Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

Folks, it’s been a week. Hell, it’s been a year. I started it out with every intention of being more present, more aware, and more careful about avoiding extraneous stress at work. I knew I did not want to live life like I had through most of 2019 and made several changes that helped me almost immediately. Not even two weeks into the new year, things started going downhill.

First, my manager put me on a Professional Improvement Plan (PIP). If you are not aware of what that means, PIPs are notorious in the business world for being a means of firing someone. They are a way to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to make sure that the employee cannot sue you for wrongful dismissal. Essentially, the manager puts the problem employee on probation, giving them a very specific set of tasks to complete over a short period of time, usually six weeks. If you fail to achieve those tasks by their deadlines, the manager has grounds for firing. In my experience, PIPs are rarely beatable.

My manager put me on a PIP specifically for my attitude during the last half of 2019. It seems that there were people around my office who listened to every conversation I held behind closed doors and reported my words, which admittedly were very heated and crude at times, to HR and to my manager. There were also people who were not happy I was doing so much venting to them and complained to HR that they were not counselors and that I was taking up too much of their time. So, PIP time for me. I signed all the paperwork and went about the business of proving that I could beat it because I had an ace up my sleeve. I was already actively looking for work. So, I took it seriously but at the same time felt comfortable in my back-up plan. My goal was to find a new job and get out of there before the PIP expired.

Fast-forward six weeks to last week. My PIP was set to end on Friday the 13th, and there were no doubts that I was going to succeed. On Monday though, things changed. My manager once again struggled to understand some basic tenet of cost accounting. Over the course of the last two months, I had come to the realization that if my manager becomes embarrassed about her lack of understanding in a meeting, she would invariably take her embarrassment out on me. Such is the case on Monday. So, she feels embarrassed in a meeting in which I was an attendee on Monday afternoon. Later that afternoon, she sends me an email asking me for changes to a file by the end of business that day because she needed it for a meeting at 9 AM the next day. She sent it less than an hour before I absolutely had to leave to take Holly to dance (something blocked out on my calendar to which she had full access) and the changes were of a nature that they would take me at least two hours to complete if I had all the data. I did not, and she sent the request at a time where those coworkers with the data I needed were already gone. Thankfully, the data I did not have was very specific and not necessary for final conclusions. So, rather than fail completely, I completed the changes to the file with the information I had and explained to her in a note why I didn’t do all of them. I was also late getting Holly, who was late for dance that night. I got home and told Jim what happened and that this was going to come back to haunt me.

Sure enough, the next day, at least four hours AFTER her meeting, she sends me an email blasting me for my incomplete work and how this was one of the reasons I was on the PIP. I did not respond because I knew I would see her in person on Wednesday. But I started getting nervous and told Jim that she was going to fire me. He told me that she couldn’t fire me because she gave me a request to do with an inadequate amount of time in which to complete her request and with incomplete information.

Wednesday morning rolls around, and I do not see my manager at all that morning. We had a scheduled daily touch-base meeting at 9 AM which she postponed until 11 AM. I didn’t hear anything from her for the rest of the morning. I walk into her office at 11 AM, ready to discuss her email, her request, and the entire situation. Except HR was already in her office. And instead of firing me for lack of performance, they instead fired me for an email I sent to Jim back in February. The email contained a file that had what she felt was sensitive information in it. I sent the file to him asking him to help me figure something out within the file – it was an Excel question that I couldn’t seem to resolve on my own. I sent it to him at the end of the business day. He opened it at home, looked at my formula issue, helped me with it, and deleted promptly deleted the file. Plus, I had locked the file before I sent it to him to protect what I thought was sensitive. To my manager, I violated company policy and therefore was asked to leave immediately.

I have a lot of thoughts about what went down last week. Did I violate company policy? Yes. In a truly technical sense, I did. But the timing does not sit right with me. I sent this email on February 22nd. The size of the file would have sent a flag to IT immediately, yet it took them three weeks and they only discovered the email after her embarrassment on Monday and the file change request she sent me. I don’t buy it. I will admit to wrongdoing, but I think the email thing is a last resort. My manager wanted me to leave but knew she had no grounds based on my performance for my PIP and started looking. The delay is too odd.

Regardless, once I got over my angry tears and moped for a day, I was fine. I was free. It was what I wanted all along. I had an in-person interview scheduled for that Thursday anyway, so I knew others still saw merit in my skills and experience. And I could relax and rest for the first time in a long time. Of course, that is when they decided to close the schools and the whole Covid-19 situation got very scary.

Throughout Thursday and Friday, we were getting changes to school and dance plans practically every hour. The dance competition Holly was supposed to attend over this past weekend did not cancel the event until mid-morning on Friday. School initially said the kids had to attend school through the 17th, then it changed to the 18th, then to the 16th. It was crazy. Meanwhile, I had already pulled Holly out of school on Friday so she could prepare for the competition later that day. Once they cancelled the competition, she and I went grocery shopping and bought about three weeks’ worth of groceries. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I wanted to be prepared for anything.

At the same time, Jim was preparing to go spend Holly’s spring break, which starts this Friday the 20th, with his mother down in Texas. And his work was still requiring him to go into the office. every day brings new information, and he stopped going into the office on Monday. Holly’s last day of school was Monday as well. The school district took two snow days to allow the teachers to prepare for virtual learning, which officially started today. The spring break trip is a no-go or at least postponed. So far, we have rescheduled dates for two of Holly’s competitions. We are waiting to get a rescheduled date for the one that was to occur this Friday and the rest are not on the calendar until late April. Who knows what will happen by then?

We have mostly spent our time at home. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have been cooking up a storm lately, something I love doing but was too exhausted while working to do very often. Holly has been bored out of her mind and actually read a book for pleasure yesterday – the first time in years. The weather is not cooperating either. We have only had one day of sun, and we all went out for a walk or run. Since then, rain and cold make it too miserable to do much of anything outside. I have been in contact with three different recruiters, but I realized on Wednesday – after an awful experience picking up my personal effects from my old office on Tuesday – that I am suffering from some trauma from the prolonged stress and strain of work over the past few years. Just listening to Jim conduct a conference call yesterday morning sent me into an anxiety attack that got worse when I attempted to log onto a job search website. I need to recover and recuperate first before I step foot into another work environment. Thankfully, I don’t see many companies hiring right now when everything is so uncertain.

So yeah. This past week has been something. The biggest thing is that I am free. Granted, my manager made it impossible for me to file for unemployment, but that is the least of my concerns right now. I just want to get my family through this coronavirus crisis and work on healing myself. Things always tend to happen for a reason and always end up working out in the end, and I have to have faith that the same will occur in this situation. We will all survive this virus crisis, and I will recover my mental health to allow me to find a new job that will make me happy. I don’t know what that is right now, but I am taking it one day at a time.

How are you? How are you coping? (Do any of you know of any remote bookkeeping work you could send my way?)

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