The Grass Isn’t Always Greener…

I mean, sometimes it is (have you seen AstroTurf?), but in my case, it wasn’t.

December 2019

In early December 2019, I was told about a posting on the job posting site Indeed, which fit my professional qualifications as an Administrative Professional with a double skill as a Receptionist. The posting was in an office that worked an entirely different field from the one I’ve worked in for almost ten years. I figured, why not apply for it, I had nothing to lose, and hey, maybe a change of scenery is a good thing after so many years?

This was the title that got my attention…

Job Requirements 2

And this was the specifics of the advertisement.

Job Requirements

So, sounds great, right? I love learning new things, building upon the skills I’ve picked up over the years as a Secretary, and the part about growth-oriented helped too. Benefits and a 9-5 job are nice too. I figured this could be an interesting job, and of course, I applied.

I went through the phone interview on a Saturday morning about a week after I applied, and an in-person interview on the following Monday night after work. The following Thursday, I was asked to submit to a background check, with a conditional offer pending the background check. Ok, all good. The holidays did push everything back a few days – I interviewed on December 16th and submitted to the background check on the 19th, with the offer coming down on Saturday night, December 28, 2019. I accepted the offer, and was sent new hire paperwork.

I put in my resignation on December 30th, with my last day on January 10, 2020.

I was offered a salary slightly higher than the advertised minimum starting salary (which was slightly less than what I was making at my current job, but based on more hours, so it would be slightly higher), and the hours were actually 8:30-5 instead of 9 am – 5 pm as the ad said (again, no problem – I already work 8:30 am – 4:30 pm).

So it all sounds great, right?

Well…

Red Flags

When I came in on January 2nd to drop off my new hire forms, I was greeted by the Receptionist. I gave her my paperwork, as well as my identification and social security card so she could make copies for my file. I said to her upon meeting, “so you’re moving up to a different position, right?” and she seemed a bit surprised by my comment (I was told this during the interview). In addition, when I got the email with the paperwork, the subject line said “Receptionist.” I figured, oh, well no big deal, it is a long job title to type, so I made sure write the title as I saw it on Indeed on the application. No biggie, I believed in accuracy and I was following the job title I applied for.

I had an earlier red flag when I submitted to the background check (which I stupidly ignored the implication of). I wore jeans to work several days a week at my current job, and that day, I had on tasteful jeans – dark-colored and clean, with a nice sweater and my boots (I also wear moccasins, but it was cold that day!). The interviewer/potential boss pending the offer said to me “oh…you’re going to have to dress nicer than this.”

I had been at work all day at my current job, wearing clothes that never were a problem. I was merely stopping by with paperwork I was asked to bring in on my own time. I went to work that morning prepared to work the job I was at. Stopping by was on the level of running an errand. Yes, this was a potential employer, but I was dressed nice. My clothes were clean and appropriate, there should have not been anything said.

I was slightly taken aback, but responded with “Oh don’t worry, I have dressy pants.” I was hoping it was only about the pants and not the sweater. But whatever, I brushed it off, waited around for a few minutes while she collected my paperwork and put it with the rest of the information I’d submitted for the background check, and eventually left.

Maybe I was in the wrong, maybe I should have been wearing nice clothes all week just in case, but why should I have done that? I had no reason to do that other than the day I went for the interview, and even then I wore something I would normally wear to my current job.

Again, I brushed it off.

So, the dropping off of the paperwork (with the incorrect job title and the person who apparently got a promotion, but didn’t know anything about it) and the questioning of my attire. Should I have been deterred? I’m not sure. I kept getting these little gut feelings about rescinding my resignation and contacting the new company about rescinding the offer. But I kept telling myself “oh, it’s going to be great, you’re just worried about not knowing anyone.”

That’s what I kept telling myself, and my co-workers, the entire last week of my current job.

First Week Of Work!

I arrived at work at 8:20 am (starting time was 8:30 am), and was greeted by my new co-worker. She showed me my desk and where I could put my things, and then showed me a binder about what was to be done on the job.

