I’m not sure if this is a rant, a vent, a emotional crying fest, or some combination of all of the above. M is out with the boys tonight and got the highlight reel via phone call, and I specifically told him not to come home early as I would be fine on my own. Thus far the carton of ice cream in the freezer and the chocolate syrup in the cabinet remain unopened, but this is not a night where I am thinking about my overall health. With all that disclaimer, let me tell you what happened today ….

My boss is an idiot. I mean, REALLY an idiot. Does these amazingly stupid things and does not consider the consequences of his actions, even if the only consequence is my jaw hitting the desktop followed by an honest, white-hot angry outburst.

Right after my lunch he comes into my office, closes the door, and calmly proceeds to tell me to retroactively reinstate the 20% salary cut for one of my peers, because “he cannot afford to lose that much income.”

Seriously. I am not joking. And I completely, totally, unprofessionally lost it. I was so angry I had tears well up in my eyes and start streaming down my face and had to ask him to give me a few minutes to compose myself before continuing this conversation. When I finally did return to his office 20 minutes later, I so angry. SO ANGRY! However, I had pulled out my spreadsheets and charts previously shared when we were discussing cutting costs and pointed out the following facts:

  • This particular peer earns the highest level of compensation outside of the two owners (who did not have a 20% salary cut, nor did their 4 young adult, college graduate children who also earn $10,000 year each for being their kids).
  • This particular peer is on the board of directors and earns board pay when we convene.
  • This particular peer may supervise 3 technicians, but his salary is 26.3% more than the senior technician, and 93.2% and 95.1% more than the other 2 field technicians.
  • Our technicians have been with us for more than 10 years, have families and the same personal financial obligations as their their manager, only they make A LOT less money.
  • From a profitability standpoint, the lowest paid technicians are the most billable and profitable in the entire firm based on hours worked and billing rates. I could quote you boring statistics, but if we were laying off anyone my first choice would be their manager, followed by the senior technician, because the field techs earn more for the firm year after year.
  • Reinstating the pay cut for him would be extraordinarily unfair to everyone on staff, myself included, and I feel he (the owner) must be morally bankrupt not to see that. If the owner is going to reinstate salary cuts for anyone, it should be uniform and across the board.
  • If he proceeded on this course of action, I would be tendering my resignation, effective immediately. I would also be calling the other owner in the midwest and explaining in very succinct terms what he was doing and why I could no longer work for this firm.

I do not feel proud of myself. I feel like a horrible, unprofessional employee. I did not want to make this personal, I wanted to keep this in the realm of business and act professionally, and yet I did let my personal feelings leak into the conversation. While I am pretty honest and direct in my communications, telling your boss you think he is “morally bankrupt” is pretty extreme, even for me. In my defense, I finally reached my breaking point. That casual announcement was simply too much to take after all the other crap that has gone on with him and this firm.

As far as quitting, I have considered the implications in various scenarios. I had run the numbers for adding our health insurance premiums and was primed and ready to walk out the door, never to return. I was fully prepared for him to either fire me on the spot or accept my resignation. Unemployment in California is really weird, but with my side gigs I probably earn too much to be eligible. No matter. I was so enraged by his breezy heroics for long-time friend/manager (owner’s brother was the manager’s college roommate) that I could no longer contain my contempt.

I did not get fired or tender my resignation. My peer did not get his salary cut reinstated. Instead, local owner agreed to schedule a conference call with the midwest owner tomorrow to discuss the state of the firm since the cuts started July 1. It’s going to be an unpleasant conversation, and this time tomorrow I may indeed be unemployed. But honestly, I am so flabbergasted by his directive that I really will not be able to work there any further if he proceeds down this pathway.

Here in the California office no one is happy. The amount of work that can be done in 40 hour work weeks is getting done, but nothing beyond that. In the midwest they have more work than they know what to do with, yet the project managers there are sticking to their 40 hour work week and letting the owner sort out the rest. I warned them this was likely to happen. I cautioned them about instituting salary cuts before cutting other obvious fat in the budget. To say they did not believe me is an understatement.

The worst part of this is the realization that I am fearful of a normal business environment. Our firm is little, flexible, weird, and I worry that I have lost my ability to be professional and work in a typical business environment. First it was just about clothing and personal appearance, but I am now thinking about how one comports themselves in other firms run by genuine business people and not Napoleon complex afflicted tall men.


After I was done meeting with the owner, I was physically trembling from the stress of the conflict. I called my therapist for an ASAP appointment (tomorrow at 7 a.m.) and then sent out a mass email to all my friends asking if anyone could recommend a good business coach to help me prepare to transition to my next professional opportunity. I cannot afford to self-medicate with Hagen Daz and chocolate sauce, or at least I cannot afford to do that very much or very often, so I’m running back to the safety of my counselor’s office. The second is reassure me that I can be rehabbed into something more than small-ball workplaces and can be successful in larger and/or more traditional organizations.

Whew. It’s been quite a day, and I am really glad for this outlet to bleed off some of my insanity. Perhaps the ice cream and chocolate sauce will still be available for Thursday evening’s family dinner. I’m hoping my willpower will win out.

12 thoughts on “A messy, messy day

  1. I would have completely lost it! And I am in tears when extremely angry, especially when faced with a situation that is so obviously unfair and ridiculous. I am sorry you are having to deal with this. You would be an asset to any employer–don’t sell yourself short.

    1. Susan, thanks for the kind and supportive words. I’m a lot calmer and feel more prepared to handle whatever today throws at me, but the absurdity of this situation does not make it easy to cope with. Time to put on my big girl pants and deal with it.

