There was a 45 minute conference call with the owners of my firm today. The local boss is a complete and utter coward and did not come in to the office, instead opting to send me an email this morning that he’d be in after lunch and we would talk with the midwest owner at that time. Then at 12:30 I get an email from the midwest owner that we would be having a conference call at 1 p.m., shortly after which the local owner emails to say he’s “working from home” and will dial-in for the conference call. My contempt knows no boundaries with his failure to appear. But oh well; I should know by now not to expect too much from him when cornered.
The highlights from that call:
- Midwest owner did not know about local owner’s desire to reinstate the 20% salary cut for one project manager until after the fact. Midwest owner went so far to state that he did not realize there was a “problem” with the 20% salary cut for any of the staff. My tongue must be bleeding for biting back a sarcastic “if it is so not much of a problem why are both of you and your non-working children still getting full paychecks?”
- Despite charts and numeric evidence to the contrary, owners feel we cannot afford to alienate or lose this manager. Techs can apparently be easily replaced. Midwest owner supports the decision to reinstate the 20% pay cut and proceeded to tell me that “it might be difficult for me to understand their reasons.” I did not throw up, hang up, and raise my voice. I did not trust myself to stay calm and professional, so complete silence was my only response to that.
- From both of them, the morale problem should be addressed, but we need to increase the firm’s bottom line and profitability. The staff really need to understand that. Yes, while we are paying for new cars for both of you, newer trucks for the midwest PMs, season tickets to professional sports programs, country club dues, “retreats” in Mexico for the owners and their families, etc., etc., etc. No one else on the staff ever sees those expenses, though, so they cannot be part of the problem.
It went on. And on. And on. The more they spoke, the more it sunk in again I am working for people who have no idea what it takes to run a successful business. Up until recently that was okay, because they surrounded themselves with good and smart people who would keep them out of trouble and the firm moving forward. Unfortunately, the revenue stream in our industry is slowly drying up, projects are being closed and no new ones replacing the closed sites, and there is less work available and what is there is not as profitable with each passing year. As the revenue streams steadily decrease, the less interested in listening to those they hired to keep run the firm, do the work, and keep them out of trouble with the various governing bodies that regulate our industry. They seem to believe sucking any and all available profit and cash from the business now is the best course of action, no matter what the long-term cost.
I realized it was time for me to leave in order to save myself. As I remarked to another friend last week, it’s like the flight attendants demonstrate on airplanes: put your mask on first, then help the baby in your lap or the person beside you put on theirs. I do not feel ready to end this milestone in my career, but their decisions are compromising my integrity and trying to erode my own moral compass. I cannot stomach their behavior and my conscience will not let me stay as a component of their management team. Up until now I have been able to blunt, redirect, or restrain their bad ideas and choices, but they have completely gone off the rails and are sticking to this destructive, demoralizing path.
So I told them I could not continue as part of their firm. I believe their choices are bad for the firm overall but especially the staff who work hard and put forth the effort to serve our clients and the interests of the firm. As their administrative officer, a lot of the implementation and enforcement of policy falls on my shoulders and I simply cannot do it anymore. I verbally tendered my resignation both as a firm officer and their employee, effective immediately. My participation in the conference call ended at 1:45 p.m., although I believe they continued talking after I hung up.
For the next hour or so I finished organizing my desk, cleaned out my email, removed my office keys from my ring, pulled the company credit and debit cards out of my wallet, and printed out my list of logins and passwords. My phone rang at 2:15 while I was tidying up, the midwest owner asking me to reconsider. He said they belatedly understood what an awkward position they had put me in, but both he and the local owner wanted me to stay and he offered to reinstate my salary cut. They value me; they need me; please reconsider. I said I needed to think about it further, talk to M, but in my heart I knew I could not, would not continue in this same role.
At 2:45 I received a call from local owner, basically repeating what the midwest owner said. I repeated that I needed to consult with M, but I would be in the office at 9 on Thursday and we could discuss it then.
I left the office at 3 with all my personal belongings, just in case. I was completely ready to pull the trigger and sever the relationship.
It felt wonderful. And terrifying. But mostly wonderful. Leaving at 3 meant I could make a 4:30 yoga class and still have time to shower off before meeting my trainer at 7. (Except my trainer is sick and texted me to reschedule for Friday instead. Yep, no problem! I definitely do not want to be working out with someone with a bad cold.) M was running canyons and not going to be home until evening and I was going to go stir crazy at home by myself and alone with my thoughts.
During yoga practice I put together a possible solution to maintain my healthcare benefits while looking for something else. And appease the bosses (very much a secondary consideration). I wrote out the formal proposal email and sent it when I got home from class. My idea is to retain the straightforward tasks that must get done (and have them most worried) and get rid of the management responsibility that makes me feel ill. I proposed the following solution:
- I would definitively resign as an officer of the firm and want no part of the board of directors. I will also be relieved of any and all management responsibility or direction of the staff and firm on a day-to-day basis.
- I would continue on a part-time/remote hourly basis (20 to 30 hours per week) to function solely as their accounting department. I will continue to prepare payroll, pay the bills and expenses, prepare and send out client invoices, follow-up on collections, do the monthly books, and work with the CPA on tax returns. This would be my entire job description.
- As part-time/remote and I will work primarily from home. I will come into the office a couple times per week to pick up payables, drop off and/or mail checks and client invoices, make copies, answer questions, etc.
- Pay rate will be the presently reduced salary and paid as an hourly staff member rather than salary.
- They will continue to reimburse me for standard cell phone and home internet allowances as other remote employees receive.
- I will retain my benefits and premium cost share through the next open enrollment (December 2015) with the understanding that whoever works with the insurance broker may alter the benefit terms and employee premium portion at that time.
I am thinking selfishly and putting myself first in this negotiation. If I am only working hourly AND able to keep my benefits, I can look for another full-time job at the same time. If it comes to pass I find another full-time job, I could do the reduced hours from home, at night, on weekends as just another part-time gig through at least the end of the year and give them plenty of time and notice to find someone else to assume a full-time, in-office role.
M has some reservations about this proposal. He feels these are untrustworthy employers, and yes, they are that. But with HR being one of the hats I wore during my 10+ years tenure, I am far more familiar with the labor laws than they are, and I know how to file a formal complaint with the Department of Labor and I am more likely than not to win the case. His reservations are the primary reason I seek to separate myself physically from the job I did. Working from home, confining myself to strictly accounting/bookkeeping tasks, I can sever my ties with regard to managing the firm.
There is always the chance they reject my proposal outright on principal, and I am prepared for that. But for once I am thinking about me and my best interests before other people. It grieves me mightily to leave the staff in the lurch, but I suspect many if not all are already seeking other opportunities.
At the end of this very long, stressful, trying day filled with angst and drama, I wonder how people live and thrive in this sort of environment. After 2 days I am so ready for this crap to be over and done with.