Choose Your Battles Wisely

I am a really easy-going person and I get along with most everyone.  I love people who have a good sense of humor and I love talking to intelligent people.   On the other hand, I don’t care for chatter boxes, rude people, power-hungry people, fake people or lazy people.  Be right or wrong, I treat people the way they treat me.  If you’re nice to me, well, I’ll be nice to you.  If you are a disrespectful person, then I will be disrespectful to you.  I rarely get mad at anyone and it takes a lot to make me mad, but occasionally I do lose my temper.  And believe me, when I get mad, I am MAD!

If you have been reading my blog, you know a bit about my previous job.  I worked in a small manufacturing company as an accountant.  This place was like a revolving door and people came and people went all the time.  During the nine years I worked there, I had six different bosses (seven if you count the one they fired then later rehired).  Hilda was the owner/president of the company and she had the personality of a shark during a feeding frenzy.  Hilda had one of those power-hungry and rude personalities that I don’t like.  Had I met Hilda before I accepted the job, I probably would had turned down the job offer.  But, the more I was around Hilda, the more decided that her mood swings and dominating personality were probably just signs of her insecurity and lack of intelligence.  After about four years of working there, our personalities finally clashed and it was not a pleasant sight.

Sharon was our billing clerk and she was planning a vacation and nobody volunteered to cover for her while she was out.  So, they volunteer me to fill in for Sharon.  I trained with Sharon two or three days, and took good notes so I was confident that I could handle the job for the week while she was gone.  Monday morning rolled around and Sharon was on vacation and I was filling in for her.  On the same morning, my new boss was being introduced to the staff.  Hilda brought my newly hired third boss, LeeAnn, into the billing office and introduced us.  I had been around long enough to know that Hilda has this way about her when anyone new starts working there.  You see, Hilda was a micro manager who liked to think she was in control of everyone and everything.  It’s like she has to prove to the new people that she is the boss and whatever she does or says goes.   Having been through this several times before,  I knew she would be in a crappy mood all week, so I stayed as far away from her as I could.

With doing my job and doing Sharon’s job, I stayed very busy all day and even worked late each day.  I had managed to keep my distance from Hilda all week and everything was going pretty well until Thursday morning.  I picked up the phone and dialed the freight company’s number to schedule a pick up.  The receptionist, Denise was in the billing office filing paperwork.  While I waited for the call to go through I heard Hilda in her office fussing about something.  Just as soon as the freight dispatcher picked up the phone, Hilda comes barging into the billing office and she starts rummaging through the papers in the trays and on the desk.  I was trying to schedule a pickup and Hilda was going on and on about not being able to find something.  The longer she looked the louder she got and it got to the point where I couldn’t even hear what the dispatcher was saying.  I finally told the dispatcher that I would have to call him back.

When I hung up the phone, I was a bit ticked by Hilda’s rude behavior and I couldn’t believe that she was talking so loud that I couldn’t even hear the dispatcher on the telephone.  But, I held my temper and took a deep breath.  By this time, Denise was helping Hilda find whatever she was looking for.  After I felt I was sure I would not lose my temper, I asked Hilda, “What are you looking for, maybe I can find it for you.”  About that time my new boss walked in and Hilda was complaining to her, “You see what I mean!  This office is a mess.  This is the kind of thing I’m talking about when I say the accounting department has so many problems.  I can’t find anything!  This mess is not acceptable and there is no excuse for it!”  I was still calm and I said, “Well if you would tell me what you are looking for, maybe I could find it for you.”  Hilda ignored me and started ranting and raving all over again.

Then she turned her attention to Denise and started fussing at her for not having the filing finished and fussing that the sales staff had to answer the phone while she was back here goofing off.  Denise was trying to explain why she had gotten behind on the filing, but Hilda wouldn’t listen; instead she kept digging through the trays and the papers on the desk.  I was losing my patience with Hilda because I didn’t like her childish behavior nor did I like the fact that she was fussing at Denise.  Hilda had no idea how busy we stayed all day long and I didn’t feel that she had any reason to complain about something as silly as filing.

