jerk response of an extremely sad man whose business I had cared for. I wrote back – initially from my company email, but that had already been cancelled- and insisted that he might at least want to sit down with me briefly so that I could pass on projects that were up in the air. I never heard anything back.
I should note here that when my male counter part quit a few years ago he was allowed to complete a full month after putting in his notice.
I can’t fully explain exactly what this reaction was about, and I certainly will not take responsibility to speak on his behalf, but two things are clear to me. Firstly, this reaction was based in a deep and abiding misogyny (duh). AND secondly, more importantly to the point of this post, this reaction to me was clearly based on my boss straight up NOT SEEING ME. Not seeing my value, not seeing what I had brought to the table for 5 years on the job, and not seeing me as a human deserving of a proper farewell and a little bit of appreciation. This email was of course not the first time this was made clear to me, but it was the proverbial “final nail.” Furthermore, this was about not seeing that the work I did, which some might see as women’s work, as in the caring for the wellbeing of employees beyond their paychecks, as something of value and importance to the health of this, or any, company.
Raise your hand, fellow femmes and female identified people, if you often realize that someone you are speaking to, or even just standing right in front of, is so clearly NOT SEEING YOU? And how often is that person a cis dude? And how often is the work you do, especially work of care and education, dismissed and not thought of as imperative? Cool, me too.
*Side note- in the weeks that followed I scheduled various appointments to take advantage of my soon to be cancelled health insurance. While I was getting blood drawn the phlebotomist and I commiserated on how little respect we got in positions of management. I said to her, “girl, thats cause it’s women’s work!” and she said “don’t I know it,” and then she assured me she knew I would be ok because it was clear to her that I had a good and sassy head on my shoulders.*
So just like that, after five years of sweat and tears, but not much blood cause that would be against health code, it was over.
I sat in bed not sure of what to do next. I had a therapy session scheduled for that afternoon and I thought, meh, maybe I should cancel it? Take the day OFF? But then I thought, eh, I’ll just go. Clearly, I had big news to talk about.
So I went to therapy and there started talking about leaving my job and the revelation I had that I had been working for my father and taking on a similar role I did as a child within my family. Which lead me into talking about my father and the time we spent together this past summer. Sadly, one of the things he liked to connect with me on were all the faults he found with my brother. And on one occasion I brought up an argument I had had with my brother in which I felt he wasn’t respecting the boundaries I was clearly asking to have respected. So my father starts in with “well of course he doesn’t respect what you are saying, your brother doesn’t really see you, he never has,” and as I am sharing this with my therapist I realize “…which is actually a story he tells himself so as to not confront the fact that HE himself doesn’t really see me.”
And then I remembered. It came back to me- this horribly sad moment I shared with my father over a decade ago. Its really is a wonder, what comes up when you start digging.
I was 17 and sitting in the kitchen, alone with my inebriated father. It was late at night, a dinner conversation extended way past my step mother’s bedtime, having long left the table for bed. I was a captured audience, and so often these conversations started as truly interesting and engaging intellectual discussions. I wanted to be there, I felt smiled upon and excited, like my father viewed me as a worthy partner in discourse. I was chosen; what luck.
But the further down the whiskey bottle he went, the further out of my hands the conversation got. All of a sudden he was crying and talking about my deceased sister, Natalie. She was born 14 years before me, and after her death not only were my parents destroyed, they considered not having any more children. However, a few years later they had my brother and all was well. And about 7 years after that they had me. But the thing is, I was a girl.
There I was, at 17 still merely a child, the overhead light feeling bright on my eyes. I had rarely seen my father cry and I didn’t know how to react. I sat still and he said to me “when I look at you, I only see her. I cannot see you, as you are obscured by her image, the loss of my daughter.”
He was literally telling me, in his most vulnerable state, that he can’t. see. me.
As I recount this in present day, I start crying, something I rarely do in therapy, and I feel a heaviness.
I firmly believe that as we try our fucking hardest to move further into consciousness, at least within the groups of people that I surround myself with, we need to both take responsibility for our actions AND hold accountable those who abuse their power. This abuse of power could be conscious or not, ultimately it doesn’t matter. What matters is that in many relationships, especially within family and always within a work place, there is an imbalance of power. This imbalance isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, but it is real nonetheless. And how you conduct yourself within a power structure that you benefit from has serious repercussions for those around you. You have a responsibility to treat your power and those in your life with care and skill.
As I come into personal understanding of how familial structures have informed my life, I have started to take responsibility for perpetuating that which doesn’t serve me. I have come to find that I align myself, quite a lot actually, with people that don’t see me and that don’t respect my boundaries. A perfect example is the relationship I had with the people I worked for at my most recent job. I have to do work to advocate for myself, I have had to learn, and fail, at this work many many times. But still, I insist on persevering. Because I very much believe in self work and personal evolution.
I have also done work at trying to understand that of course I am not always an innocent bystander in relationships that feel negative to me. I too perpetuate negativity and push emotional responsibility to others. The work I can do is to see that which is mine, and claim it. And then move from there.
In relationships that don’t feed and nurture you, sometimes there are various solutions you can come to. You can identify what you need, and ask for more. You can ask what your counterpart needs, and see if you can provide it. You can move on from things, and contextualize, and work to understand and have compassion. Relationships can be extremely worth very very hard work.
And sometimes, just sometimes, it is totally ok to move on from that which doesn’t serve or value you.