In January, I quit my job of 8 years and I hadn't been clear enough about all that transpired to write about it until recently.
I had been working at a retail establishment since December 2009. I started out at the lowest possible position (cashier/ sales associate) and ended in the same position. Had I been more aware of myself and more in tune with my journey, all that happened through the years would have been clear signs on when and how to move but it wasn't, because I wasn't. Let me explain.
The very first sign, in retrospect, was when I was promoted in position but not in pay. This happened very early in, year 2 I believe. I was told upon query that there was no official position available so it was alright that I was maintaining the work unofficially. After being prompted by my ever-so-ready to stick it to "the man" guide, Megan, I aimed my query a bit higher —Human Resources. It was then that the information I received from then store manager was corrected. I was given a pay increase to match the additional tasks and retroactively paid for the months I had been exploited.
The second sign might have been the time I was written up because of a one-time drug abusing, bipolar depressive, assistant manager who was never sure if I was her favorite or if she hated me. The encounters I had with her brand of managerial tactics were far too many to recount here in detail.
The major sign, one that I later took as God clotheslining me to get my attention came the day, back in December 2017, when I was called into the office to be interrogated by HR —the same HR representative that had called on me many times in the past to give honest feedback about individuals who had complaints filed against them. He wasn't alone, there was a woman I was unfamiliar with (also from HR) as well as our regional manager. I initially assumed someone had written them about one of the managers again but this time, it was about me.
I was surprised to hear him say that the general consensus was that I was difficult to work with —surprised because I worked alone more often than not and because the hourly associates would come to me for help or to be given work to do rather than management. He asked why after 8 years I was just beginning to have these sort of issues and I was confused as to why that same question didn't raise any red flags against my accuser(s). I asked the regional manager after he refuted some of my statements if this had been one person's assessment that was brought to them or if they had spoken to everyone to come to that conclusion. He paused with a surprised look on his face and after a moment, lied and said they spoke to everyone. I knew it was a lie because a few co-workers had made me aware of what the talk was that was coming from the assistant manager who had it out for me though I didn't think it was serious at the time. I was then instructed to not speak of the meeting with anyone. Any attempts to find out who said what could lead to my termination, they warned. But by then, I already knew.
I was completely taken aback to hear insinuations of an inappropriate relationship involving myself and the store manager that had been in charge of our location for the past 3 years. These presumptions were born from the complaints of a new assistant manager that felt like I didn't get in trouble enough for the work I didn't finish. It was being called "favoritism" —that I wasn't being written up for incomplete tasks. When it was my turn to talk (although I didn't get a fair chance to speak on my own behalf as HR rep, Jim, interrupted me every chance he got) I mentioned that perhaps I wasn't being written up because I voluntarily reported to whomever was in charge on any given day about what I was and wasn't able to complete.
I also mentioned the e-mail that I sent to HR myself, months prior that explained that I stepped down from the position that I was holding a year before, that when the girl who took the position after me left, they instructed me to fill it for a month until she came back (which she never did) —they even went as far as explaining how insubordinate it would be if I didn't. I explained that I stepped down because the program I was put in charge of was not receiving the necessary support from the management team and that when I'd attempt to discuss it, no one had any solutions for me and my own suggested remedies were ignored. An HR rep came in to speak with me after that e-mail was sent but still, nothing happened. It wasn't until the assistant manager, who was a questionable pick for management herself, complained about me that things began to happen.
I asked in their interrogation, if these allegations of my failed performance were of any merit, why hadn't any of the 3 members of management spoken to me about it? She claimed she had but if I consistently didn't do as I was asked, wouldn't I have been terminated? Long story short, I was being put on some sort of a performance program that was to be monitored, in part, by the same member of management that made the false accusations against me. I agreed but knew I wasn't going to stick around for more signs.
I decided that I would use my vacation time before leaving because I earned it. I split my time in two, taking a week in December and another week and a half mid-January. I intended to hand in my 2 weeks notice the day before my vacation began but I was informed that they would potentially try to strip me of that time and that I should wait — I did. On my last day of work, prior to my second vacation, I was called into the office again, this time just by the regional manager and a different HR representative (the one I emailed months prior about my concerns). That was when I was asked to officially step down again from the position I had been tossed back into against my will. And it was then that I learned about the performance program I was to be put on. Somewhere during that second conversation about the complaints filed against me it was mentioned that "now that my job would be easier I shouldn't have the same concerns".
I'm not entirely sure why, maybe it was a final attempt to defend myself against all the poo being thrown around me, but I felt the need to refute that statement. "The job itself wasn't hard" I told them. I never minded the work, neither did I mind being pulled from one task to the next in the name of teamwork. It became too much when I was consistently being expected to do everything, including my actual job and receiving no support when I requested it. "It wasn't always like this" I said, ready to get up, go home and put it all behind me until I could figure out my next step but the regional manager prodded. "It wasn't like this before?" I initially took the position back in 2013 because I enjoyed it. The store manager then, though she had issues of her own, supported the program. If she asked me to do something different, she'd make sure the tasks she was essentially asking me to neglect were covered until I could get back to it. The same was true of the manager after her, he prioritized the guidelines of the program as well. I explained this and made my exit, though they seemed stunned and not at all as eager to dismiss me as they had been before.
After my week and a half off, I returned to work on a Tuesday to find that there was a new store manager, one that had been an assistant manager in our store years before. I felt a pang of guilt. I didn't know what happened when I was gone and hoped that no one lost their job because of me. It was confirmed that the changes weren't due to anything I said but it still felt like a test. I had come back with my resignation letter ready to go. There's a new manager, one that knows you and won't give you any hell, you can stay now. As far as temptation goes, it felt pretty harmless but I didn't want to find out. I put in my notice anyway. The 3-day work week was a breeze and when I came back the Monday after my standard 3-day weekend, half-way through my shift I was given my final sign.
"We accept your resignation", it began. I was offered a payout. Leave that day, that moment so that they could use those hours for other employees and they would pay me (in advance) through to what should have been my last day. All I heard was in my heart was God saying, "this is so you won't change your mind again", as I had attempted to resign a couple years before, to no avail. I accepted.
I walked out that day feeling like I had gotten the last 8 years of my life back. It was then that I was reminded of a specific scripture I had heard from time to time that I had never thought much of until that very moment:
“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” — Joel 2:25
In that moment I knew, against all odds, that I had made the right move....
until I didn’t.
To Be Continued...
Kimolee Eryn is an artist and writer who believes in creating for a purpose beyond the purpose of creating. She believes that a life should be lived not just to sustain itself but to cultivate peace, love and growth in all adjacent beings and hopes to exemplify that in all she does.