Hilda continued to fuss and by this time I was standing up.  I was getting madder by the minute because what right did she have coming in there and messing up all the paperwork on the desk and accusing me of being unorganized.  I had all my paperwork organized and neatly stacked into separate piles.  I knew what was in each stack and if she would just tell me what she was looking for, I could find it.  I really tried to stay calm, but after fifteen minutes of Hilda throwing her fit and mixing all my paperwork up, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I walked around the desk and stood in front of her and I took the papers out of her left hand.

I know steam was probably blowing out of my ears because I was extremely mad.  I got about six inches from Hilda’s face and looked her directly in the eyes and in the sternest and most confident voice I said, “I told you to tell me what you were looking for and you wouldn’t do it.  Are you even looking for anything or did you just come in here to yell and scream at everybody this morning.  Well, good morning to you too.”  Hilda was trying to interrupt me but the more she tried the louder I got.  I continued by saying,  “If you want to pick on somebody, then pick on me and leave Denise and LeeAnn out of it.  This is my desk this week, and if you don’t like the way it looks then don’t look at it.  If you want, you can sit in here and do this job.  Oh, but I forgot, you don’t know how to do this job.  You know, you should let the people in the accounting department be a role model for you.  We help each other; we give each other support and we praise each other for their efforts and good work.   Have you ever heard of the word teamwork?  Oh, but I’m sure you don’t know anything about that either, now, do you?”

Hilda’s face was as red as her hair and she was so mad I thought for sure she was going to hit me.  I can’t tell you what Hilda was saying, but I do remember that Denise had gotten behind me to get out-of-the-way and LeeAnn had jumped in between me and Hilda to keep us separated.  LeeAnn was yelling at us, “Stop it.  CJ!  Hilda!  Just stop it and calm down.  Both of you!”  At that point, I was so damn mad I didn’t care if I got fired and I was shaking all over, but I was not about to back down.  Finally LeeAnn took Hilda by the arm and she led her back to Hilda’s office.  I heard Hilda’s office door slam and I heard yelling that was muffled by the door being closed.   Denise looked at me and when she was sure I was okay she went back to her desk.  I sat down in the chair and just stared into space for a few minutes thinking, “What the hell just happened?”

A few minutes later, LeeAnn came back into the room and handed me a piece of paper.  It was the order that Hilda had been looking for earlier.  Come to find out, this order had been laying on Hilda’s desk the entire time she had been in here looking for it.  I didn’t say a word, but instead just shook my head and was thinking, “No wonder she couldn’t find it in here.  I wasn’t in here.  Such an idiot!”  Hilda never apologized to me nor did she apologize to LeeAnn or Denise, but that didn’t surprise me.  The only good thing that came out of that confrontation was that Hilda never yelled at me again.  I wish I could say that Hilda gained a bit of respect for me that day, but that wouldn’t be truthful because Hilda never respected anyone.

The only other time I remember being so mad happened while I was taking Sharon’s place again while she was on vacation.  We had a new person, Ashley, in the accounting department.  She had been working there about three months and she had been training to do Sharon’s job.  Sharon went on vacation and after the first day of taking her place, Ashley talked to our boss, Dick, and told him she didn’t feel comfortable doing the job.  That it made her too nervous.  So the next morning Dick came to me and told me I would have to fill in for Sharon because Ashley couldn’t handle it.   I couldn’t believe that she could be that nervous about doing the job.  I think she just didn’t want to do it and she went crying to Dick to get out of doing it.

At that time I was working on a big project and the deadline was approaching, and I also had several other responsibilities that could not wait to be done.   Dick and I discussed what had to be done that day and what I could wait and do the next day.   Even though we eliminated a couple of jobs, the to-do-list was still very demanding and I knew without help, all of it wouldn’t get done.  Dick took on a couple of the jobs and we decided to use Ashley to help where she could.  We called Ashley into my office and told her that I would do the hard parts of Sharon’s job, but we still needed her to do the billing and to print orders.  Ashley agreed and said she would check in with me every so often to find out what she needed to do.