It was one page of large typing, listing job duties that would take about 10 minutes of the day. There were two other pages with things that would be done once a month, or on occasion. And then there was the job title, again. “Receptionist,” in large letters. I was a bit taken aback, but I figured with it being the first day, they’d ease me in. I’m a “hit the ground running” type, but I remember my first few days at my last job being a bit quiet while I was getting to know things. But, unlike here, I had people showing me around the office, giving me files to look at, an office to set up, and people to talk to. I had orientations and meetings (including a meeting right on my first day that I had to take minutes at – nothing quite like throwing you into the mix right away!). I never needed to ask for anything to do. Same with the job before that – never needed “busy work.” Here was a totally different environment. Of course, the environment was seemingly friendly, and everyone seemed welcoming. But, there was something else. I could feel the tension in the office, thick enough to cut with a knife. People went into offices and closed doors. People were nice enough, but things just felt…off. I could feel it, without evening knowing what “it” really was.

I came to find out from a co-worker that someone who had worked there for fourteen years was just fired the previous month, and two other people had been fired recently. The person who hired me was moved into a different position, and I was placed under the supervision of an equally new person, who’d been there a week. That person seemed nice, but things seemed off everywhere else. The person who’d apparently gotten a promotion was sitting next to me at another desk. She showed me my tasks and then…I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

I sat for three days straight, barely getting up unless it was to make coffee, load or empty the dishwasher, take my break, or use the ladies’ room. The phones were not busy at all – the ad implied a busy office, but I wouldn’t know that. Planted in the front, the phone hardly rang, people hardly walked by, and I wondered about the very definition of “busy” during that time. There was nothing to do. At one point, the phones seemed to come out of their lull, and I had this nice little rhythm going…until a higher up from the corporate office told me to change the way I was answering phones.

Apparently, my greeting was “robotic” – it was a modified version of the one I gave at both of my previous jobs, and the one my co-worker at my last job did as well – I followed her lead, since she’s the best Receptionist. That felt forced, but ok, I’ll change my greeting. The higher up was thrilled. I was not. I just felt like nothing was happening. I know it was my third day, but I felt like there was nothing to do. I wanted something, anything. I wanted to ask what I could do, but that would have meant taking away work from the person next to me. I couldn’t do that to her. And my supervisor, who was new himself, didn’t know how long break time was, so how would he know what to assign me?

Regret

By the end of the third day, I was miserable. I left work that afternoon, got into my mom’s car, and broke down crying. I was unhappy. I hated the office culture (she tried to assure me it was still new). I hated my duties – I worked with a Receptionist that did far more work in an hour than I had done in three days. I was unhappy. I felt the tension in the office – it gave me a headache and made my face hurt by association. I have sinus issues, but I know tension headaches when I get them. I cried the entire ten minute ride home. That pretty much happened for the next few hours, on and off – I stopped long enough to grocery shop, but on the way home, I couldn’t handle it. I felt terrible – I didn’t want to keep circling around the same things, I didn’t want to be upset all night, and I didn’t want to get into an argument with my husband about how I was handling this.

For the first time, I had regret. I left a job I was happy at (I thought maybe I was in a good place), surrounded by people who felt I was a tough act to follow, away from a routine I loved and was comfortable with. Did I want change? Yes, yes I did. Was this the change I wanted/expected? No, apparently not.

I texted my former boss (also the Human Resources Director, and she is ordained and officiated my wedding last June, so she was not only a boss, but a friend), and told her what was wrong. I asked the question my husband had encouraged me to ask…can I have my job back.

She responded quickly, and we conversed via text briefly that night, even jumping on fulfilling my request/plea by emailing the Chief Operations Officer that evening. She was going to do anything she could to help. I had to wait, but I was patient.

In the meantime, I went to work the next day.

Hollering at the New Hire

On Wednesday, I had been asked to prepare a FedEx package from information contained in an email. I knew it was going to Chicago, so I checked all the preset addresses on FedEx’s website. I found the address for the property owned in Chicago, and prepared everything for shipping. I do FedEx shipments once in a while, but always on the hand-written slips (as I had at my job prior to that). I needed a little guidance (and I got it), but it was done. It would be a weekly task for me, so I figured it was preparing me for that.

Well…

The package was sent, but because the address was incorrect (it was the address for the office’s previous location, and not the current location), it was not delivered and was being held at a FedEx facility on Chicago. Great. Wonderful. I screwed up. But, I got on the phone and problem solved it – fixing the address, the contact person, and getting everything worked out for a Friday delivery (when the sender wanted it to be delivered, so it was all good).