  2. I am an angry crier too and your recovery sure beats mine! But look – you were not completely unprofessional at all. And this isn’t how all companies act – this is really one of the quirks of working for a small business – nothing to contain/counter the personal quirks of the owners. You can and will be successful in other workplaces – working for yourself or for others. This guy is doing a great job of putting himself out of business. You are completely right about how they should think about these things – but they are unlikely to ever buy in to that view completely.

    I don’t think you get fired today frankly (but you may very well give notice) but if you are still there when this crisis resolves – I would see them firing you then. Not because of your work – but “not a team player” or “not a good fit”, etc. Management seem to know that during the tough times/tough cases/whatever – you keep your best people working on your side regardless of whether you like their style/them/etc. But when it is over – you aren’t needed in their eyes – they don’t mind clearing the decks of folks they don’t like.

    On quitting – I’m NOT saying don’t quit. I am saying that you should think about when you leave what do you think you would want done when you walk out the door. Information, etc passed on. You are a caring professional and I know that at least for the benefit of your colleagues (not the owners) you will want to not leave a mess. And for your own peace of mind. So think about that, how long will it take, and figure out how much notice you will want to give – but not too much. I think you are in a place where you don’t need a job before you go and so I think you focus on shutting down this part of your life, walk away, take a deep breath and start looking for the next big thing.

    Finally – you are so much better than you give yourself credit for. I can understand why you don’t give yourself the credit you deserve but when you start looking for a job – aim higher than you think. Give yourself the credit you would give someone else if you saw them in your situation. Even if you don’t believe it about yourself.

    I hope today is better for you.

    1. Today is going to be better, no matter what they throw at me. He caught me completely off guard yesterday, and while I recovered and handled it as well as anyone would have, I want today to be better. For me.
      I have a list going of things I am going to clean-up and organize before our conference call. My personal belongings will take less than 5 minutes to pack up, my desk is neat and organized. If I leave or am asked to leave, I will leave my office a neat and orderly space. All my logins/passwords for programs I use are written down and can be accessed and printed with a couple of mouse clicks. Ever since our discussions started on the cuts, I have been preparing to exit.
      As always, thank you for GREAT and uplifting advice for getting through my day and starting the process of my next great job adventure. No matter what happens today, I’m starting the process of preparing to leave – updating and modernizing my resume (I haven’t sought full-time work in 10 years!), working with a couple of friends to build an online profile, and learning how to get out there and start networking. It’s going to be a challenge for me to step outside my own head. I know this and am being as proactive as I can be by meeting with my counselor today and weekly into the future to rebuild my self-confidence. I can do this.

  3. I don’t think you were being unprofessional at all, especially if you stated the facts like you did in your post. I think what he’s doing is unprofessional. I’m not sure I could stomach working for a group of people like that. Even if the work environment is relaxed. You can find another firm that meshes with your professional needs/wants.

    P.S. $10k to each 4 adult-children? Do they work there or is that some kind of “allowance”?

    1. The kids do not work at the firm. What started years ago as a way to build their college funds has just evolved into an entitlement.
      I am going to take steps to separate from this firm, no matter what happens today. I have not looked for work in 10 years, so it’s a different world out there. But I can and will adapt.

  4. Honestly, I do not think you were unprofessional AT ALL! You had every right to lose it and give that owner a piece of your mind. It really had to be done – for yourself and all those other employees. I can just imagine how mad and upset you were/are. And now, when you have the next meeting, you will be able to be more in control of your emotions and at this point just give them your opinion and the truth, whether they want to hear it or not.

    NONE of those employees, including yourself, can stand to lose 20% of their income. You might be better with money and budgeting than most folks and convince yourself you’ll manage, but it is still going to be a hardship and force you to make cuts and reduce your retirement savings, etc. All of your points above are spot on. They need a wake up call and I think you just gave them that! I can’t remember how long you said you have worked for them?

    Even if things simmer down, I’d still dip my toes into looking for a new position. I think you will be surprised at what you might find for yourself. I always think things happen for a reason and a better job/work environment might just be waiting for you. I know it’s a stressful scary thought, since you are the sole income earner and (I know for me anyway) feels like everything is my responsibility and on my shoulders.

    I hope today is much better for you!

    1. Thank you for the kind and supportive words, OneFamily. It is scary being the sole breadwinner in the family, and believe me the idea of finding another job is terrifying right now. The last time I sought full-time work was 10+ years ago, and the landscape has completely changed. But I need to do it, for my own peace of mind and to get away from the type of crazy these owners are driving me to. I’m fortunate to have side work to get tide us over until things even out with either this job or the next one I might acquire. I just have to stay focused and not let them surprise and get to me so badly again.

  5. I am sorry, your boss is a moron. Can’t imagine the other employees not finding out. Maybe they will quit and close the business down. Having diabetes too, I understand the ice cream and chocolate, but try and be strong. Cheryl

    1. Cheryl, no ice cream and chocolate sauce crossed my lips in this crisis. Yep, they are morons, and I frequently wonder if they want the business to fail for some unfathomable reason. Except I know they both like money and would rather keep a lot more of it than not. No matter what happens, today has to be better. I am at least prepared for big conversations.

  6. First off let me tell you, I have been reading your blog for about a year now. I don’t comment(too shy)
    I love your blog, you are so honest and real!!
    My comment to you about this post—- WAY TO GO!!! BEYOND PROUD OF YOU!!!

    1. Patreesse, welcome! Your comment truly touched me and made me tear up – thank you! I’m off to continue fighting the good fight, so there will be updates. Stay tuned!

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