The first thing I did was have a brief shipping meeting, then I scheduled the pickups.  I worked on my to-do-list off and on all morning and the afternoon was consumed by preparing export documents for shipments going out that day.  I had literally been running around from the shipping department to the billing office, back to my office all day, and Ashley had yet to come and ask what she could do to help.  However, I had seen Ashley off and on all day while I was running from one office to the other.  About every thirty minutes I would see Ashley sitting in the office break area or in the production break area.  I made it through that day, but I was very tired when I got home that evening.

The next couple of days were pretty much the same.  I ran my butt off and Ashley sat in her office or at the break table with nothing to do.  It was Thursday and I had a very important deadline to meet at  two o’clock that afternoon and I had just barely started on my assignment.  I was getting a bit stressed and I knew it would take me at least an hour and a half to be fully prepared for the meeting.  I also knew without Ashley’s help in the shipping/billing area, I would not meet my deadline.

I worked through lunch that day hoping to get caught up, but just when I could see a light at the end of the tunnel, something else would come up to put me further in the hole.  About one o’clock I went into Ashley’s office and asked her if she was busy and told her I really needed some help.  She said she was looking over some of the notes she had taken earlier, and she said the would help me as soon as she was finished with the notes.  Five minutes till two, I had yet to see or hear from Ashley and I was not prepared for the meeting.  I went into Dick’s office and told him I was not ready for the meeting because I had not had time to work on the assignment.  Dick told me that Hilda had just sent an email postponing the meeting until the following day.   I was relieved that I had more time to finish my project and I planned to work late that day to finish it.

It was now three thirty and I knew Ashley would be leaving at four o’clock so I started the billing and printing the orders.  Ashley popped her head in the billing office at four o’clock and said she was on her way home, but just wanted to make sure I didn’t have anything for her to do before she left.  Now, I had just finished up with all the billing jobs for the day, so at that point in time, no I didn’t have anything she could do.  Although I wasn’t very happy with her, I managed to look at her and smile and say, “No.  Nothing right now.  I’ll have plenty for you tomorrow though.  Have a good night.”  I worked late that evening and I finally finished my project that was due the next day.

Friday finally arrived and I was so happy that I only had a few more hours left of this stressful week and it would be over.  The first thing I did that morning was talk to Ashley telling her what I needed her to do that day.  She seems genuinely eager to help and said she would check in with me every few minutes to find out what she needed to do.  After two hours of returning phone calls, answering questions and sending emails, I was already getting tired.  I had not seen Ashley since early this morning and I was wondering where the hell she could be.  I was getting a bit frustrated because supposedly she was going to help me and now she had just disappeared.  I walked down to the production break room and there she was; just sitting there looking at a magazine.  I told her I the billing was ready to be done.  She said, “Okay.  I’ll be in there in just a minute.”

Another hour went by and it was now noon.   On my way to the mail room, I saw Ashley sitting at the break table with a production supervisor eating her lunch.  I walked up to her and told her that the invoices and orders need to be printed and when she finished that, Sharon’s job would be finished for the day.  She didn’t say anything; she just looked at me.  By this time I was stressed and tired and very upset with Ashley.  I went straight into Dick’s office and shut the door and sat down in the chair.  Dick knew something was wrong because I never shut the door.  I didn’t wait for him to ask me what was wrong.  I started by saying, “You know how busy I have been this week with doing Sharon’s job and doing my job too.  Well, I have asked Ashley over and over again to help, but she hasn’t helped one single time.  All that is left to do is the billing and the order printing.  Would you please tell her to do that so I can focus on my job and get some of my work done?”

Dick looked surprise to hear me say Ashley had not been helping me.  I was surprised to hear him say, “She told me every time she asked you what you needed her to do, you told her you didn’t need her help.”  The only thing I could say was, “What?”  I told Dick the only time she ever came to me asking if she could help was right before she left work yesterday.  And yes, by that time everything had been done.  He said, “That’s not what Ashley told me.  She told me she had offered to help you several times.”  This conversation went on for about fifteen minutes, then I finally threw my hands up in the air, stood up and said, “Fine!  Believe what you want, but I am telling you the truth!  That girl has done nothing all week and I seriously doubt if she will start doing anything now.  I walked out of his office and straight into mine and shut the door.