Well, that misstep was not good – the sender (who was the person that hired me for the “position”), hollered at me for the mistake. I looked at the email again – she had claimed that she put the contact person and the city in the email. Well, she put the city, but no contact person. The email was vague, only telling me to “prepare a FedEx envelope for delivery to Chicago, citing the reference number for a property.” She claimed there was more to the email, but there was not. I told her I didn’t receive more than that part of the email (the absolute truth), and she hollered at me.

Wow.

I’ve been disrespected before in my professional life – for two years, I dealt with a boss who targeted me by throwing his weight around and making it known that I was incompetent, which only flustered me more – but this was inexcusable. It was at that time that my co-worker, who I thought didn’t like me, saw how miserable I was.

She asked me how I felt about the job, and I broke down out of total frustration. I told her I was unhappy and she told me that it was obvious I left a job I was happy at, and that I should try to go back if I could. I confessed what I was in the process of doing, and she told me I should get out of here, that I was brought in on false pretenses – decent pay but a job that didn’t exist. She knew it.

As for progress on the other end, the request was being worked on. My HR Director kept me posted – the chief officers met on Thursday about bringing me back, and discussed the terms under which I could be rehired. I would be a rehire, but under normal policies, rehired employees became “day one” employees – you start without your benefit time and health insurance (which was only thirty days). However, my insurance was never cancelled, so if everything worked out to rehire me, I could just have my insurance as I already had it. Awesome. I was going to have to wait until the next day for a final answer.

At that point, I considered not coming in at all on Friday (my co-worker encouraged this), but as a professional, it was something I was against. I went home that night, knowing I had an ally and the encouraging outlook that things may work out well.

The Last Day

I got to work on Friday, January 17, 2020 by 8:25 am. My co-worker arrived right after I did, and as I was pulling up the blinds, she asked me about if any progress had been made. I told her I was waiting for the final answer. As I got there that morning, walking through the shopping center’s atrium to the back area where the office is, I was thinking about what my next step would be. It was Friday, and if nothing was resolved in time for Monday, I didn’t know what I would do. I didn’t want to come back here. The prospect of telling them I wasn’t coming back, and then waiting at home for an answer the following week was tempting. This wasn’t working out. I couldn’t stay another day.

You know how I said I had a tension headache by the third day? Yeah, that happened the day before as well, and if today went the same, I would have one by the afternoon. I couldn’t do it. I did not want to deal with any of this.

My co-worker encouraged me to report what happened the day before – the complete disrespect toward me and the vague instructions in the email. I didn’t dare tell them the job was a lie, but I think that will become obvious. The person who wrote the advertisement – who hired me, praised my qualifications on my resume, was the same person who admonished me because I didn’t follow her vague/basically non-existent instructions on my third day.

Did I mention that, like applying for this job, I had nothing to lose?

I didn’t, since my HR Director/Boss contacted me by 9:30 am on Friday – I could return on Monday, with my health insurance, salary, and vacation time intact. The only thing I lost in the process was my grandfathered sick time (which was not a benefit of any new hires hired after a certain point in 2018). I was ecstatic – I texted my husband, my mom, my best friend (who works with me), and my former clerical supervisor (who had texted her support to me that morning) to tell him the great news. Lots of excitement around. I thanked my HR Director for her efforts, and she told me to come to her office on Monday morning at 9 am, after I got settled in.

Now I just had to get through Friday. Or not.

I did follow through on reporting the incident from the day before, and informed the second in command in the office (a super nice guy who reminded me of the CEO at my previous job, something I made sure he knew about) of the incident, but my intent to leave after that day. I told him I would be leaving at 1 pm. He was sad to hear this, but happy that I had an option to go back to my old job. Like a professional, I reached for a handshake first, and he returned it. It was 10 am by this point – in three hours, I could go home and forget this week happened.

Rumblings

If it had been tense in this office all week, it became fever pitch by Friday. The comptroller (second in command) contacted his boss, who worked out of both this office and the one in West Palm Beach (he was in Florida by this point), who in turn contacted my co-worker and asked her to go outside for a private phone conversation – he wanted to know what happened. In turn, the higher up in the corporate office, who would be there on Monday, was informed of what happened, and she contacted me to smooth things over. She wanted to know what she could do when she arrived on Monday to remedy things. I politely told her nothing – there was nothing that could be done, and that I would be leaving at 1 pm and not returning. She understood and offered her apology, and I thanked her (she was blameless, she had nothing to do with any of this).