At that point I was madder than hell because Dick had practically called me a liar and all he had to do was to look at the break table every thirty minutes and he would have seen what Ashley had been doing all week.  My feeling were hurt too because I felt that Dick trusted her word over mine.   I was thinking, “I am a lot of things, but I am not a lair.”   I knew I would have to work late again to get caught up, and I wasn’t very thrilled about that either.  I looked at my desk and saw my work piled up and then thought about the work left to do in Sharon’s office.  When I thought about Ashley telling Dick that she had offered to help me, I got mad all over again and I gritted my teeth and shook my head and said, “The hell with it!”  I decided that either Ashley would do Sharon’s job or it wouldn’t get done and I would not check on her to make sure she was doing it.  I never went back into Sharon’s office that day and when quitting time rolled around that afternoon, I left.

About nine o’clock Monday morning I notice Sharon and Ashley sitting across from each other at the conference table.  As I walked closer to the table, I could hear Sharon asking why the billing had not been done Friday.  About that time Sharon noticed me heading in their direction and she smiled and waved at me.  Ashley’s back was to me, so she never saw me and just as I stood right behind her I heard her say, “I don’t know.  I asked CJ if she needed me to do anything and she said no.  I just figured she was taking care of everything, so if you have any questions you need to ask her.”

I walked around to Sharon’s side of the table and gave her a hug and asked her about her vacation.  After Sharon had finished telling me about her vacation, I turned around and looked at Ashley.  Ashley never looked at me, instead she held her head down and pretended to be looking over some paperwork.  I squatted down beside Ashley and leaned my head over and looked her straight in the eyes and said, “You offered to help me one day on one occasion and you never offered to help again.  You are a lair.”  I stood up and started walking toward my office.  Ashley yelled at me, “CJ I can’t believe you would say that.  No one has ever said anything like that to me.”  I stopped dead in my tracks, and I turned around and said, “You heard me correctly.  You are a lair!”  She started to say something else and I screamed, “YOU’RE A LIAR! DO YOU HEAR ME? A LIAR!”  Then I turned around and went directly into my office and slammed the door.  I don’t remember ever being as mad as I was that day.

About five minutes later I saw Ashley with her purse and coat practically running to the front door.  Soon after Dick came into my office and shut the door.  He pulled up a chair and sat down and he looked like he was about to cry.  His voice was shaky and he said, “CJ, why did you do that?  You can’t do things like that at work.  What am I going to do with you?”  I was still pretty mad and I said, “I don’t know what you’re gonna do with me, but I’ll tell you what you need to do with her!”  He said, “Ashley just quit and Hilda is on the phone trying to get in touch with her.”   I said, “Well, good!  I don’t want to work with a liar.  And she’s lazy too.  We don’t need her.”  Dick stayed in my office for damn near an hour talking to me.  I think he was trying to make me feel bad for what I had done, but I didn’t.  I felt that I was right by doing what I did, and I knew it.

Like I said, I don’t get mad very often, and that’s a good thing.  I learned a long time ago that you can’t fight every battle, so you better choose them wisely.  Most of the time I can let the small stuff go, but when I feel I am right about something, I am willing to voice my opinion.  I have also learned that you have to take up for yourself.   As far as Ashley goes, they did manage to get in touch with her and after a week of paid vacation, she returned.  They put her in charge of a production line and she and I worked together on a couple of projects.  Neither one of us ever brought up the “Liar” incident and we tried to maintain a professional relationship.   She never told lies about me again and she actually learned to work a little while she was there.  After about a year she got into an argument with Hilda and that was the end of her.  I haven’t seen her since, and really don’t care to see her again.  But if I do, I’ll probably think, “You liar!!”   😛


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