The person who hired me, who was no longer my boss, was told (as I found out) to stay away from me and my co-worker. Good. I didn’t want to ever see her again. I’m an ultra professional person who believes in shaking hands and thanking people for opportunities, but this was not happening. I had no respect for her. I’d been down this road, and it is toxic. It is best not to engage in any kind of situation, no matter how professional, when you’re advised not to by people much higher than you, with far more experience.

I did receive a handwritten note and a thank you from the gentleman (he was just that!) who was my boss, telling me I had a great smile and am a great person, and also wishing me luck with everything.

As I planned, I packed up my things and shook my co-worker’s hand (as well as a co-worker who had come to see me off). She apologized to me (not her fault, why would it have been?), and wished me luck transitioning back into my previous job.

And that’s the story of how Allison Preston – the former Allison Venezio – took the job and shoved it. Actually, it was the time I put someone in their place for disrespecting me, but also quitting a job that had false pretenses all over it. It’s not exciting – in fact, it’s terribly long-winded – but it is the truth.

Time To Think About It All

I planned to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) on Friday to discuss this, but I figured it would be better if I sat and thought about it a bit. Not too long so I don’t forget the small details, but long enough to allow the dust to settle.

I’m in a good place, the same place I was in before leaving my previous job. I was able to fight for something I should never have walked away from, and got it back. It didn’t take much more than asking (being an employee of good standing probably didn’t hurt, either). It could have gone the other way – I could have been told “no.” What would I have done then? I’m not entirely sure. I don’t think I could have just quit, as that would have been counterproductive – not having a job to go to, and no prospects unless I could get a job quickly (meaning, jump on Indeed and start applying). I would have had to do something – get a job in retail until something came up, perhaps, but I don’t believe in job jumping.

That may have been the alternative, but I did what I really needed to do. And no, I didn’t kiss up to get the job back. I put on my professional hat and asked for it back. I knew there was an outside chance this would have not worked, but it was worth a try. I’m glad I did.

It still doesn’t feel real to me. I’m not the kind of person who makes waves, but someone else’s negative actions were not going to go uncorrected. I don’t hold a grudge toward her – what she said she isn’t the entire reason I left. The other aspect is that I was lied to – this person wrote a fancy job ad on a website, embellishing what the job tasks would be, when really, it was a job of “sitting in this seat, answering a few phones, and once in a while, you’ll make coffee and stock the conference room and supply closet. Oh, and you’ll open blinds and send out the occasional FedEx package. Just send it to the right address per the information I didn’t put in the email!”

Boy, what a way to sum up over 4000 words in three sentences.

It needed to be said. This is the kind of experience no one should have, whether it is disrespected by someone while you’re still new (or well tenured) – there is no need for it. You’re valuable whether you’re new or tenured, old or young, male or female. For someone to target you for some perceived wrongdoing (or no wrongdoing – I’ve had that experience too) is unjustified. The situation probably wouldn’t have become such if she hadn’t done that. However, it wasn’t the only problem that surrounded working there. The job posting was, as I said, embellished. You’re promised one thing based on someone seeing your resume, and you get very little in return. I took the opportunity to take on an opportunity that promised growth potential, and I realized how that wasn’t going to happen. I’d heard too much in four and a half very short days.

Coming from someone who has never job jumped – the shortest I’ve stayed at a job was four months, because it was seasonal and I was nineteen – so quitting is not in my nature. I’ve held two jobs since college – one for four years, and the other for almost ten.

My husband teased me on the way to work on Friday morning about my job history, and how I’ve had three jobs in 2020 – my previous job of almost ten years, the one I walked away from after less than a full work week, and well, the one I’ll be at for almost ten years.

I have an anniversary coming up – I’ll be a ten-year employee. A stayer. I was a stayer six years ago, but I’ll be a milestone-holding stayer. It wasn’t always my intention to stay – lots of things came up that kept me there. I’d like to think these weren’t barriers to success, they were reasons I needed to be where I was. You’re only put where you are because it is where you’re supposed to be. For me, there was such a place. And I’m looking forward to going back there. Back home.

I’m looking forward to going back to the greener grass.

3 comments

  1. Good for you!!!!!
    Been there before a loooong time back….(don’t want to even mention the year….cough 1985 cough). Switched my after school job to what I thought would be mall retail (Docktor Pet Center, remember them??)…..which turned out to be a pick up schlub to drive out to the airport to pickup live cargo…..fish, birds, dogs, cats.
    Only stayed the one day……went right back to bagging groceries. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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